The 2012 Farm Bill passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House.
Now that a revised version has passed both chambers, the Michigan Farm Bureau is supporting what it says is good agriculture legislation for the state.
The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday and it was passed in the House on Wednesday.
Ryan Findlay with the Michigan Farm Bureau explains what's next for the legislation.
"Each chamber has indicated there will be amendments offered. We don't know how many and we don't know what those amendments will be. Civics 101, you would have to have conference committee on the two different bills. So a conference committee would be appointed by leadership and they would iron out the differences between those."
Findlay said once the committee helps each side to an agreement, the bill is brought back for another pair of floor votes.
The Senate has scheduled a vote for the new version next week.
The House has not yet planned a date for that vote.
Farmers may have dodged a bullet with the cold weather last weekend.
Freezing conditions in mid-May are not that unusual, especially in northern Michigan.
Temperatures in the northern part of the state dropped as low as 19 degrees, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Tim Locker.
"It's not unusual to get cold weather. This cold was unusual. But generally speaking, the last frost / freeze in northern Michigan is the end of May." Locker said.
Crop damage appears to be limited in northern Michigan, because there hadn't been a significant stretch of warm weather before it turned cold.
Further south, agriculture experts said they have to assess the damage.
"It's going to be variable across different parts of the area, depending on how cold it got." Gross said.
That's Paul Gross with MSU Extension Services in Isabella County.
He said many crops are still in the ground, and their emergence could be slightly delayed. Fruit trees are a bit more iffy, and he said it could be the end of the week before we know if any major damage was done.
LANSING, Mich. - Increasing interest in locally grown food is boosting agriculture's rating as Michigan's second largest economic driver.
And farmers would get more help in growing, marketing and delivering food under a pair of bills in Congress.
The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act would make it easier for local producers to get grants and low interest loans.
Mark Coe with Lutz Farms in Manistee County says the legislation would help small farmers make more money.
"You don't need to be a hundred acre farm to be productive," he says. "You can be a five or maybe 10 acre farm and grow a certain specific set of specialty products and it can be fairly profitable."
The Local Farmers, Food and Jobs Act also provides more support for programs that feed the elderly and poor. Supporters say it also could encourage younger people to consider farming as a career.
According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, every two jobs created at a farmers market supports an additional job in another sector of the local economy.
Coe says smaller farms are popular in urban areas, where it can be expensive to buy farmable land. And he says people who start hobby gardens are moving their produce to market.
"People are becoming their own producers of their own produce and fruits and vegetables that they grow for themselves," he says. "Plus then they end up being able to take the extra quantities of stuff that they grow and sell them at local farmers markets. And so it's really developing quite a culture of small farms."
Michigan fruit farmers are comfortable with spring taking it's time to get here. Row crop farmers however are singing another tune.
Due to the cold temperatures farmers haven't been able to plant seeds in the field for spring crops. These include field corn, soybeans, dry beans and sugar beets.
Bob Boehm is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said the later farmers wait to plant the more concern they have about critical points in the growing process. Which could affect the total yield.
"It's important we get out on the fields over the next 30 to 45 days depending on the Spring planted crops so that we have the maximum yield potential. When that happens we just ask for people to be aware of the timing and the equipment on the roads and the long hours that people are going to have to put in to try to take advantage of that window of opportunity to get the crops planted." Boehm said.
Boehm said there's a lot of optimism about fruit crops this year. Fruit farmers welcome relief after last year's early bloom and then killing frost.
State epidemiologists are looking into how a Saginaw County cattle herd became infected with Bovine Tuberculosis.
This is the first time a Saginaw County herd has been infected since the 1970s.
The disease is much more common in northeast Lower Michigan, so the positive test in Saginaw County caught some agriculture officials off guard.
The herd in question has been quarantined, and investigators are now trying to figure out how the herd became infected in the first place.
Dr. Rick Smith is with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He said the disease could have come from wildlife, or from cattle moving in and out of the herd.
"We're looking at sales records going back five years, and records of animals being purchased over the last five years. There's a lot of things to sort through in terms of figuring out whether this came from animal movement, or whether this has something to do with wildlife." Smith said.
Under the state's response plan, all cattle herds within 10 miles of the infected herd will now be tested.
The affected herd could be depopulated, or individual cows may be removed to eliminate the disease.
Michigan Farmers are waiting anxiously for Congress to come back from recess in order to continue the discussion on Immigration reform.
Michigan Farm Bureau had its annual discussion at the Nation's Capitol. Three topics of concern were Tax reform, Antibiotic use in farm animals, and the main issue of Immigration reform.
Farmers say they hope to ensure a legal, reliable, qualified, long-term workforce for all sectors of agriculture.
Ryan Findlay is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said the process of Immigration reform is slowly moving forward.
"The process is working, there's a lot of discussion and you want to have a lot of discussion. When you look at a piece of legislation such as immigration reform that will impact so many people. So that's happening between agriculture, within business, within advocacy groups and all of that is in the arena of the legislative process. So we're hoping to see a immigration reform bill sometime soon." Findlay said.
Findlay said congress is currently on a two week recess. They plan on continuing working on the Immigration reform bill when they return.
Agriculture and economic development come together this Saturday for a Local Foods Summit in Roscommon.
USDA Rural Development, MSU Extension and the non-profit Northern Transformation are partnering to raise awareness about: food hubs, community supported agriculture, farm markets, incubator kitchens and more.
