|By SHELLY STRAUTZ-SPRINGBORN
LANSING, Mich. — After Democrats gained control in both the House and Senate during last week’s general election, Michigan agricultural leaders are looking ahead to the next four years.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-Detroit) won her bid for re-election against Ada businessman Dick DeVos, a republican endorsed by the Michigan Farm Bureau as a “friend of agriculture.”
While the candidate chosen by the state’s largest farm organization didn’t come out on top, Farm Bureau leaders say they are set to work with the state’s leadership for another four years.
“We’re looking forward to working with the governor and the legislature,” said Doug Ewald, public policy and election specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau. “We’ve worked with Gov. Granholm for the last four years, and we look forward to working with her for the next four years.”
Granholm has been a supporter of creating Michigan jobs, including jobs in agriculture. As part of Granholm’s 21st Century Jobs Fund initiative, more than $4.7 million in agricultural grants recently were awarded to Michigan agricultural producers and organizations as part of the Julian-Stille value-added grant program administered by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The stipends went to 40 applicants in 27 counties.
Granholm touted “Michigan’s robust agricultural industry” as being “a critical part of our economy.”
During the first ever Michigan Bio-Economy Summit in Lansing on Sept. 20, Granholm said alternative fuels are a “tremendous opportunity. This effort is setting the stage for the transformation of Michigan’s economy.”
Michigan Farm Bureau President Wayne H. Wood said of last week’s election, “once again our grassroots process has proven effective in electing individuals who understand agriculture’s place and role in Michigan. Our focus now turns to the future. We look forward to working with all of Tuesday’s winners on enhancing agriculture’s contribution to the Michigan economy, which presently totals $60.1 billion, and turning legislative challenges into opportunities.”
Of the organization’s endorsements, Ewald said Michigan Farm Bureau is non-partisan.
“We use a true grassroots effort by having the county Farm Bureaus also take a look at the candidates. They in turn make a recommendation to the state AgriPac committee as to who they think would best serve agriculture,” Ewald said.
“Consequently we have endorsed several Democrats. We have friends on both sides of the aisle,” he said.
Ewald said he doesn’t believe there is cause for concern regarding the shift in leadership from the Republicans to the Democrats.
“It’s a case were the people have spoken in those various areas of the state,” he said. “In most cases, if they have agriculture in their district, I’m sure they’re going to be interested in helping to keep that as a viable industry.
“Being a grassroots organization, our members on the county level in their elected district are the ones who will communicate their views (to their legislators). They’ll let them know what the issues are and the importance of those issues to the agricultural industry.”
Professor Dave Schweikhardt with the Michigan State University Department of Agricultural Economics, said it’s too early to tell if the Democratic control in Congress would mean changes are in store for agriculture at the national level.
He said that even with Democratic victories in both the House and Senate the new farm bill will likely “look very much like the current farm bill.
“What really matters is that while the members of Congress have changed, the people who voted probably did not change,” Schweikhardt said. “If I’m a farmer and I kind of like this farm bill, and I kind of liked it before, simply because I voted for another candidate doesn’t mean that I’ve changed my mind on the farm bill.
“There seems to be a lot of support for the farm bill and I think that same message is going to be conveyed to the new members of Congress,” he said. “They are going to be listening to the constituents at home. While people say they voted for change they didn’t vote to change everything.”
This farm news was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.