The guest speaker during this year’s annual Seymour Chamber of Commerce Ag Breakfast spoke about climate change and the impact on area farmers.
“Indiana is getting warmer and wetter,” Melissa Widhalm said during the event Wednesday at American Legion Post 89 in Seymour.
“The state is expected to get 5 or 6 degrees warmer by 2050, and annual precipitation, which has increased by 6½ inches over the last century, is projected to increase from 6 to 8% over the next 30 years,” she said.
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Widhalm is operations manager for the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and coordinator for the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment.
IN CCIA is a statewide collaborative effort to develop a series of reports designed to help Hoosiers better understand climate change-related risks so they can better prepare for the future.
“Indiana’s growing season is expected to lengthen by about one month by 2050,” Widhalm said. “Heat stress days over 86 degrees are expected to increase from 60 days per year to between 110 to 120 over the next 30 years.”
Widhalm said with increased heat and precipitation, there is potential for significant agricultural impacts, but also many opportunities to cope with changes and keep Indiana agriculture productive.
Before Widhalm spoke, Richard Beckort introduced this year’s Dick Moren Agribusiness Committee Scholarship winners to the nearly 110 attendees.
“It’s always my pleasure to have these two individuals come up and read their essays,” said Beckort, who is a member of the chamber’s agribusiness committee.
As part of that scholarship process, students are asked to write a short essay. This year’s topic was “Why Agriculture Needs Advocates in our Community Today.”
Beckort said thinking about the future of agriculture, the FFA students actually are that future.
The $1,000 scholarship winner was Sydney Wiesehan, and the $500 scholarship winner was Lyra Claycamp. Both are seniors at Seymour High School.
Sydney, the daughter of Mark and Melessa Wiesehan, was unable to attend the breakfast due to illness, so Melessa stepped up to the podium to read Sydney’s winning essay.
“Thank you for this opportunity and Sydney is very saddened that she couldn’t be here today,” Melessa said. “She loves public speaking and talking about agriculture and would’ve enjoyed this moment, so I’m going to do the best I can and read her essay.”
In her essay, Sydney said agriculture is everywhere, from the food on the table to the clothes in the closet, and plays an important role in every single person’s life.
“Jackson County needs agriculture advocates throughout the community to educate the consumer, support local farmers and agricultural businesses,” she wrote. “In 1920, over 30% of the American population worked on a farm or ranch. Now, 100 years later, the number has decreased to less than 2%.”
Sydney said by promoting agriculture through schools and social media, Jackson County will gain the ag advocates needed to educate the consumer and support local farmers and agricultural businesses.
Beckort said Sydney plans to attend Purdue University in the fall and major in agricultural economics.
Claycamp is the daughter of Aaron and Molly Claycamp, and she plans to attend Ivy Tech Community College for animal science and agriculture business.
“Farming is a livelihood for few people due to the stress of the occupation, on the body and the mind,” Claycamp said while reading her essay. “Most citizens do not realize that agriculturalists must have the knowledge to understand chemicals, fertilization and feeding requirements as well as know how to operate machinery and make repairs.”
She said farmers have one of the most complicated jobs in terms of the risk management skills that are needed due to the unpredictability of the circumstances they encounter daily.
“They have to make decisions that will not only affect them but also the world that relies on them for their food and products,” Claycamp said. “Advocating is important because it helps people understand the misconceptions and realize that agriculture is all around them and it is essential in their daily lives.”
She said although there will always be people who remain negative about agriculture, if there are advocates, they can reduce this number drastically.
Claycamp, who lives on a farm and works with dairy cows, was really excited when she found out she had won the scholarship.
“My parents encouraged me to apply for the scholarship, so I did,” she said. “I grew up in agriculture and always knew I wanted to be in agriculture, so I’m pursuing that.”
Claycamp and Wiesehan were among the members of the newly established Seymour Middle School FFA chapter as eighth-graders.
Once they moved up to high school, they both remained involved with the youth organization, which prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.
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For information about the Dick Moren Agribusiness Committee Scholarship, email [email protected] or call 812-522-3681.