The summit is Saturday from 9:30-4pm at the Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center in Roscommon.
I spoke with Mark Race, Project Coordinator with N.T. to learn more.
Mark Race is Project Coordinator with the non-profit Northern Transformation.
The Northeast Michigan Local Foods Summit is this Saturday, 9:30-4pm, at the Ralph A. MacMullen Conference Center in Roscommon.
The free registration includes lunch. To find out more or to register, contact Mark Race at (989)-493-3323.
More than 100 Michigan Farmers are in Washington D.C. this week to bring the reality of the farm to members of congress.
There are three topics the farmers want to discuss with congress: Tax reform, Antibiotic use in farm animals, and the main issue of Immigration reform.
Farmers want to ensure a legal, reliable, qualified, long-term workforce for all sectors of agriculture.
Ryan Findlay is the National Legislative Council for Michigan Farm Bureau.
"We want to facilitate this direct communication between the farmer on the tractor seat and the member of congress in Washington D.C. and if we can do that by taking 130 farmers out to Washington D.C. then we will achieve our objective in that regard." Findlay said.
Findlay said, the farmers going to D.C. are chosen by the counties they live in. He said the group is diverse and aimed at ensuring that each farmer in Michigan will be represented.
Michigan food companies will soon be introducing fruits Michiganders may take for granted, into the Brazilian market.
Brazilians will soon be able to bite into a Pink Lady apple or grab a handful of blueberries, now that a trade deal is in the works.
Jamie Zmitko-Somers is the international marketing program manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and recently visited Brazil to explore export opportunities.
"We found that there is a lot of interest starting to grow for blueberries. Blueberries are not a product they are familiar with. They're familiar with the more tropical fruits and blueberries is certainly native to the US and Michigan being the number one producer we think we have a great opportunity to export blueberries into Brazil as well." Zmitko-Somers said.
Zmitko-Somers said Brazilians are also interested in Michigan apples, cherries and cranberries.
Weather permitting, if the state does not experience crop damage or loss as it did last year, she said exports should begin this fall.
For a second summer, school-age children from families with economic needs in several mid-Michigan districts will have access to food packages while away from school.
The over 10,000 qualifying children who participated last year will be automatically selected for the 2013 program.
In addition, another 28,000 qualifying students will be randomly selected to receive similar food packages, thanks to a grant awarded to the state of Michigan by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Chad Zeien, principal of the Au Gres-Sims school district said they would like to see students use this program to its full potential.
I think it's a great start. There's a lot of great programs out there to take advantage of and this is one of them. This is just something new that we had the opportunity to participate in last year. I hope our students have the opportunity to participate and get it in future years, also.
The monthly, per student food package will be delivered to families by an electronic benefit transfer.
Participating districts and RESD's include: Bay-Arenac, Tuscola, Clare-Gladwin and Midland.
The issue of what to do about illegal immigration has been a heated debate in this country. And this week the American Farm Bureau Federation is posing a solution and hoping Congress will act.
The American Farm Bureau advocated for an easier work visa process during this weeks 94th annual meeting.
Scott Piggott is the chief operating officer for the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said the MFB is advocating for immigration reform because farmers need the extra help from immigrants.
"It's the current process that really is a paperwork nightmare, that really is an encomberance to the business folks in our state and to the people who would want to come to Michigan to work. That do need a safe, not easy, but a predictable way to have a guest worker program to allow those folks to come and work in our state in a way that's legal." Piggott said.
Piggott said everyone would benefit from an easier process but he's unsure the issue will be on Congress's agenda too.
Other topics discussed at the annual meeting included milk safety and the Farm Bill.
Senator Debbie Stabenow said Michigan agriculture leaders need to ramp up pressure on Congress to pass a new farm bill. Stabenow spoke to members of the Michigan Agri-Business Association Tuesday in Lansing.
Senator Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee. She said a version of the farm bill passed last year by the Senate was written with Michigan specifically in mind. As lawmakers craft a new version, Stabenow said she's not willing to sacrifice measures that are most important to the state.
She said it's up to House leaders to move the bill forward.
"It's time for us to get moving, to get things done, so that you have the economic certainty that you need to make the right investment decisions to benefit all of us in Michigan." Stabenow said.
Congress has extended the 2008 farm bill until September.
Stabenow expects a new bill to be ready in February or March.
Governor Rick Snyder said the state should do more to deal with blight and encourage urban farming in cities with lots of vacant land.
It was part of Governor Snyder's special message on energy and the environment. The governor says too much abandoned property in Flint, Detroit, and other cities is going to waste when it could be put to a new use.
"And all I've seen in my two years as governor is a lot of discussion about right-to-far, and urban farming."
He said it's time to settle issues dealing with zoning rules, pesticide use, and other barriers to using urban space for agriculture.
"There's too much talk and not enough action."
The governor also wants to ban chronically delinquent property tax scofflaws from state land auctions, and make better use of brownfield redevelopment funds.
After a devastating turn out for Michigan fruit crops, farmers were not optimistic about field crops.
But, against all odds, this year's field crops in Central Michigan have blossomed abundantly.
Dire predictions for most of 2012 wound up with the highest yield and highest prices.
Prices in 2011 averaged six dollars and 20 cents a bushel; this year's jump was up to 7 dollars.
Along with the corn crop, soybeans and sugar beets also brought in high yields.
Paul Gross is an MSU extension educator for Isabella county...
