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Karl Guenther Column: Farm representation dwindling in legislature


Just a few generations ago, Michigan Agriculture had a lot of support in the state legislature. There’s a lot of support now, for some of the same reasons, but it seems to me the mix is greater, and Agriculture has to share legislative support with several other undertakings. Just a few generations ago, the legislature was made up of retired farmers, descendants of farmers, and/or people otherwise intimately familiar with farming.  Never mind that farming was not so complex then.  I don’t think that enters into it. Simply, a legislative proposal having an impact on Agriculture was readily understood by those who would make the decision.  If the proposal had some problems, legislators would recognize those problems. If it was something that should have been done some time ago, it got done now, if only because it had been too long delayed.

As I say, it’s more complex now, because there are non-farmers at every level.  They’re in the legislature, and in various administrative positions.  Some of them are heading departments that didn’t even exist when I was growing up on the family farm.  I don’t know who these non-farmers are, but they must be educators, lawyers, maybe some medical people, and so on.

Some of them have not even a familial association with Agriculture, and they have to rely on those that do. There are quite a few of them - - not only in the legislature, but in non-elected office.

Michigan Farm Bureau offers some examples of those that do know, like Fred Walcott of Allendale, new to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development.  He replaces Velmar Green, farmer from Clinton County.  Diane Hanson, Delta County farmer, and Trever Meachum from Hartford in Van Buren County were already on the Commission.

Among those actually in the legislature are Dave Pagel, House District #78; Ottawa County vegetable grower Roger Victory, House District #88, and Dan Lauwers, Brockway in St Clair County, House District #81.

From time to time, we find that a farmer, or an Agriculture oriented proposal, may be running afoul of the government of the Township involved.  There may be some help here, or at least some suggestion of an understanding as Denny Olson, member of the Iron Range Farm Bureau in the U.P. was recently elected president of the Michigan Townships Association.  His agriculture experience includes the Upper Peninsula Timber Industry.  He is Supervisor of Breitung Charter Township in Dickinson County.

Governor Rick Snyder is, as he will tell you, Governor of all the people of Michigan.

He will also tell you that Michigan Agriculture is among his favorite contributors to his campaign to reinvent Michigan and restore its vibrancy.

Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@charter.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.