Ag association to talk with Purdue


HANCOCK COUNTY – A county agricultural organization plans to talk with Purdue University in the hopes of resolving matters stemming from a threat of legal action from the educational institution.

The intentions come amid a dispute between Purdue University and the Hancock County 4-H Club Agricultural Association, which for decades have worked together to locally facilitate 4-H, a network that offers agricultural and other programs for youth. Purdue recently sent a letter to the Agricultural Association recounting actions the association reportedly took late last year to what the university describes as an attempt to wrongfully sever ties.

Purdue told the Agricultural Association it would hold off on taking legal action over the matter as long as the association refrains from enacting the changes and is willing to engage in meaningful discussions on a resolution.

Mike Elsbury, president of the county Agricultural Association, said at the organization’s board meeting this week that he continues working with Purdue’s lawyer and Casey Mull, Assistant Director, Purdue Extension Program Leader, Indiana 4-H Youth Development.

“We are trying to set up a time and date to where we can get together and try to work on some of the things that we have to try to sort out,” Elsbury told board members. “They’re asking to meet with a small number of us at some point.”

Elsbury also said efforts continue to secure a lawyer to help the Agricultural Association with the matter.

“Hopefully we can make a nice, swift resolution, make 4-H the priority again and move forward,” Elsbury said.

While the Agricultural Association declined to comment too specifically on the dispute due to the threat of litigation, a former Hancock County commissioner who attended the association’s recent meetings at which its relationship with Purdue was discussed said association membership desires more local control over 4-H.

Purdue notes in its letter to the Agricultural Association that 4-H is a federal program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and managed throughout the country by recognized land grant universities like Purdue. The Indiana General Assembly has given Purdue sole and exclusive authority to manage 4-H in Indiana, the letter continues.

The letter refers to actions the Agricultural Association reportedly took at its Nov. 21, 2022 and Dec. 12, 2022 meetings. Those actions, according to the letter, regard amendments to the association’s articles of incorporation and bylaws, including removing “4-H Club” from its name and any references to the statewide 4-H Youth Development Program, eliminating the Agricultural Association’s stated purpose, and changing dissolution terms to deprive Purdue of assets obtained by the association.

According to the letter, the Agricultural Association’s board of directors violated the organization’s bylaws by not providing written notice of the amendments before its Nov. 21 and Dec. 12 meetings, and not obtaining a two-thirds vote by the board to amend the bylaws at either meeting. Because of those failures, the letter continues, the Agricultural Association took no official action and the result amounted “to nothing more than an advisory resolution.”

The letter advises the Agricultural Association that that path, however, would “result in Purdue seeking dissolution of the corporation and a transfer of all assets to Purdue.” Even if the association “were to follow its stated bylaws and articles to completely revoke the corporation’s stated 4-H purposes and to make the other proposed amendments, such action would violate Indiana law,” the letter continues. Furthermore, according to the letter, “the legal consequence of that action would result in a transfer of all Hancock County 4-H Club Agricultural Association, Inc. assets to Purdue.”


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