Indiana Governor Mike Pence visited the Delaware County Fairgrounds on July 13 to host an agricultural roundtable discussion with community leaders. With Pence in contention to become presidential candidate Donald Trump's running mate, reporters nearly outnumbered attendees in the Heartland Hall Meeting Room. DN PHOTO SAMANTHA BRAMMER
Pence hosts agricultural roundtable in Muncie after breakfast with Trump
Drab brown walls, black and white folding chairs and an unusually large media presence (reporters nearly outnumbered attendees at Governor Mike Pence's agricultural roundtable) set the tone at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Wednesday.
After listening to local farmers’ “thoughts, obstacles and opportunities,” the Republican fielded a handful of questions from reporters about his potential nomination for vice president before making a beeline for the only colorful part of the room — the bright red exit.
He was also asked a similar question from Randolph County farmer Tom Chalfant at the end of the roundtable.
“About four and a half years ago, as a congressman, you had an ag roundtable before you decided to run for governor,” Chalfant said. “Is this déjà vu?”
Rather than hint at presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump's choice for a running mate in front of a crowd, Pence cracked a joke before thanking the farmers for attending.
“I just knew he’d be trouble,” he said of Chalfant, drawing laughs from around the room.
Aside from the last question, however, most of the farmers' concerns centered on issues like vocational education, infrastructure and business. Pence stressed Indiana's position as "the crossroads of America," and was bullish on the potential growth in the state's exports with the fourth state port he proposed in his State of the State address in January.
Dan Hiatt, from southwestern Delaware County, however, said there are opportunities even within the state. He pointed out the growing microbrewery industry in Indianapolis, saying the growing demand for beer-related crops like hops and barley could help grow local farms.
"If Indy's a hotbed for that stuff, in an hour we could have a truckload of whatever they needed for their little brewery," he said. "So there's opportunities there, and connections just need to be made somehow."
Lucy Whitehead, who farms with her parents and brother, pointed out a potential obstacle to Hiatt's goals.
"Perception is a big barrier," she said. "The perception of everyone here sitting at the table is that they are large factory farms, but everyone here talked about generations, family farms."
Pence responded by sharing his thoughts, saying some family farms were in fact large businesses — though he lauded them as success stories and said "we're proud of you."
"I don't think any Hoosiers' heart is ever too far from the farm," he said. "It just isn't. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you're just drawn to the farm."
Still, the abnormally large crowd was focused on the 2016 Republican ticket. Several television trucks, including cable news networks and local affiliates from as far as Chicago, followed Pence from Indianapolis, where he hosted Trump for breakfast, to the Three Rivers Festival in Fort Wayne and then to the agricultural roundtable in Muncie.
Though Pence did not offer much insight into the morning meeting, he reaffirmed his endorsement for Trump and acknowledged his position on the shortlist.
"I'm just very honored and humbled to be on a list of truly remarkable people that are being considered by our nominee for this position," he said. "[I'm] truly grateful to have this opportunity again to spend time with Mr. Trump, but also with members of his family."
Early in the roundtable, Pence was even more coy about Trump.
"I apologize for all of the fuss, I hope you don't mind a few extra cameras that are here," he said. "Mrs. Pence and I hosted some friends at the Governor's Residence this morning for breakfast."
Pence, while in contention, is not the only potential running mate. Reports said Trump also met with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Sen. Jeff Sessions in Indianapolis earlier today.