"We're just really fortunate in mid Michigan to have the combination of almost ideal growing conditions and we've had good prices and that's unlike some of the other areas of the county who really suffered because a lot of them had zero yield and droughts and other kinds of problems, but we were fortunate in this area to have the good year."
Gross said Isabella and Gratiot county specifically served as the garden spot for Michigan this year.
He said the heavy, damaging rains from earlier in the summer affected areas outside of Isabella and Gratiot.
Due to summertime drought conditions, corn farmers now beginning to harvest are being advised to be on the lookout for Aspergillus mold.
Aspergillus mold can lead to levels of aflatoxin in the grain that can reduce or eliminate the crop's value.
According to the USDA, several Midwestern states reported high aflatoxin levels in harvested corn. Areas being affected most by the mold are areas that were hit worst by the drought.
Bob Boehm is the commodity manager for Michigan Farm Bureau...
"The end of the corn cob that's open and there's mold present there that's an indicator that they could have a problem. So far we have not seen it, as we've talked to different elevators around the state but there will be spot testing and if it becomes apparent then they'll have to manage through that. Right now we're not seeing it but it is early in the harvest so we'll have to wait and see."
Boehm said, the corn that is being affected is livestock feed. If farmers notice they have a problem with mold they should contact their crop insurance agent immediately for any adjustments.
It's been a hot summer and now we hear that the USDA has designated all 83 Michigan counties as natural disaster areas.
This disaster designation is designed to help farmers qualify for federal loans.
Brad Deacon is the emergency manager for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He said the department is hoping state loans will also come through.
Adam Said, "We are hopeful we will have an additional state level low interest loan program and we think that the interest rates will be more favorable to farmers through the state program. In either case it is a variety of tools in the toolbox to help producers who have had significant losses get through this next period of time where they won't have income through into next year's growing season."
Adams said the original crop loss must be 30 percent or more and verified by harvest yield data.
Qualified farm operators have eight months after the designation to apply.
Michigan's temperamental weather this year has caused many crops to suffer but one is coming in stronger than ever.
The US Department of Agriculture reports sugar beets are doing so well the yield will be higher than average this year.
Ray Van Driessche is with the Michigan Sugar company.
"They are a very hardy crop. They will send a tap root down very deep when the weather gets dry enough for them to have to do so and that's exactly what happened this summer as it got very very dry these beets simply put on a very long tap root and went down for the moisture. Were they affected by the drought, they definitely were, as any crop would be but not as significantly as other commodities that aren't as deep rooted as your corn, wheat and soybean would have been."
We know, of course, that not all farmers are doing as well, For those who are struggling the USDA is offering help.
We've all heard the famous carol...chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
Now, the healthy, gluten-free nut is offering more than just a familiar tune, it's being highlighted as a profitable crop in a workshop this weekend.
The North American Chestnut Farm Workshop will be held in Jackson.
It's the first of its kind in twenty years and targets established chestnut growers and people who are considering starting a chestnut orchard.
The demand for chestnuts has increased over the years, and this is a way to reach out to new growers to help meet the need.
Dennis Fulbright is a professor at Michigan State University. He said there will be speakers at the workshop.
"We have some speakers from different countries in Turkey, Italy, China, Australia and they'll be telling us because chestnut's a worldwide nut. It's the most popular nut in the world and these people have been growing and researching nuts for a while so we can learn a lot from them."
Fulbright said there is a 100 dollar fee to attend the workshop. He said that will cover the cost of food.
Farmers worried about the rising price of cattle feed can still apply to use land originally set aside for conservation.
Michigan's summer drought has contributed to higher feed prices, backing farmers into a corner.
Christine White is the USDA Farm Service Agency State Executive Director. She said the USDA opened up land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program in mid August to help farmers with the rising costs.
"The secretary of agriculture decided to allow haying and grazing on CRP lands in order to either assist producers in MIchigan with feed or it could be sold to producers in other states who have even worse drought conditions."
Farmers who have CRP land are paid for not using it and penalized if they do. Because of the hay shortage the USDA has reduced the penalty.
White said there has been talk among farmers of sending more cattle to market if the price of feed can not be stabilized.
Applications for the CRP program must be turned in by Friday, August 31.
It is seen as a win for Russian and U.S. agriculture, and the Michigan Farm Bureau is advocating the expansion of foreign trade to increase agricultural markets for the state's ag industry.
Russia is to join the World Trade Organization this fall and if approved, will be part of the permanent normal trade relations.
In pork products alone Michigan farmers would generate an additional 110 million dollars.
Ryan Findlay, national legislative council for Michigan Farm Bureau, said he thinks everybody is pleased with Russia joining the WTO.
"That's a good step for Russia, it's a good step for the global economy and it will be good for Michigan and Michigan farmers. We just need to make sure that congress recognizes that we can normalize the trade relations prior to their joining so that we don't get stuck with some antiquated trade barriers that could go into existence prior to their joining if we don't normalize the trade relations."
Findlay said the trade deal with Russia would increase export of Michigan beef, poultry, pork, apples, cheeses, soybeans and soybean products.
House and Senate committees have approved normalizing trade with Russia, the measure is waiting for full floor votes on both sides of Capitol Hill.
Like people, agriculture needs clean air to thrive. The "Save the Cherry" campaign wants people to know just that.
Clean Water Action, the National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club, created the Save the Cherry campaign to educate people on the effects of carbon emissions on Michigan agriculture.
Nic Clark is the Campaign Director for Clean Water Action.
