Farmers explain 2019 challenges to lawmakers

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The state Legislature won’t be back in session for another couple of weeks and when lawmakers come back, they will be focused on budget. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working now.

Two legislative committees got together at the Michigan State University Pavilion in East Lansing Tuesday to talk about another important economic issue: agriculture. The House and Senate committees on agriculture heard from stakeholders about this year’s challenges.

While a low-interest loan program was put into place earlier in the year to help deal with spring planting delayed or scrapped due to rain, Michigan Director of Agriculture and Rural Development Gary McDowell said there’s more threatening the agriculture industry.

“It’s very concerning, this testimony you heard, those two farmers at the end talking about their future. They’ve been farming for years, probably all of their life, and so much of this is third-, fourth-generation farmers, and they think they’re going to be the generation to lose the family farm,” McDowell said.

Market forces, a changing environment, foreign imports and weather all affect agriculture, something not lost McDowell, a lifetime farmer, or on House Agriculture Committee Chair Julie Alexander. She and her husband are part of a multigeneration farm family in Jackson County.

“Agriculture is a $104.7 billion industry. We know that Michigan ranks No. 2 in the most diversified state in commodities that we raise and grow, especially on the west side of Michigan; you have an abundant number of different crops,” Alexander said.

While the full impact of the weather-related part of the problems farmers face will not be known until fall, many believe it will be felt deeply and for a long time to come.

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