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Tuesday, March 15, 2016 9:41 pm

Farming executive to run for Congress

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Kip Tom, whose family runs a huge farming operation based in Kosciusko County, has become the fifth Republican to declare his candidacy for northeast Indiana’s seat in the U.S. House.

Tom filed a statement of candidacy in the 3rd District with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday. He said he expects to make a formal announcement next month.

"Over the past several months, I have met with and listened to our neighbors," he said in an email. "Like them, I believe Congress needs a lot more conservative citizen leaders who have created jobs, met a payroll, and helped improve their communities."

Tom, 60, said he stepped down last month as the chief executive of Tom Farms, which produces corn, soybeans and seed corn in seven counties in northern Indiana and seed corn in Argentina.

He said he and his family "have grown Tom Farms into an industry leader. Now I want to direct my energy into helping our nation grow again."

Tom seeks to replace third-term Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, a LaGrange County farmer who is running for an open seat in the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections.

Other announced Republican candidates for Stutzman’s seat are state Sens. Jim Banks of Columbia City and Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, former Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway of Warsaw and former Whitley County Council member Scott Wise.

Fort Wayne resident Tommy Schrader and Todd Nightenhelser, a Huntington games store owner, have announced their candidacies for the Democratic nomination in the heavily Republican 3rd District.

Tom is a seventh-generation family farmer. Tom Farms’ website says its operation spans 19,000 acres and is a leading seed supplier to agribusiness giant Monsanto. For comparison’s sake, the federal government says the average farm operation in Indiana is 253 acres.

The New York Times reported in November about Tom and other farmers who embrace data and technology.

"Tom Farms has genet­ical­ly modified crops, cloud-computing systems and possibly soon drones, if Mr. Tom does not go with lasers on low-orbit satellites," Times reporter Quentin Hardy wrote at the time.

Tom was quoted in the story as saying the operation uses self-driving tractors and smartphone apps for irrigation. Tom Farms includes land in Kosciusko, Huntington, Noble and Whitley counties.

Tom is member of the board of directors for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and he is on the advisory board for the Indiana Department of Agriculture. He earned an associate degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University.

FEC records show that he has made nearly $10,700 in political contributions since 2005. He has given money to the election campaigns of Stutzman and Reps. Jackie Walorksi, R-2nd, and Todd Rokita, R-4th, and to the political action committee of Growth Energy, which represents ethanol producers and supporters.

bfrancisco@jg.net