In the recent year, the Michigan legislature has been very vocal in their attempts to strengthen the state’s agricultural business. Representative Stacy Erwin Oakes (D), for example, has introduced a bill in March which would “empower Downtown Development Authorities” to “promote local agriculture, products and farmers markets” (MichiganVotes). Also in March, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law an official “Agriculture Day.” Snyder believes agriculture should be acknowledged in a place that is often “overshadowed by the automatic industry” (“Michigan Turns Focus Toward Farming in March With Agriculture Day”). These efforts to strengthen Michigan farming were reinforced even more as the summer approached.
Recently, the Michigan Farm Bureau stated that the short supply of labor in our state needs fixing. Local farmers should urge elected official to act quickly on the Immigration Reform to create legal migrant workers. National lobbyist, Ryan Findley, of the Michigan Farm Bureau, argues, “It's about maintaining Michigan's crop diversity and our supply of fruits, vegetables and dairy products locally” (Jackson). According to Immigration Reform Quick Facts, "Farmers only 35 miles (about 50 minutes) outside of Detroit are reporting labor shortages of 30 percent, resulting in the loss of locally harvested vegetables for consumers” (“Immigration Reform is Needed Now!”). Some of the goals for Michigan, such as generating “new agrifood business at a rate that enables 20 percent of food purchased in Michigan to come from Michigan” (“Good Food Report Card”) can be accomplished if there is an emphasis put on the importance of the farm worker. Therefore, over 400 groups are joining forces with the Michigan Farm Bureau to get this reform moving. Still, some conservative members argue against an amnesty approach and are still very concerned about illegal immigration. In addition, conservatives say an abundance of low skilled workers will drive down wages. Some legislators are even against any type of reform, yet the majority of members from both parties are in agreement that a reform is needed.
This year also marked the 34th year anniversary of Michigan’s Wetland Protection Act, but the celebration was short lived. Governor Snyder approved of Senate Bill 163, sponsored by Senator Mike Green. The law would take away power from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and give it back to the farmers. It gives farmers the ability to determine if areas are wetlands, or agricultural drains. Manager of Michigan Farm Bureau’s Agricultural Ecology Department, Laura Campbell, states this bill “reassures farmers that Michigan will continue to enforce federal statutes and laws regarding wetlands, and stops the EPA from enforcing its guidance, which often is not supported by court cases or statutes” (Jackson). This allows for farmers to have more land to “expand their operations” (Smego) and move closer to increasing Michigan’s agribusiness to benefit all.
However, with new solutions come new problems. Many farmers would need to acquire a permit in order to farm in certain wetland areas. Some believe this process is “expensive and cost prohibitive” (Zimmerman). In addition, some argue that this law is hurting Michigan’s Clean Water Act saying, “At a time when the nation is making historic investments to restore the Great Lakes, Mississippi River and other U.S. waters, it does not make sense to undermine those efforts by weakening strong clean water protections” (“Clean Water Act’s Essential Role in Restoring the Great Lakes”).
As more laws are enacted and bills proposed, Michigan is slowly but surely moving closer to becoming a top agricultural state. If Michigan interest groups work together with legislators to agree on the best plans, a successful future will grow.
Jackson, Paul. “Apply Heat to Cure Labor Malady.” Michfb.com. 12Aug. 2013. Michigan Farm News. 15 Aug. 2013. https://www.michfb.com/MI/Farm_News/Content/Front_Page/Apply_heat_to_cur e_labor_malady/
Zimmerman, Matthew. “Farmers Win Some And Lose More in Michigan Wetland Amendments.”
VarnumLaw.com. 10 July 2013. Varnum. 15 Aug. 2013. http://www.varnumlaw.com/blogs/growing-michigan/farmers-win-some-and- lose-more-in-michigan-wetland-amendments/ “2013 House Bill 4487: Authorize DDA borrowing and spending for agriculture promotion.”
MichiganVotes.org. 2013. Michigan Votes. 15 Aug. 2013. http://michiganvotes.org/2013-HB-4487 “Clean Water Act’s Essential Role in Restoring the Great Lakes.” EcoWatch.com. 18 Oct. 2012. EcoWatch. 15 Aug. 2013. http://ecowatch.com/2012/clean-water-act-turns-40/
“Good Food Report Card.” MichiganFood.org. 2012. Michigan Good Food. 15 Aug. 2013. http://www.michiganfood.org/assets/goodfood/docs/2012_Michigan_Good_Food _Report_Card.pdf
“Immigration Reform is Needed Now!” Michfb.com. 2013. Michigan Farm News. 15 Aug. 2013. https://www.michfb.com/MI/Policy_and_Politics/Issues/Immigration_Reform_Q uick_Facts/
“Michigan Turns Focus Toward Farming in March With “Agriculture Day.” MachineFinder.com. 11 March 2013. Machine Finder. 15 Aug. 2013. http://www.machinefinder.com/ww/en-US/articles/michigan-turns-focus-toward- arming-in-march-with-agriculture-day-2247.