2018-02-12 / Opinion

A state of appreciation

Editor’s note: The following guest opinion was written by Carl Bednarski, president of the Michigan Farm Bureau.

I recently had the privilege of representing our Michigan Farm

Bureau (MFB) members, alongside Vice President Andy Hagenow, at Gov. Rick Snyder’s eighth and final state of the state address.

Governor Snyder did a great job telling Michigan’s comeback story and celebrating our successes. He’s promising to bring the same “relentless positive action” to his final year of service.

Reflecting on Michigan’s reinvention, the Governor shared facts and figures proving our communities and families are in a drastically better place than 2010:

Our rainy day fund grew from $2M to $889M.

540,000 private sector jobs have been created since December 2010.

Our income growth rate since 2010 is the 6th highest in the nation — an average of $10,000 more in annual income per resident.

We’ve experienced six consecutive years of population growth and eight years of unemployment reduction.

K-12 appropriations are $1.6B higher per year than 2011.

I’m also encouraged to see many of the Governor’s remaining priorities align well with our grass-roots policy and complement the work of our county Farm Bureaus.

Governor Snyder’s mention of the food and agriculture industry was brief, but it highlighted our best work — maintaining our status as a $100 billion economic powerhouse. He also recognized the wine and hard cider sector for their impressive growth, jumping from $300 million in 2005 to $5.4 billion in 2017. We’re encouraged by these success stories and believe we need to continue focusing on food and agriculture processing innovations and expansions.

• Infrastructure and Environment: The Governor announced he’ll roll out five new infrastructure and environment initiatives next week. While we don’t know specifics, I’ve outlined the items we have policy on:

• Rural broadband: Our broadband policy calls for a comprehensive policy to help deliver universal broadband access statewide that is equitable in cost and quality in both rural and urban settings.

• Clean Michigan Initiative: Farm Bureau remains committed to championing the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program to assist farmers with proactive solutions to improve water quality.

• Recycling: The governor shared a staggering statistic: that Michigan’s recycle efforts are half of the national average. Farm Bureau’s resource recovery policy supports several strategies including recycling programs, incentives for using biodegradable products, amendments to the state’s bottle law and more.

• Asian Carp: Our invasive species policy supports substantial efforts by the state to work with other agencies to stop the invasion of the Asian Carp into Michigan waters.

• Public water infrastructure: Our public water and sewer infrastructure policy addresses the maintenance, investments and other provisions needed to ensure communities have a safe and reliable water supply.

In addition, the Governor plans to request additional funds to improve the state’s roads and bridges, an effort to build on the $1.2 million transportation funding package supported by MFB in 2015.

I was also pleased to hear the Governor say 2018 will mark the groundbreaking for the new Gordie Howe International Bridge. With Canada as Michigan’s leading trade partner, the bridge is vital to our agricultural industry.

• Education and talent: I’m appreciative of the Governor’s continued work on education and talent development. The fact that farms and agribusinesses need qualified, skilled labor hasn’t changed.

He talked about the Career Pathways Alliance, a public-private partnership that Michigan Farm Bureau is proud to be a member of. The alliance — and MFB — is supporting the five-bill package that, among other things, increases career and technical education promotion. We hope the Legislature completes the Governor’s request to approve the bills in short order.

In February, the Governor will also roll out what the “Marshall Plan for Talent” that’s expected to focus on addressing the growing shortage of information technology workers. With IT becoming more integrated into agriculture by the second, this will be a plan to follow closely.

• Going forward: I urge you to remain engaged with your state representatives and senators on issues important the state’s food and agriculture industry and Farm Bureau policy. There’s tremendous potential for what we can accomplish together leading up to the 2018 election. Thank you for continuing to be the voice of agriculture.

Source: Michigan Farm

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