Wednesday, March 18, 2009

National Agriculture Week

This week is National Agriculture Week. Go hug a farmer. (Just kidding.) Here are some Michigan farm facts:

• Agriculture contributes $71.3 billion to Michigan's economy annually.
• Agriculture employs more than 1 million people. That's a quarter of Michigan's work force.
• The state's agricultural economy has been expanding at a rate five times faster than the growth rate of the general economy.
• Ninety-five percent of Michigan's farms are single-family operated and/or family partnerships.
• Of the few Michigan farms structured as corporations, 99 percent of those are family-owned and involve multiple generations and family members.

Agriculture is currently the #2 "industry" in Michigan, and despite the rosy statistics, it faces some serious challenges both here in our state and across the nation. At a time when more people are starting to think about where their food comes from, farmers are facing increased pressure from environmentalists and regulatory agencies. Even the recent peanut scare (which did not have anything to do with the farmers who raised the peanuts) has prompted some in our government to introduce legislation that would create a new Food Safety Administration branch of the government to come and visit farmers who raise your food.

Probably designed with mega-farmers in mind, is there language in there to exempt the person who raises tomatoes in their garden and sells them at the road in front of their house? What about your favorite veggie sellers at the farmer's market?

As many of you know, I'm not a fan of increased government regulation. It seems that the statutes and agencies we create are directly proportionate to the amount of industry (or agriculture, in this case) we send overseas. Where there is much less regulation... And then we wonder why our children's toys have lead in them.

There is a very real feeling of tiredness among farmers. It is a hard job, and doesn't pay all that well. Farmers enjoy the land and the animals and the cycle of seasons. In general, they do not enjoy paperwork and moving targets and changing requirements. How long will they hang in there? And who will raise the food when they throw in the towel?

1 comment:

  1. Very, very good post Lona! And yes, tiredness is exactly what we feel....


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