There’s been a lot of discussion lately about how to fund
improvements to Michigan’s roads and bridges. Roads and bridges are certainly a
major piece of Michigan’s transportation infrastructure; however we can’t
afford to lose sight of the need for a broad and comprehensive strategy that
addresses all of Michigan’s transportation infrastructure needs.
Any serious infrastructure plan needs to include not only
roads and bridges, but also rail and ports. Michigan’s businesses and the agriculture
sector depend on this system of infrastructure to get their products to buyers
all over the world.
quantities of food and agricultural commodities by rail or water is more
efficient and less expensive than moving it by truck. On top of that, using
more rail and water transportation takes some of the pressure off of roads and bridges.
An example that
illustrates the math involved is Michigan’s annual corn crop. To move
that crop by truck would require about 81,255 loads. Moving that same amount of
corn by rail would require just 30,000 railroad cars.
However, the most efficient and least expensive way to transport
agricultural products like corn, soybeans and fertilizer, is by water. Investing
in port facilities and infrastructure so that agriculture and other industries
can better utilize water transportation would significantly cut transportation
costs and make Michigan companies more competitive.
Michigan has more ports than any other state. Unfortunately,
according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development there
have been no outbound agricultural shipments by water and very limited inbound
freight in recent years. We need to invest in ports, modify outdated Coast
Guard regulations on the use of barges and dredge commercial harbors so
businesses know they can rely on water transportation.
Agriculture and other industries don’t rely on a single mode
of transportation to move all of their goods. That’s why building a strong,
interconnected transportation infrastructure that addresses roads, bridges,
rail and ports is critical to ensuring that Michigan’s industries can grow and
compete in the global economy.
-Jim Byrum, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association
On Thursday, November 29, Senate Bills 1083
Michigan Senate. The legislation would create a new MISS DIG law. The
Agricultural Leaders of Michigan oppose the bill and we urge he Michigan House
of Representatives to do the same.
Farmers and agricultural businesses understand the value of
utilities and broadband communication and support reasonable efforts to
minimize damage to infrastructure. However, this legislation as written creates
an unreasonable burden on farmers, increasing their liability and requiring
hours of extra labor spent digging holes when farmers could be working in their
The MISS DIG law was intended to regulate excavators, not
farmers, and normal farm tillage should not be considered excavation.
We recommend the following changes to address the concerns
of the agricultural community:
- For normal tillage practices above 12
inches in depth in the road right of way, and 24 inches in depth in the
field, landowners, tenants or custom operators shall not have to call MISS
Dig or be held liable for damage to any buried utilities.
- A landowner, tenant or custom operator
shall not be held liable for any accidental or inadvertent breakage or
disruption of service on utility lines, cables or pipelines that are not
properly installed, marked or maintained.
- MISS DIG markings of utilities should be
accurate within one foot.
- A utility company should promptly settle
for damage to crops.
- Utilities should notify landowners in
writing when a new line is being installed.
- All new underground utilities shall be
installed and maintained at least 2 ½ feet under the surface.
- When locating new utility line depths,
utility owners should take into account previous land uses such as
agricultural tillage to avoid future line breakage or interruption of
Michigan’s farmers and agri-businesses have been farming responsibly for
decades without causing significant damage to buried utilities. It makes no
sense to require them to now contact MISS DIG for the same work they have been
doing for years.
The House is expected to take up the bills during the “lame
duck” session and action could occur as early as Tuesday.
Please contact your state representative by Tuesday,
December 11 at 9:00 a.m. to express opposition to the legislation and ask for
our concerns to be addressed prior to moving forward.
You can find your representative online at www.house.mi.gov.
How will Hurricane Sandy affect agriculture in Michigan?
The Michigan Agri-Business Association released a special edition of "AgFacts" today that outlines the possible impacts on agriculture and infrastructure.
Michigan's agri-businesses should be on the lookout for high winds and heavy rainfall that could damage crops and infrastructure, including rail lines.
You can read the full issue here:http://aghost.net/images/e0186601/121029sp.pdf
Agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of Michigan’s economy, but if that growth is going to continue, we need to find the skilled and talented young people who will carry our industry into the next generation.
Agriculture is being revolutionized by cutting edge technology and scientific advancements. It’s not just sows, cows and plows anymore. Technology is driving the industry and creating the need for a variety of new skills.
One great example is site specific agriculture. We now have the ability to use state-of-the-art soil sampling techniques and satellites to apply seed and fertilizer in precise ways that help get the most production from our fields. We need individuals with backgrounds in the physical sciences and the training to use new technology to move agriculture into the future.
There are a wide range of careers available in agriculture. We need people in the areas of agronomy, commodity marketing, information technology, environmental management, finance, sales, business management and more!
The challenge we have is communicating these opportunities to the next generation and letting them know that agriculture offers challenging, good-paying jobs, many with excellent pay and benefits, in a sector of the economy that is growing. We have to get students and future employees excited about and interested in pursuing careers in agriculture, and helping to feed an increasingly hungry world
To address this problem, the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan recently held a forum to help identify the skills that are most needed for the future of Michigan agriculture. We gathered leaders in agriculture, the legislature, business and education and discussed strategies for attracting young people to the industry.
