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    Background

    Jim Byrum graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in public affairs management. Being raised in a farming family he had a passion for agriculture and focused his interest there. He as served in positions important to the health of agriculture including the state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency. Part of his position with the FSA involved managing farm programs for producers set by Congress. Byrum was responsible for ensuring across the entire state of Michigan farmers were treated fairly and equitably. He was accountable to local producers as well as the Secretary of Agriculture. His current position is serving as the President of the Michigan Agri-business Association (MABA) as well as serving as the chair of the Michigan Commission of Agriculture.

     

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    What is the Michigan Commission on Agriculture and what does Jim Byrum do there?

    The commission is a bi-partisan group responsible for establishing policies for the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), most importantly setting the priorities that govern the MDA. Byrum is the chair, he was appointed by Jennifer Granholm. His term will expire in 2010. He attends monthly meetings with the entire committee where critical issues in Michigan agriculture are discussed and decisions are made on efforts to better Michigan agriculture on all levels.

    What is the MABA and what does Jim Byrum do there?

    The MABA is an interest group that works for businesses engaged in Michigan agriculture. Byrum and representatives meet with legislators, meet with state agencies, and head to the US Capital to ensure that the members of the MABA are not pushed aside by political leaders. It is important in Michigan that on a daily basis people working hard for our agriculture because it is one of the leading industries in this state, not to mention it is one of the only growing industries for the Michigan at this time. As the President of the MABA, Byrum is responsible for overseeing the activities of the Board of Directors. He works closely with state and US legislators to help them understand the complexity of the agriculture industry and pass policies that promote the industry, not harm it. Byrum is influential in promoting the grassroots movements in Michigan agriculture. He organizes conferences, training sessions, and disseminates information weekly to keep Michigan agricultural businesses up-to-date on new policies that will effect their operations. He ensures the businesses and the entire industry is together on efforts to make changes that will benefit all of agriculture. Byrum is influential in the decision-making of who the association endorses for government positions and PAC contributions that are made

    What are the goals of the MABA?

    The primary goal for Byrum at the MABA is to enhance and sustain production agriculture in Michigan in a viable and consumer friendly way. Byrum's efforts to enhance and sustain production agriculture are effected by the policies put in place by the state and federal government. Making the agriculture viable and consumer friendly depends on the efforts Byrum makes to ensure those in production agriculture understand and have the resources to follow regulations.

    Who are the major opponents and what are the major challenges of the organization?

    Opponents to the work of the MABA are typically environmentalist groups, the humane society, and groups similar to PETA. These groups of people make the work of the MABA much more complicated. Right now a major challenge for Byrum is efforts by the humane society to change livestock and poultry handling regulations. Proposals were just passed in California that Byrum sees Michigan to be a likely target of next. In an effort to prepare Michigan agriculture for possible proposals Byrum and the MABA Board of Directors have been working on a grassroots campaign in the livestock sector. They have been pushing groups like the Michigan Pork Producers and the Cattlemen's Association to come up with a plan that will protect their constituents. Byrum feels it is important to work to fight legislation that is not in the best interest of the industry; as important though is to prepare for the proposals before they are an issue, so strategies are intact when they are brought up. A similar challenge for Byrum is organizing against environmental groups who have been attempting to effect herbicide and pesticide use. The efforts on this issue have been for regulations to be developed that protect producers against threats that would not allow them to spray their own crops, or even their own lawns with any type of chemical. Byrum is working to make those in production agriculture good stewards of the environment to decrease the impact environmentalists can have on the industry

    How have state politics and policy changed?

    With each new set of political leaders elected into office the knowledge that the political leaders have of agriculture becomes less and less. Politics, for good reasons, have term limits and as these limits expire a new band of politicians come and they lack knowledge about agriculture. Part of Byrum's efforts is an ongoing process that involves working with these new political leaders to enhance their understanding of agriculture. It is important that political leaders comprehend the influence agriculture has on the economy because that is the only way to guarantee the policies they pass will be in favor of the Michigan agricultural businesses.

     

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