An unusually large number of announcements have recently targeted Michigan agriculture on the eve of approval of greater state budget expenditures, especially aimed at food safety concerns including invasive species on land and in water.
The Michigan Farm Bureau expects the legislature to approve Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $4 million agriculture funding plan with a $2 million one-time expenditure for cross-agency invasive species initiatives. The initiatives specific to the state’s second largest industry must also begin to include research related to the climate change report issued last week by the National Climate Assessment.
The several new initiatives announced just this month reflect the importance of Michigan’s exceptional resources that make it second only to California in agricultural diversity, and one of the top contributors to Michigan’s export business.
The Kent County Board of Commissioners late last week added its collective voice to the chorus, creating an Agri-Business Community Work Group to consider steps to support, expand and attract agri-business. In West Michigan, the industry amounts to $1.8 billion in 13 counties. It is an industry that continues to grow, showing an increase from $1.6 billion just a few years ago. There is much to protect.
The Associated Press reported on the National Climate Assessment from Traverse City, indicating vastly changing landscapes in all regions of the U.S. and no less alarming changes for the Great Lakes states.
The Great Depression’s cataclysmic Dust Bowl provides a chapter in “lessons already learned” about the impact of climate and about the importance of continuing to develop protections.
The efforts of the state and Kent County, among others, give evidence of what is at stake. Initiatives have included Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems and the Ecology Center’s announcement of its statewide Cultivate Michigan program to provide a method of linking Michigan producers and suppliers with some of the state’s largest consumer user groups: schools, hospitals, nursing homes and day cares.
The base from which the program draws grew larger last week with the announcement from restaurant chain Bob Evans of its plan to invest $4.4 million to refurbish and expand its existing packaging facility in Hillsdale. Kellogg in Battle Creek has, in multiple years, expanded its footprint and backed a food research laboratory. The cereal company also has moved its Kashi product line from California to Battle Creek.
Government officials have yet to take the threats of climate impact seriously. Opportunities abound for conservation and climate-sensitive development, such as protecting native grasslands and restoring wetlands. Such actions, across state departments with supporting agri-business roles, are becoming more critically important. So, too, in Kent County.
Businesses, educational institutions and government have a unique partnership opportunity to protect the agri-business environment.