One of the ways that we can do that is by reaching out to students at a younger age. If we wait until college and only target those students who are in agricultural fields, we’re severely limiting our options. We have to target students in high school and middle school and get them interested in agriculture and thinking about all the different career possibilities in the agricultural sector.
We have to recruit a diverse group of people. Kids in rural areas are already the backbone of Michigan agriculture. If we give them access to opportunities for advanced education, they can combine their knowledge of agriculture with the new skills we need for the future.
We can’t overlook urban and suburban young people, either. Many of them are already interested in science, but have never been exposed to agriculture and have no idea of the breadth of jobs and the opportunities available.
Agriculture pays well, we have great opportunity and it’s not just digging in the dirt. There are career challenges available for hard-working, educated young people who want grow in their occupation, and help feed Michigan and the world.
Michigan has 36 ports, more than any other state. Yet,
according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development,
only about 4 of those ports are actively dealing with commercial traffic. This
is a huge problem for Michigan’s economy and for Michigan’s agriculture
In Michigan, two major issues holding back our shipping industry
are the lack of regular dredging of our ports and ballast water regulations
that restrict ships from discharging ballast water, forcing them to skip
Michigan’s ports and do business with other states instead. Fixing these issues
has to be a priority if we are serious about supporting economic growth and job
creation here in Michigan.
Ensuring that ports are deep enough to accommodate
commercial shipping vessels requires a regular schedule of dredging to remove
accumulated sediment and debris. Without adequate dredging, ports are
impassable for large ships. However, Michigan does not receive adequate funding
to dredge its ports each year. This inconsistency has led to a situation where many
of our ports are unusable for ships able to import and export products to and
from our state.
Once we have passable ports, we have to make sure that ships
can use them, and that means making sure ships can be loaded going both ways. It’s
simply not good business for a ship to come to Michigan if it has to leave
empty. However, Michigan’s current ballast water regulations effectively make
it impossible for any exports to leave our ports.
Ships need to discharge ballast water to maintain balance
while loading cargo, but Michigan’s rules are significantly more cumbersome
than rules in surrounding states, if they exist at all! In order to do business
in Michigan, ships have to install special equipment to treat ballast water.
It’s simply not profitable to install equipment for just one state, so instead,
these ships bypass Michigan altogether – instead taking their business to other
Great Lakes states. We need to reform ballast water rules so that they are consistent
across the board, ensuring that Michigan is competing on a level playing field.
If Michigan’s agricultural sector is going to continue to
grow, we need to be able to effectively utilize water transportation to import
and export products with our trading partners. That means making sure that
Michigan’s ports are accessible and desirable places to do business.
-Jim Byrum, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association
Last week, Governor Snyder announced that he had come to an agreement with the Canadian government to move ahead with the New International Trade Crossing. This agreement has been a long time in the making, and it is great news for Michigan’s farmers and agri-businesses.
The Detroit-Windsor trade corridor is critical to business on both sides of the border. The existing bridge is already the busiest trade crossing on the U.S. - Canada border. We must expand our capacity so that we can remain globally competitive and increase our export opportunities. This new bridge will allow farmers to reach new markets and keep up with rapidly growing demand for food, both regionally and worldwide.
Michigan agriculture already contributes $91.4 billion to the state economy each year and has the capacity to continue growing. As Michigan’s largest commodity, milk and dairy depend on good transportation networks to get to markets in Canada and beyond. Our export opportunities have grown significantly in the past several years and we expect them to continue growing. For that to happen, we need reliable access to international markets, and that starts with our ability to cross the U.S. Canadian border.
This bridge isn’t just good news for Michigan agriculture. The benefits extend to all sectors of the economy. Building the new bridge is expected to create 10,000 jobs related to construction of the bridge, and support 237,000 jobs in Michigan that depend on trade with Canada in the long term.
The new bridge also won’t cost Michigan taxpayers a dime. The agreement allows for the creation of an International Authority to oversee bidding to privately design, develop, finance, construct and operate the NITC. In addition, Canada’s expenditure of $500 million will be eligible as U.S. federal matching funds for more highway projects across Michigan. That means more opportunities to upgrade Michigan’s aging infrastructure while creating new construction jobs and supporting existing jobs in agriculture.
Construction of a new bridge between the United States and Canada will be a big step forward for Michigan agriculture and Michigan’s overall economy. Gov. Snyder deserves kudos for negotiating an agreement that will bring thousands of jobs to Michigan and allow Michigan agriculture to grow and thrive.
- Ken Nobis, President, Michigan Milk Producers Association
The much-anticipated 2012 Farm Bill has been drafted
and presented to members of Congress. They need to act on it without delay. The
stakes are very high for Michigan’s economy, which is growing increasingly
diverse, with agriculture playing a growing role in supporting local businesses
and creating jobs.
