Fighting for Rural America
Lane Siekman "A Voice for Hoosier Families"
BRINGING SMALL TOWN VALUES TO WASHINGTON
The 6th District is Indiana's most rural congressional district. Lane pledges to fight to protect and help grow our rural economy. He supports innovative rural economic development initiatives, including investments in farm-to-school and farm-to-table initiatives; agri-tourism programs; school gardens; large scale biomass fired electric plants; shared agricultural processing and storage facilities; and anaerobic digesters to process cow manure into methane gas. He will work for fair trade deals that support and grow our exports in foreign markets and enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship to keep our air and water clean and to combat climate change. Lane believes that we need more family farms, not more factory farms. He supports increasing our investments in renewable energy and addressing the rural infrastructure crisis facing this country.
I grew up in a community that was founded on the idea of the family farm. My Great Grandparents came to Indiana from Germany to practice their faith, own a piece of land, and raise their families in peace. I know that small farms and rural communities are the backbone of Indiana and the U.S. economy. Rural Hoosiers and farmers are also the foremost stewards of our lands and water. From soil and water conservation to protection of important green space, farmers lead the way. Farmers understand food security starts with protecting the environment.
I know that this important part of our economy also supports rural bankers, teachers, doctors, and many others in our communities. We all depend in some way on agriculture in southeast and eastern Indiana. This is why as your Representative in Congress, I stand up to this administration's disastrous budget cuts to rural development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
I will fight for innovative rural economic development initiatives, including investments in farm-to-school and farm-to-table initiatives; agri-tourism programs; school gardens; large scale bio-mass fired electric plants; shared agricultural processing and storage facilities; and anaerobic digesters to process cow manure into methane gas. I will work for fair trade deals that support and grow our exports in foreign markets.
Agriculture programs need to be counter-cyclical to assure market-derived commodity income at levels that advance and sustain family-scale farming. I will support strong farm policies that will foster the entry of a new generation of owner-operators. We cannot back away from land stewardship standards that include the commonwealth of clean water for all.
I pledge to fight for policies that:
- Make sure that Indiana's family farmers and rural economy thrives;
- Expand support for young and beginning farmers;
- Produce an abundant and nutritious food supply;
- Establish an on-going regeneration of our soils; and
- Enlist farmers as partners in promoting conservation and stewardship to keep our air and water clean and to combat climate change.
We need more family farms, not more factory farms. It is unacceptable that just four corporations control 82% of the nation’s beef cattle market, 85% of soybean processing, and 63% of pork processing. It is unacceptable that there are over 300,000 fewer farmers than there were 20 years ago. It is unacceptable that the top 10% of farms collect 75% of farm subsidies, while the bottom 62% do not receive any subsidies. We have to adopt policies that will turn this around.
In 1966, farmers received 40 cents for every dollar Americans spent on food. Today, they only receive 16 cents on the dollar. We can reverse this trend by:
- Fighting for America’s small and mid-sized farms. Abraham Lincoln called the United States Department of Agriculture the “People’s Department” and we need to ensure that the agency lives up to this name by expanding its services for new and under-served farmers.
- Encouraging the growth of regional food systems. Farmers throughout the country are boosting their bottom line and reinvigorating their communities by selling directly to local consumers, institutions, and restaurants. We can invest in this movement, helping Americans support local farms.
- Reversing harmful trade policies like NAFTA that have flooded the American market with agricultural goods produced in countries with less stringent environmental, labor, and safety regulations. President Trump has said he will renegotiate NAFTA. I will hold him to his promise and ensure that we protect America's farmers.
- Enforcing our country’s antitrust laws against large agribusiness and food corporations. A few large companies dominate many agricultural industries, allowing them to force unfair prices on farmers. We must stand up to these corporations and fight to ensure that farmers receive fair prices.
WE CAN PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT WHILE GROWING THE RURAL ECONOMY
This country has made major investments in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other sources of renewable energy. These investments are not only important to combat global warming, they are also critically important in improving the farm economy. Farmers and ranchers all over this country are leading the charge toward a more sustainable energy future. More than 57,000 farms are taking advantage of renewable energy production — which has more than doubled since 2007.