"And so what we did is we went up to the Cherry Festival this weekend with a group of 25 or so activist and were able to educate over 1500 parade goers about the Save Our Cherry Campaign and the devastating effects on carbon emissions on our agriculture."
Clark said the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new limit on power plants emissions.
Currently he said, there are nearly two-and-a-half million people supporting the proposal. A hundred and sixty thousand are from Michigan.
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee passed a new set of farm bills that has Michigan organizations split on the effects of the legislation.
The proposed bills make major reforms to agricultural policy. It eliminates direct payments and consolidates programs.
Chuck Hassebrook is with the Center for Rural Affairs. He said the new legislation still needs work.
"The most important change that's needed in the farm bill now is to include funding for the rural development programs, create jobs and opportunities in rural Michigan and across rural America. This would be the first farm bill and as it's written now, it will be the first farm bill in a generation to include no funding for rural development."
On the other hand, Ryan Findlay with the Farm Bureau supports the new legislation...
"There's never gonna be a perfect bill and I think that people will always say, 'hey we would like to add this or we would like to change that.' By and large, the Farm Bill that Senator Stabenow passed, is a good piece of legislation."
Findlay said the legislation still has a long way to go. The bills are currently on the Senate Floor. He said he believes the Senate will pass the measure and send it to the House for final action.
Work is continuing this week in Washington on a new farm bill. The existing farm bill expires in September.
Lawmakers are already warning that funding will be cut. That has some small farmers concerned that their voices will be drowned out by corporate farm interests.
Ryan Romeyn and his wife, Andrea, operate a small organic farm in northwest Michigan's Central Lake.
Because the growing season is shorter in northern Michigan, Romeyn said the farm bill helped him build hoop houses, which are sort of like greenhouses that lengthen the growing season...
"And it creates a warmer environment in the fall so instead of being done in maybe November, I'll be selling salad by the end of December."
Romeyn said he knows most of the people who buy food from him, and that's why he wants to provide them healthy, fresh produce...
"When the fresh stuff comes in in northern Michigan, people are shopping the stands and people are going to the markets and spending their dollars with us."
Romeyn said a farm bill that helps small farmers will also create jobs. Unlike some corporate farms that use a lot of machinery, Romeyn's farm relies on some local young people to help with things like weeding by hand.
The new farm bill is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks.
Buying local has become a trend throughout Michigan.
And Alma College is on board.
Steve Watkins is the general manager with Alma college campus dining. He said by the end of this term 40 percent of Alma's produce will be from Michigan.
He said buying local helps the school reduce its carbon footprint.
"It also reduces the carbon foot print that you know, it goes a long way to help reduce those kinds of things, minimize the distance that the food has to travel to us and at the same time gives us a fresher product."
Watkins said Michigan's climate makes it more difficult to buy all local products but the cafeteria is doing what it can.
Michigan Sugar Company is sweetening up its Bay County facility with a 13 million dollar investment.
The money is being used to increase efficiency by updating equipment.
The improvements will impact four areas of production in the plant.
Ray Van Driessche is the director of Community and Government Relations for Michigan Sugar Company. He said the pulp press and beet pressing stations will be replaced.
"Also here in Bay City we're going to double the capacity of our consumer powered and brown sugar packaging lines. And we did that a few years ago and that's where we got our highest margin is from our powdered and brown sugar lines. And we doubled our capacity just a few years ago and believe it or not we have sold out of that capacity and now we're going to double it one more time."
Van Driessche said the facility will also purchase a new steam dryer. He said the investments will improve energy efficiency and save money.
The Michigan Farm Bureau will convene in Grand Rapids at the end of this month. One of the items on the agenda for the annual meeting are the pesticide regulations established by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Farm Bureau's opposition to them.
The Michigan Farm Bureau said although farmers are not opposed to regulation, the regulations proposed by the EPA just will not work for Michigan fruit and vegetable growers.
Ryan Findlay is with the Michigan Farm Bureau said, "When you look at the fruit and vegetable probably the biggest concern they have is the phasing out of Guzion (AZM) in the terms of EPA. It's a pesticide that's applied to trees, they all have an application they can use in a restricted format. EPA has said we're going to phase that out and you can't use that at all."
The policy restricting use of AZM is scheduled to be enacted next year. Findlay said the challenge is finding an alternative to the pesticide before that time.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week announced funding for projects to harness wind, solar and geothermal power for farms and small businesses.
Several Michigan projects were included in the round of funding, three from Huron County. USDA Rural Development's Michigan Director Jim Turner said the operations will not only use renewable energy to reduce costs, but they will be providing energy back to the grid.
"They're very similar, um, I'm looking at two of them in front of me right now, they're both solar panels, solar voltaic panels, and they're going to be selling electricity to the grid. Two of them are very much alike in that they're not only incorporating solar panels to sell electricity to grid, but they're also incorporating a geothermal heating system for their farm workshops."
Similar projects in Tuscola, Lapeer and Ottawa Counties received grants under this round of funding from the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).
Turner said his department is wrapping up announcements of grants for this year. Another grant cycle will begin in the spring of 2012.
The Department of Labor has added thirty days to the comment period on proposed youth labor rules.
On September 2nd, the DOL issued proposed rule changes with restrictions for what youth can do on a farm not directly owned or operated by their parents.
Several members of Congress and the Senate along with state farm organizations requested an extension to offer comment citing the start to the harvest season and the need for more time.
Ryan Findlay is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He said the proposed changes cover a lot of what are, in his words, "traditional jobs for young people growing up on the farm..."
