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Popcorn Could Become King in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - A record popcorn yield could have Indiana buttered up for the major role the state plays in the industry.  Legislation has been proposed to designate Indiana grown popcorn as the state’s “official snack.”


If adopted, the bill offered by State Senator Ron Grooms of Jeffersonville, would mean a symbol for popcorn as the state’s official snack being created like the symbols already designating the cardinal as the state bird and the tulip poplar as the state tree.


According to USDA, Indiana ranks behind only to Nebraska as the nation’s largest producer of popcorn.  The late Orville Redenbacher, whose claim to fame was developing one of the best-selling commercial brands of popcorn with help from Indiana based researchers, was from Valparaiso.


Part of Senate Bill 97 reads: “Purdue University plant breeders helped pioneer popcorn breeding in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, and those varieties were used by Orville Redenbacher and others in the industry today.”


According to USDA, Indiana growers in 2020 harvested a record 94,000 acres of popcorn which was slightly more than 20-percent above the previous year.  The average yield of 4,900 pounds of popcorn per acre tied the state’s record.  Total production at 461 million pounds in the state last year was up 35-percent from a year ago, according to USDA.  The value of the entire popcorn yield was $74.2 million, an increase of 38-percent from 2019. 


According to USDA, about 25-percent of the nation’s popcorn is grown in Nebraska but Indiana isn’t far behind.  Illinois, Ohio and Missouri are also major producers.


Adding fuel for declaring popcorn the state’s official snack is Indiana has an unincorporated community named Popcorn in Lawrence County.  There’s also a “Popcorn Indiana” brand of kettle corn named after the community but the company is located in Connecticut.


Senate Bill 97 recently passed out of a senate committee and is heading to the full Senate floor for consideration.  If approved, the proposal will be assigned to a committee for further debate in the Indiana House.  State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores doesn’t anticipate much, if any, trouble with  the legislation making it to the governor for his signature.  Bohacek said a request by elementary school students from Lafayette to designate the Say’s firefly, commonly known as the lightning bug, as the state insect was passed in 2018.  “These types of proposals have a tendency to be non-controversial.  This kind of stuff is fun,” he said.  His fond memories as a child include his father popping popcorn in a pot on the stove.  “Nothing is better than getting up on a Saturday morning and watching cartoons and eating that half left over bowl of popcorn from the night before,” he said. 


Apparently, not all state lawmakers are as receptive to considering such legislation.  According to the Associated Press, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said there are more significant and important things to accomplish during the legislation session like passing a budget and redistricting.  “I’ve got a lot of others things to focus on,” he said.

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