One leader deserves a special shout-out for her
leadership on this issue. Senator Debbie Stabenow brought diverse parties
together. She ensured agriculture was at the table and worked with local
businesses, conservation groups and many others. Republicans worked closely
with Democrats, thanks to her bipartisan leadership. While politics infects
many other arenas of public debate, it is truly refreshing to see that all
sides can agree on our sector: agriculture, and the need to position it for a
21st century global economy.
Stabenow has a long history of fighting hard for
Michigan’s farmers, and her work on the 2012 Farm Bill is no exception.
This bill has “Michigan” written all over because
Senator Stabenow listened to Michigan agri-businesses and farmers. She showed
her commitment to growing Michigan’s agricultural economy by making necessary reforms
while maintaining crucial support for agriculture.
Michigan is the second-most agriculturally diverse
state in the nation. Our state produces more than 200 commodities and leads the
nation in about a dozen of those. Agriculture already brings in nearly $90
billion annually and has the capacity to continue growing and expanding.
Michigan needs a Farm Bill that gives agriculture the tools it needs to seize
Senator Stabenow understands the challenges that
Michigan’s farmers and agri-businesses face. She pushed for a Farm Bill that strengthens
key programs that help farmers and small businesses reach new markets and
create jobs here in Michigan while saving billions of taxpayer dollars by
reforming food and agricultural policy and consolidating programs. Overall, the
2012 Farm Bill will reduce the deficit by $23 billion.
Leaders from both political parties worked together
to pass a bill that addresses some of the major issues affecting Michigan’s
agriculture economy. This bill:
- Strengthens crop insurance and expands
access so that farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather. It
consolidates existing crop insurance programs to give farmers the ability to
tailor their risk management coverage and better protect themselves against
risks outside of their control.
- Saves money by
eliminating direct payments, meaning farmers will no longer be paid for crops
they are not growing, will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted,
and will not receive support absent a drop in price or yields.
infrastructure by extending rural development initiatives, promoting
advancements in bio-energy production and strengthening energy production in
rural areas. This will spur economic development, ensure energy security and
give farmers the tools they need to continue growing and thriving.
The committee’s work on the Farm Bill is an example
of how government should work. Both sides came together to do what is best for
agriculture in Michigan and nationwide. Senator Stabenow deserves credit for
her leadership and vision in bringing committee members from both sides
together on this important piece of legislation. The full Senate should follow
suit and pass the Farm Bill without delay.
-George House, Executive Director of Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, Inc.
The Department of Natural Resources is taking the right action to prevent an invasive species from putting all Michigan farmers, rural landowners and thousands of local businesses and jobs at risk. Wild pigs and feral swine pose a wide-ranging threat to farms large and small, and this action is the latest in a nationwide fight against this invasive species problem. In addition to Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma and other states are also fighting this problem. Michigan is not alone in this fight, but fortunate to not have the same level of problem - and larger populations of wild, free-ranging invasive swine – that many other states face. Michigan is leading the nation in trying to stop these animals before it is too late.
As a further example of the national scope of this problem, Oklahoma approved a ban on these swine on Monday of this week. The New York Times reported in March that the feral swine and wild hog population exceeds 5 million in 35 states. A March 11 NYT article on feral swine began: “They roam by night, picking cornstalks clean, making off with apple crops. They have almost no natural predators, but they have razor-sharp tusks and a seemingly bottomless appetite for plants and animals. Their population can triple in one year.
Michigan must take a zero-tolerance approach to all invasive species, from Asian carp to imported wild hogs.
Welcome to the new website for the Agricultural Leaders of
We’re excited to introduce this online resource and be a
part of the ongoing dialog about how we can grow Michigan’s agricultural
sector, which is Michigan’s fastest growing industry. In the past 10 years,
agriculture has grown 60 percent. In total, Michigan agriculture generates more
than $71 billion a year, according to some estimates. Exports of Michigan
agricultural products grew more than 10 percent last year, generating more than
$1.75 billion in 2010.
ALM looks forward to being a pro-active, forward-looking
voice for sound, common-sense and pro-growth agricultural measures that
streamline our industry, open the doors to business opportunities, attract new
technologies and practices, and positions Michigan to become an agricultural
producer capable of meeting the demands of a 21st century economy.
The simple fact is, the global population is growing
rapidly, demand for food, fuel and fiber are escalating rapidly – and Michigan
has the opportunity to meet those demands today and well into the future.
How are we going to provide enough safe, affordable,
nutritious food to a rapidly growing global population expected to reach 8
billion in just another decade?
How are we going to ramp up rural development and bring
opportunities to all 83 counties in Michigan?
How are we going to ensure Michigan agricultural businesses
– 90 percent of them family owned – can continue to compete and thrive in the
These are just a few questions we hear. There are many more.
That’s where we come in. Agricultural Leaders of Michigan
wants to help provide solutions to these questions – and beyond. And our
website is where we’ll be sharing our ideas, events, proposals, news,
resources, policy proposals, issue updates, information and much, much more.
So, please come back often. Follow us on Facebook. Let us
know what you think. We look forward to continuing our efforts to serve
Michigan’s agriculture sector and growing this important industry!
-Jim Byrum, President, Michigan Agri-Business Association