"But for youth that would ride on a hay wagon stacking bales, they wouldn't be allowed to do that, they couldn't stand on a ladder to pick fruit, they couldn't work and help with treating sick animals if they were working with a dairy or cattle operation. When you look at power washers, welding equipment, any power equipment in general, a lot of restrictions there. Operating a simple garden tractor, a lawn tractor, there would be limitations on what they could do there."
Findlay said he believes the farming lobby will make a strong case for maintaining labor laws as they are, especially he says because of the so-called business structure basis for the proposed rule change.
As written, youth would be prevented from certain tasks only if the farm is being operated by joint ownership or LLC status.
Findlay said he expects a final ruling would not likely come until into 2012, language on the proposed changes could be written into the 2012 Farm Bill due by September 30 of next year.
Last week, the bi-partisan budget reduction committee, the so-called Super Committee, held its third public hearing. They face a November 23rd deadline to trim the budget or trigger across the board spending cuts.
On their list of potential cuts could be agriculture, at the same time the 2012 Farm Bill is being debated in Washington. The current $284 billion Farm Bill, approved in 2008, expires on September 30 of next year.
The Senate Ag Committee, chaired by Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, has sent a proposal to the Super Committee calling for $23 billion in cuts to agriculture.
Ryan Findlay with the Michigan Farm Bureau said given the economic reality, agriculture acknowledges that everyone needs to reduce spending.
"And within that there is a lot of speculation that they are going to ask that direct payments be cut entirely. We'll have a full look at that proposal, they sent the number a couple of weeks ago to the Super Committee and their policy proposal which is fairly unique. Not a lot of people are sending an actual policy proposal but that policy proposal which will be sent at some point, is reported to be sent at some point this week, that will essentially contain the structure, the skeleton if you would of the 2012 Farm Bill."
The deadline for action by the Super Committee is November 23rd, moving any proposal to votes and passage by December 23rd to avoid enactment of across the board cuts.
Five Great Lakes states are waiting to hear whether the U-S Supreme Court will hear their case calling for more decisive measures to keep invasive Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes. Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania filed the request this week. The Great Lakes states want the U-S Army Corps of Engineers to quickly wrap up its study of how to keep Asian carp from escaping the Mississippi River system via Chicago-area shipping canals. The corps is one of the main agencies responsible for the locks.
John Sellek is the spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
"What we really want is to have the Army Corps of Engineers speed up their study. They are taking up to five years or longer to look at this and every minute that goes by could be another fish that's getting through those canals in Chicago, so what we're requesting is they speed that up to 18 months at the longest."
In the mean time, the Great Lakes states are also asking the nation's high court to order the corps to string nets across some smaller waterways that could be escape points for the carp. At the same time, Michigan and 17 states along the Great Lakes or the Mississippi are pushing for a total physical separation of the water systems so invasive species cannot easily travel in either direction.
Governor Rick Snyder took off Saturday on a week-long trade trip to Asia that will take him to Japan, China, and South Korea.
The governor has visited all these countries before, but as a private citizen on business trips. This will be his first official overseas trip as governor with stops in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Seuol.
The governor said he has been laying the groundwork for this trip for months.
"I've had good meetings here in Michigan, but it's important that you go their home countries and territories and have that dialogue."
The governor said this is mostly a relationship-building trip and he does not expect to announce any major deals. His itinerary does schedule plenty of time for private meetings with business people.
He said jobs and investment announcements could be six months or a year away. The governor is expected to focus heavily on pitching Michigan agricultural exports to potential Asian customers.
Algoma University in Sault Saint Marie is working toward a solution using federal grant money received earlier this month.
Invasive plant species are taking over forests in southern Ontario and could spread to parts of northern Michigan.
Pedro Antunes is the research chair of invasive species at Algoma University. He said his research lab is looking for microorganisms that will eat the invasive plant species, ultimately controlling their population.
He said the problem is both economic and environmental.
"The more you go toward the south the greater the problems are and with climate change we expect these problems to increase." Said Antunes.
Antunes said one invasive species is Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle that destroys Ash Trees at a 100 percent fatality. But he said his research team is specifically looking at plants.
After a summer of monitoring Cass River, the Saginaw Bay Resource Conservation and Development Council, or RC and D has determined the water quality is poor. The team is now deciding what action to take.
The Cass River in the thumb is battling nutrient loading, e-coli and dissolved action problems.
Ben Belkholm is with the Saginaw Bay RC&D. He said the council is designing a Watershed Management Plan to handle the crisis.
"The Watershed Management Plan is a document that will outline not only the main concerns that are in the watershed but the specific locations that we think need the most focus."
Belkholm said the plan will also outline the necessary action to improve the water quality.
He said the RC&D will suggest education for farmers on how to properly dispose of cattle waste, and for local residents on how to maintain their septic tanks.
The non-profit conservation organization, Huron Pines is hosting a volunteer project this Saturday to help reduce erosion in the Rifle River in Ogemaw Counties.
Erosion is casing concern in Michigan. Too much can have harmful impacts on fish. Aby Ertel is the watershed project manager for Huron Pines. She said erosion changes the fish habitat by making it difficult for fish to find food, among other things.
She said there are many ways volunteers will learn how to reduce the impacts of erosion.
"We'll also be installing something called bio-logs. These are logs made out of coconut fiber and anchor them into place against the bank. You can plant native plants in them which we'll be doing and they also start to grow additional vegetation, capture sediment that may be eroding." Said Ertel.