- We need to Make the Wind Production Tax Credit permanent. This will substantially increase investments in wind energy. And, it’s not only wind. Biofuels like ethanol have been an economic lifeline to rural and farm communities in Indiana and throughout the Midwest, supporting over 850,000 workers, all while keeping our energy dollars here at home instead of going into the pockets of oil barons in the Middle East and Russia.
- Adoption of the Renewable Fuels Standard will help us move beyond oil. Moreover, when we talk about harnessing energy from the sun, the good news is that solar panels accounted for more than 60% of renewable energy production systems on farms. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the cost of residential solar has come down 75% since 2009. Over half of the electric generating capacity added to the grid last year was renewable energy from new wind and solar projects. There is enough solar power in America to power four million homes. And, as we generate new sustainable energy, we also generate new opportunities. Today, the rate of job growth in the solar industry is ten times higher than the national average.
- While this is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to ensure our planet remains habitable, improve the environment, and help our farmers in Indiana and across the country. Substantially increasing our investments in renewable energy must be a top priority
Addressing the infrastructure crisis facing the country and creating the millions of jobs our economy desperately needs is the key to our future. We need to make substantial infrastructure investments in Indiana and throughout rural America.
- Improving our electric grid. We also desperately need to improve our aging rural electrical grid, which consists of a patchwork system of interconnected power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities, some of which date back to the early 1900s. Today, the World Economic Forum ranks our electric grid at just 24th in the world in terms of reliability, just behind Barbados. We need to invest in power transmission and distribution modernization projects to improve the reliability and resiliency of our ever more complex electric power grid. This investment will also position our grid to accept new sources of locally generated renewable energy, and it will address critical vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks.
- Investing in rural broadband and high-speed Internet services. Another critically important rural infrastructure issue that often goes overlooked is the expansion of broadband. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks the U.S. 16th in the world in terms of broadband access. Today, people living in Bucharest, Romania have access to much faster Internet than most of the United States. That’s unacceptable and must change. We need to expand high-speed broadband networks in under-served and un-served areas, and would boost speeds and capacity all across the country, particularly in rural areas. High-speed Internet access is no longer a luxury. It is essential for 21st century commerce, education, telemedicine, and public safety. And, it’s especially important for rural America to stay connected and to do business with the rest of the world.
- Improving our dams and levees. We must also address the condition of our dams and levees. Right now, more than 4,000 of the nation’s 84,000 dams are considered deficient. Even worse, one of every eleven levees have been rated as “likely to fail” during a major flood. Most of those facilities are in rural areas. We have to repair and improve the high-hazard dams that provide flood control, drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, and recreation across rural America; and the flood levees that protect our farms and our towns and cities.
We also need to take steps to support Rural Economic Development efforts already underway in the 6th District.
- Ag Asset Mapping – Support the creation of county-level maps that will show relative ag production for specific products, such as cattle, ducks, chickens, turkeys, sweet corn, soybeans, mint, watermelons, tomatoes, and many, many others. These maps will be produced twice a year with current data from ISDA and IDEM and will enable counties and regions to identify opportunities to attract processing operations that leverage ag assets. Current data in these maps within a six month time period will help to be responsive to opportunities.
- Encourage Supply Chain Opportunities – Work to identify industry clusters related to agriculture in the 6th District and target opportunities within the corresponding supply chains. Find and identify ‘leakages’ in the ag supply chains: products and processes that are purchased outside of Indiana that could be relocated to the district.
- Update and improve our Rural Policies on Land Use – Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, and the Indiana Soybean Alliance have been working to develop resources such as model ag policies for counties, land use recommendations, and timelines for counties that are pursuing ag strategies and how they can phase-in polices for optimal adoption.
- Help Rural Communities in the 6th District establish Food Processing Sites – Food processing sites may differ from traditional industrial sites in critical ways such as water quantity and quality, waste water processing capacity, infrastructure type and capacity, etc. Cut the red tape to simplify creation of these opportunities to provide direction about how rural communities can keep the door open for food processing by making their sites suitable for a wide range of uses, including food processing.
The 6th District is Indiana's most rural congressional district.
I pledge to fight to protect and help grow our rural economy.
It's where I grew up and it's my home.