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USA - Exploring solutions for Michigan farmers ahead of 2020 harvesting season

Michigan’s 2019 harvesting season was one farmers are looking to forget as they move into preparation stages for the new growing year.

With record rainfall this past spring, the wet weather conditions hampered planting production – resulting in 17.3% of Michigan farmland not being farmed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s more than double the national average, hurting what is Michigan’s second-largest economic industry.

While consumers will see higher prices on produce and produce-based products given low crop yields in 2019, there’s no doubt farmers across the state are facing a much harsher reality. A severe drop in harvesting production makes it difficult for Michigan farmers to make ends meet as they address costs associated with equipment, seed and feeding livestock.

As part of a statewide response to the record rain Michigan received this past spring, I supported an immediate assistance plan that was signed into law in July. The program provides $15 million to go toward low-interest loans for farmers in Saginaw County and across the state whose crops were delayed or damaged during the 2019 harvest season.

Similar low-interest loan programs for farmers have been approved in recent years, and this year’s circumstances proved good reason to deploy such an emergency loan program again. While $15 million has been provided for farmers statewide, there are even more resources available at the federal level.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue, whom I spoke to at a meeting last fall about the incredible challenges our farmers faced throughout the 2019 growing season, designated 43 Michigan counties as primary natural disaster areas, and an additional 31 counties as contiguous disaster counties. Natural disaster designations allow the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to extend much-needed emergency credit to Michigan farmers – including producers in Saginaw County. Farmers who suffered crop losses in communities designated as natural disaster areas may apply for federal emergency loans and use them to meet recovery needs.

As your state representative, I take working for and representing the families of Saginaw County, including those who are responsible for delivering food to our tables, very seriously. I understand our farmers are hurting. My own family comes from farming. I am committed to doing anything within my position to help our farmers get through these difficult times.

To gather professional input, explore solutions and discuss how the state can be a better partner with the industry now and in the future, I am hosting an agriculture town hall on Monday, Jan. 27 to meet with local farmers and members of the community. The event will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Zauel Memorial Library, located at 3100 N Center Road in Saginaw Township.

Joining me will be state Rep. Luke Meerman, a dairy farmer who served a prominent role on the House Committee on Agriculture as vice chair. Rep. Meerman will bring a wealth of knowledge to the discussion. I highly encourage anyone interested to attend.

In 2019, we learned a rough harvesting season not only hurts the nearly 50,000 farms located in Michigan, but also Michigan families working hard to afford feeding their loved ones. Whether it is utilizing available loan programs or improving industry methods to better prepare farmers for prolonged, unprecedented weather, one thing remains certain: We cannot have a repeat of last spring.

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