South Bend Tribune. March 16, 2014.
Failure to restore subsidy a sorry state of affairs
This year's legislative session has offered the usual examples of the inexplicable, but it's hard to top the General Assembly's failure -- yet again -- to restore a state subsidy to help parents adopting special needs children.
For the fifth year in a row, the issue is dead. And the 1,400 families on the state's "waiting list" for an adoption subsidy that was promised but has never been paid remain on hold.
Hard to fathom this state of affairs: Consider that Indiana, where Gov. Mike Pence talks about a pro-adoption agenda, is the only state in the nation that doesn't offer such support.
State Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, says that this year's failure is frustrating. It also says something about the state's priorities that it's cutting corporate taxes but can't reinstate assistance for young Hoosiers who need more support than most of us can comprehend.
Indiana's adoption subsidy was cut in 2009 by then-Department of Children Services Director James Payne, who was fond of saying that "People should adopt for love, not money." But findings from a survey by Children's Rights underscore how critical adoption subsidies are: 58 percent of respondents said they could not have adopted without a subsidy. And from a practical, bottom line perspective, the research indicates that subsidies result in substantial governmental savings compared to the costs of foster care.
You can argue whether the more than 35 percent drop in Indiana adoptions between 2011 and 2013 is connected to the suspension of subsidies for special needs children. But there's no question that the state has failed in its obligation to the 1,400 families on the waiting list for a subsidy it hasn't delivered. And that's inexcusable.
Broden is optimistic that next year's budget session will yield a different outcome. He's already started planning his strategy and says he has a firm commitment from Sen. Carlin Yoder, a Republican from Elkhart County, to work on the issue.
We hope Broden is right, and that his continued efforts on behalf of adoptive families will result in the restoration of the subsidy -- and that it includes honoring promises made to those on the waiting list. But shame on the state for taking so long to do the right thing.
Indianapolis Business Journal. March 15, 2014.
Swing toward sustainability
Thousands of dedicated scientists worldwide, like those working for Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences, are searching for ways to feed an escalating global population on shrinking amounts of arable land. Since the mid-1990s, much of their research has focused on genetically altered crops that farmers have embraced for their cost-cutting ability to minimize insecticide use and tillage.
As IBJ reporter Dan Human reported last week, Dow AgroSciences is about to roll out a new brand of genetically modified corn, soybean and cotton seed — and an accompanying herbicide the crops can resist.
But nature was intricately designed. One piece of the puzzle can't be fundamentally changed without affecting all the innate connections. Less than 20 years after manufacturer Monsanto introduced soybean seed that resisted its Roundup herbicide, an estimated 85 percent of U.S. farms fight weeds that have also grown resistant to Roundup.
So even though the millions of dollars Dow AgroSciences and other researchers are investing in new seeds and herbicides will almost surely regain the edge over nature, that gain will be temporary. Like Whac-A-Mole, crop science is inadvertently creating ever-more-resistant weeds, then developing more sophisticated GMOs and herbicides to fight them.
Long-term solutions to the age-old problem of weeds should work within nature's design, not just trick it into working a new way.
There's nothing wrong with developing short-term fixes, as long as they are recognized as such and additional resources are funneled to finding those sustainable answers.
Unfortunately, the opposite mind-set has dominated agriculture for decades. The bulk of government and private solutions have addressed one narrow problem at a time, without acknowledging how very little is actually known about Earth's symbiosis.
Some recent signs are encouraging, like a moderate funding shift in the 2014 federal Farm Bill signed into law last month. Money was increased for research into both specialty crops (ag-speak for fruits and vegetables that are not considered commodities) and organic agriculture. We hope some of that research will focus on increasing farm profits through such sustainable strategies as cover crops, rotational grazing, and landscape and crop diversity.
Many agriculture experts for years have scoffed at the notion that the success some moderate-size farms have reaped through sustainability can be replicated on scales large enough to feed a projected global population of 9 billion by 2050. But more recent research supports its viability on large farms, especially when several complementary practices are used in tandem. Careful management of such practices for some kinds of crops can net yields every bit as large as those of conventional farming.
Further research can unearth ways to close the gap for all crops. The battle waged by Dow AgroSciences and other companies against weed resistance is an important one. So let's also put more effort into solutions that will last.
The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. March 13, 2014.
Pence must halt bill undermining energy efficiency
Gov. Pence: Veto SB 340
The arguments for doing so in the Energizing Indiana program are myriad and, on the surface, persuasive.
The challenges of energy conservation in Indiana have changed, we're told, even in the short time since the state program to help individuals and companies conserve electricity began in 2012.