Ertel said other ways to collect sediment is by planting large trees and bundling brush.
She said volunteers hard work and dedication make projects like these possible.
A new report shows the Asian Carp is farther north than some expected; in a Minnesota River.
DNA evidence of the invasive fish has been reported in the St. Croix River.
Roger Eberhart with the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes said this
development does not mean the fish is an imminent threat to the Great
"Well I think it's going to take a lot of vigilance, expensive
vigilance unfortunately. I remain optimistic that they can be kept out
of the Great Lakes in the specific areas that they threaten the system.
It's too bad that they're spreading, but it's not entirely surprising
that they're going up the Mississippi River and of course, up the Ohio
River too. They're open waterways and they're good swimmers"
Eberhart said the St. Croix River is a long way from Michigan waters,
and he said there is a divide between the river and the Great Lakes.
He said Chicago waterways remain the most likely point of entry for carp to potentially enter the Great Lakes.
Organizers for the recall campaign effort against Governor Rick Snyder are still out collecting signatures, though they've conceded they will not have enough signatures to get on the November ballot.
As Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber reports, petitioners are trying to make their efforts as visible as possible to drum up more support.
Ron Hoffman holds a simple "Recall Snyder" sign at the corner of a Farmer's Market on the Capitol lawn. He said these types of events draw good crowds and lots of support.
"Spent three hours at the Ingham County Fair yesterday, got 42 signatures."
Governor Rick Snyder crosses the street from his office building to the market. He walks past Hoffman and browses the stands of sweet corn and blueberries. He said he's not worried about the recall campaign because he thinks most people support the tough decisions he has made.
"They may not like everything, but overall they appreciate what we're doing, and we're going to keep moving forward."
Recall campaign volunteers say they'll keep collecting signatures through September to shoot for the February 20-12 ballot.
Despite the odd weather the state has experienced since spring, fruit and wheat crops have surpassed last year's harvest in Michigan.
Since wheat is planted in autumn, the sharply varying seasonal weather did not affect this crop as much as others.
Bob Boehm is the Manager of the Michigan Farm Bureau Commodity and Marketing Department at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He said the wheat farmers have approved a referendum to establish the Michigan Wheat Program.
It's a self-help program where farmers vote to assess themselves a small amount for every bushel of wheat they sell. That money goes into a fund that is invested in by a group of growers appointed by the governor to administer the fund on behalf of growers across the state.
"They hope to address some of the production issues, risk issues, quality issues, and be able to keep wheat in the rotation here in Michigan. The milling industry, that we have a significant investment in here in the state, as well as the cereal and baking industries are also very supportive, very interested in keeping wheat grown in Michigan so they can buy from local sources and be able to provide those products to Michigan consumers as well as around the world."
Boehm said the Michigan Wheat Program will be in place shortly after September 1.
new evidence that Asian carp may have slipped past electric barriers in
Chicago-area waterways. The barriers are meant to keep the fish from reaching
the Great Lakes.
hear from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta, the news has launched a new wave
of arguments over the threat posed by the invasive species.
Corps of Engineers turned up nine positive tests for Asian carp D-N-A out of
hundreds taken from Chicago-area waterways. Federal officials said that's not proof
the invasive species is getting closer to Lake Michigan -- or that it poses an
imminent threat of infesting the Great Lakes.
state of Michigan is suing the federal government to get the shipping locks
shut down as an emergency precaution. John Sellek of the Michigan Attorney
General's office said there is a growing body of evidence that the threat
"How many more warnings do we
need at this point that that impending tragedy is coming? The time for studying
is over. It's time to take action."
state is appealing a judge's refusal to close the Chicago shipping locks while
the Army studies ways to permanently ensure Asian carp don't become a Great
Today is predicted to be the hottest day of our heat wave for many areas.
Farmers are hoping for quick end to the heat and a nice burst of rain.
The corn crop may have been knee-high by the 4th of July, but it's not looking so vibrant today.
Crop specialists said current corn varieties are more drought resistant than their predecessors from a generation ago.
Still Bob Battel, a Huron county crop specialist, said the corn crop is ready to pollinate, and it needs water.
This is a critical water-use time for corn. If we don't get a nice half-inch or inch rain here in the next week, week and a half, we could be looking at some significant yield loss.
Battel said corn roots grow down 8-feet into the ground, but most of the water is absorbed in the top three feet. He said the soil is still holding some moisture. Still a break in the heat coupled with some rainfall would be a welcome change
A mid-summer heat wave is moving in to settle on Michigan into early next week.
Health officials will remind people to drink lots of water, and animal advocates will remind pet owners to take care of dogs and cats.
90-degree temperatures in July are nothing new in Michigan. In fact Dave Lawrence with the National Weather Service office in Gaylord says you might be surprised at how historically common they are.
"Some of our all-time record highs, in terms of high temperatures over the last hundred or so years actually occurred either this week or early next week in history. So it's kind of funny, we're talking about our first stretch of heat, but you know if we look back over the past hundred years or so, this is the time frame when we tend to see those very, very warm readings. In fact some records for Northern Michigan are between 100 and 108 degrees here over the last hundred years. So it can get very, very hot around here."
heat may be hard on construction workers and farmers, but one industry is
looking forward to a nice, hot summer; and that's tourism.
is the President of the Boyne City Chamber of Commerce.
