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Elkhart Co. Farm Bureau Remembers Egging

by Jerry Goshert

Published: Friday, September 14, 2018

Elkhart County Farm Bureau members remembered their late president, Bert Egging, and heard from candidates for state and federal office during the group's annual meeting last Tuesday in New Paris.

Mel Hall, Democratic candidate for the 2nd District congressional seat, told the Farm Bureau group that he wants to go to Washington to make a difference for the people of that district.

"I have never aspired to be a politician, but I think we can do better," Hall said, adding, "I'm not interested in the perks. I'm not interested in the pension. I'm not interested in the healthcare. I'm not interested in anything but serving the folks of the 2nd District."

Hall grew up on a 60-acre farm in Grant County, and, according to his website, graduated from Taylor University. Later on, he attended seminary and served seven years as a Methodist minister in Detroit, Mich.

Turning to business, Hall obtained a PhD in data science at the University of Notre Dame and joined the South Bend-based patient survey firm Press Ganey, eventually becoming the CEO.

If elected to Congress, Hall said he would serve no more than three terms.

His opponent in the Nov. 6 general election is Republican Jackie Walorski, a South Bend native who is seeking her fourth term in Congress. She could not attend the Elkhart County Farm Bureau meeting, but a representative from her office read a letter from her.

Walorski has been endorsed by Indiana Farm Bureau's political action committee.

When asked about trade, Hall said he believes the U.S. should have a tough approach toward China, but the current policy of applying tariffs on goods imported from China, Canada and Mexico is not helping crop and livestock producers.

"What we're doing right now is hurting the farmers," he said, citing the recent decline in corn, soybean, pork and milk prices due to the tariffs and counter-tariffs.

"What farmers want is the ability to run their businesses free of interruption and interference from Washington," Hall said, "and so I think we need to balance the needs of punishing a bad actor like China with making sure we hear the voice of farmers, who are really getting hurt right now."

Regarding the current effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, Hall said the goal should be to "do no harm."

For the farm bill, he likes the Senate version that holds the baseline on spending for food stamps but does not include work requirements. He supports funding for crop insurance but wouldn't say if he would oppose legislation that cuts subsidies, paid to insurers.

"Our primary concern ought to be that farmers can grow the food and get good prices for the food, and that people have enough to eat," he said.

For state Senate, Indiana Farm Bureau has endorsed Linda Rogers in District 11, which covers parts of St. Joseph and Elkhart counties. Rogers, a business woman from Granger, upset incumbent Joe Zakas during the GOP primary in May, and now faces Democrat Ed Liptrap of South Bend.

A native of Michigan, Rogers told the Farm Bureau group that she is not a career politician but has worked in education and business. She and her husband currently own and operate Juday Creek Golf Course in Granger, and they also run their own construction company, Nugent Builders. She has served as president of the National Golf Course Owners Assn. and the Indiana Builders Assn.

If elected, she promised to focus education funding, along with opioid prevention and workforce development.

Also endorsed by Indiana Farm Bureau is David Abbott, GOP candidate for state representative in District 82, which includes Benton Twp. in Elkhart County and parts of Noble, LaGrange, Whitley and Allen counties.

The Rome City resident and former Noble County commissioner has already served six months in the state Legislature. In April, Abbott was appointed to fill out the term of former State Rep. David Ober, who resigned to serve on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Abbott said he believes in smaller, more efficient government. He is concerned about water quality and local government issues. He stated that farmers are being hurt economically by the tariffs and counter-tariffs, and believes state government should be ready to help farmers if the trade wars continue.

"I understand what Trump is trying to do, but the problem is this is going to cause a tremendous hardship on farmers as you well know," Abbott said. "So, I'm hoping to see this be resolved rather quickly. If not, we need to help the farmers in the meantime. If this goes on for any period of time, we need to do all we can to support all of you."

One option which state lawmakers are considering is legalizing industrial hemp as an alternative crop. Abbott served on a study committee that is looking at that option. He said industrial hemp is "on the table."

"If the federal government, through the farm bill, passes this, which I'm pretty much certain they will, then Indiana is probably going to follow suit," he said. "They've (lawmakers) already been tweaking the draft bill right now to legalize that. There's a million and one uses for hemp, and it's not smoking it."

At the end of the meeting, the Farm Bureau paused to remember the life of Bert Egging, who served as president of Elkhart County Farm Bureau for 22 years. He died unexpectedly on March 30.

Current president, Lynn Loucks, served as vice president under Egging, who was a lifetime grain and dairy farmer. Egging also was a 4-H leader and served on the Elkhart County 4-H Fair board.

"He was a big promoter of 4-H," Loucks said. "I was blessed to be at his side for all of those years. He was my best friend, and we all miss him."

In the annual officer election, Lynn Loucks was elected as president and Bill Kercher as vice president. Linda Moudy will serve as secretary/treasurer, and Andrea Badke will take over as county education and outreach coordinator.

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