"The last two summers have been pretty dry which hasn't
been good for our agriculture and hasn't been good for our lawns, but it was
great for visitors because when people come up here they want to get out and
get on their sail boats or motor boats or go swimming or go sailing and the
weather's been great for that sort of thing.
I think that's helped out numbers the last couple of years and it's looking good so far this year too"
travel business has been good the last couple of years in Boyne City, and this
summer, he says, is setting records.
A Saginaw county court ruling yesterday has dissolved the class action status on the lawsuit filed against Dow Chemical for contamination on the Tittabawasee River.
More than 100 property owners had been seeking a class action lawsuit against Dow.
But today (yesterday) a court opinion removed that status. A move that Dow Attorney Kathleen Lang said was appropriate.
"People who have differences in their property, who have different claims shouldn't all be swept together and be included in a class action of the size of the one the plaintiffs have been trying to push forward. Dow will vigorously defend itself in the case, but it believes it's appropriate that each plaintiff has to prove their own case, what damages they claim to their property and whether in fact they had suffered any injury."
In 2005 Judge Leopold Borrello had granted class action status to the plaintiffs in the Dow case.
That's the same judge who yesterday removed the status after being ordered by the State Supreme Court to review the case.
Terry Miller is Chair of the Lone Tree Council, an environmental group that's been following the Dow case. He said yesterday's ruling came as a surprise.
"I have not seen the ruling but my understanding is that in part it's a result of the Supreme Court decision against the women who sued Walmart. That it is another example of corporations winning"
Miller said now property owners will have to decide whether or not to continue with individual lawsuits.
Michigan officials are applauding Ohio Governor John Kasich's decision to veto a bill that would allow factories in his state to withdraw millions of gallons of water a day from Lake Erie.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder sent some strong hints that he would like to see a veto of the legislation. There were concerns that the water withdrawals allowed under the bill would run afoul of the Great Lakes Compact, a multi-state agreement that regulates water use in the region.
But Snyder chose his words carefully to avoid the appearance that he was trying to tell a fellow governor what to do.
"We thought the appropriate thing was just to make a friendly call to say we've been tracking this, we are aware of an issue and we'd just like to express our concern as another member of the compact."
At the same time, state officials were examining their legal options in case Governor Kasich signed the bill. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement that he has a duty to defend the Great Lakes and the health of their waters.
The state Department of Natural Resources delayed the effective date
of an order that would ban wild boar in Michigan as an invasive
species. It will now be another three months before the rule takes
effect on October first.
As we hear from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta, the ban was supposed to become official Friday 7/8/2011.
Efforts in the Legislature to craft an alternative have stalled. So
Governor Rick Snyder asked wildlife officials to delay the ban as a
courtesy to lawmakers who want to allow hunting ranches to continue
offering wild boar as exotic game.
The D-N-R ban was supposed to
help deal with the problem of thousands of feral swine tearing up farms
and woodlands, and spreading disease. Hunting ranch operators said
they're being blamed unfairly for boar escaping and breeding with other
feral hogs. They said the ban would put many of them out of business.
Farmers have pressured the state to act decisively to stop the
proliferation of wild pigs. The issue has sharply split agricultural
interests and Republicans.
The state was not going to enforce
the ban until April of next year. But some lawmakers expressed
concern that the rule would still be enacted while they try to come up with a
MSU Extension is hosting two emergency meetings Thursday, concerning corn and soybean planting decisions. The meetings come as crop insurance deadlines approach for area farmers.
The wetter-than-average spring has made it nearly impossible for some farmers to get their crops in the ground.
That's forcing some difficult decisions for area producers, said Phil Kaatz with MSU Extension.
"Many of the producers will be making decisions looking at whether or not they should continue to plant corn, or whether they should switch to soybeans, or in some cases not plant corn at all," he said.
According to Kaatz, producers have already lost at least a month of the growing season, because of the wet weather.
"So if we have an early frost in the fall, we're liable to have crops that are not mature, and then we have a poor quality crop as well as a poor yielding crop. Because the later we get into the season, the less they yield," he said.
Farmers are up against a June 5th deadline to either begin planting corn -- or file a claim with their crop insurance provider.
Kaatz said the meetings will help farmers examine their options -- and plot out what they're going to do this season.
EAST LANSING -- U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow kicked off a series of field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill in East Lansing Tuesday. Stabenow is the new chair of the Senate agriculture committee.
The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization every five years and sets federal rules on everything from agriculture to energy, conservation, and nutrition.
Stabenow's choice of Michigan for the first hearing in the national process means the state may have some clout in determining future farm policies.
WKAR's Gretchen Millich reports.
The last time a Michigan Senator chaired the agriculture committee was in the 1880's. Traditionally, this position is held by a state with a large commodity crop, such as corn, beans, hogs or cattle.
Tom Coon is director of Michigan State University Extension. He said what's different in Michigan, compared to other states, is that agriculture here is so diverse.
"Certainly dairy is extremely important, but in addition to dairy we have a lot of other livestock based crops, such as beef, pork, turkeys, and eggs," said Coon.
"We also have the traditional commodity crops like soybeans, wheat, corn and so on. But then we have this whole surplus of fruits and vegetables," he said.
The agriculture industry in Michigan employs a million people and Stabenow says she is concerned about how the farm bill will affect those jobs. She says she views this new version of the federal farm law as a "jobs bill", but she's afraid that budget constraints will complicate the process.
"We know we've got to tackle deficit reduction," Stabenow said. "We know that we have got to look for every savings possible, and we are fully prepared to do that. We also know that 16 million people work in this country because of agriculture, and it's incredibly important that we move forward and invest in the future," she said.
It's called the Farm Bill, but really it affects the entire food chain. There are production and risk management programs for farmers, processing, distribution and transportation programs, and nutrition programs for consumers, including food stamps.
Tom Coon said anything that strengthens the food industry translates into more jobs.
"Ultimately it is an opportunity to create jobs and to retain jobs here in Michigan and in communities across the country," Coon said..
Another way to create jobs is to help young people get started in farming. The farming population is aging, with most farmers now over 65. Many are retiring with no one to take over their land.
Ben LaCross is a cherry farmer in Leelanau County. He chairs the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee with the American Farm Bureau. He asked the committee to consider how beginning farmers are affected by federal funding.
"And I think there are great opportunities in the farm bill to help establish themselves in new farming operations," LaCross said. "The USDA does a good job in their Beginning Farmer and Rancher Loan Program to help young producers who've never been involved in agriculture before get established with credit when banks may not be able to give them the credit they need to start their farms."
LaCross also sees a need to develop non-farming jobs in rural communities. He said he's lucky that he was able to join his family farm operation. But he said many new farmers need to have a full-time job, so they have a steady income.
"So, it's vital that in rural communities we have options for people to be able to work off the farm, get some salary and benefits, while also establishing themselves as farmers," LaCross said.
The Farm Bill can also provide a safety net for all farmers to help them cope with weather-related problems. This year is a perfect example. In Michigan, the cold and wet spring made it hard for farmers to get a crop in the ground. Crops are also at risk this year from heavy rains and flooding in the Midwest and the South and severe drought in the Southwest.
The next field hearing on the Farm Bill will be held in Kansas. U.S. House and Senate leaders expect to pass the bill before the 2012 fall election.
Farmers, processors, and consumers say they're still feeling the effects of a pumpkin shortage last year.
The shortage is easing this year, but it's affected an important Thanksgiving staple -- the pie.
Mary Saomonowicz owns Mary's Pie Shop in Lexington, over in the thumb.
Mary says she came across several cans of pumpkin pie filling this fall that simply weren't up to snuff. She says not even her 25 years of pie-making experience could save this filling.
"And I made my pie filling, and I always taste my fillings before I put them in the pies, and it tasted horrible. It was enough to gag you. You just couldn't eat it, and there was nothing you could do to save it. I can usually add some of this or some of that, make it taste better, taste good -- and I couldn't do it. I threw it out."
She not only threw it out. She called the processor -- in Oregon. Mary says the company blames the poor pumpkin product on a bad growing season. It's seems there's a shortage of processed pumpkin this year.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
At least one pumpkin farmer we talked to in Mount Pleasant says customers are taking matters into their own hands. They're asking for pumpkins to prepare themselves.
Bill Miller of Papa's Pumpkin Patch in Mount Pleasant says a pumpkin shortage that started last year has left fewer cans of prepared pumpkin filling on grocery-store shelves.
"I've had a lot more people ask for specific baking pumpkins. A lot more people have asked for them, because they can't find them in the stores. We do grow a number of different varieties that are designed for cooking."
Miller says one Illinois farm in particular has typically produced a lot of the pumpkins that are processed into canned filling every year.
He says the poor growing conditions hit that farm hard and limited the crop -- and the supply of pumpkin pie filling.
However you make your pie, Mary Saomonowicz has a suggestion:
"That's great if they make it that way, from pumpkin from the fields. That's super. But I'm just saying about the canned pumpkin -- just be aware, and taste it before you make it."
The US Senate is expected to vote on the Food Safety Modernization Act after the Thanksgiving holiday. If passed, it would result in tougher regulations for food producers.
A proposed amendment to the bill would exempt small farms from certain regulations -- making the regulations apply only to large-scale industrial farms.
Jim Sluyter is with the Michigan Land Use Institute. He says his group supports the small farm exemption.
"We believe that the smaller farmer is probably inherently safer, and certainly doesn't have the same potential risk feeding literally thousands or hundreds or tens of thousands of people across many states."
Sluyter also says larger, factory farms could still function under the proposed regulations, but his group argues that tougher rules might threaten small farms.
"Food can never be a hundred percent safe, so even a small farm can produce a chicken or an egg with toxins in it. There can be leafy greens that are not completely safe. So scale doesn't imply absolute safety. But there is no such thing as absolute safety. It's a living system."
Sluyter also says small farms are most likely safer than larger factory farms since they don't serve as many consumers.
A statewide policy group is urging Congress to act on legislation that could increase funding for farm-to-school lunch programs.
Parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act would help schools serve lunches with food from local producers.
Diane Conners is with the Michigan Land Use Institute. She says students in Onekama Schools in northwest lower Michigan approve of that district's farm-to-school program.
"Participation rates in the school lunch have skyrocketed since they changed their food menu strategy, and are using so much fresh and local food But it takes time, it takes labor to get those kinds of initiatives going."
Conners says the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the last bill this Congress could take up in the lame duck session.
Jim Bardenhagen is a Leelanau county farmer. He began selling produce to schools in 2006, offering potatoes, apples, and grapes to schools in northwest Lower Michigan.
Onekama Schools in northwest Lower Michigan adopted a farm-to-school program. Bardenhagen says the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act could help more schools follow suit.
"They had to put in a whole new kitchen in order to go this way. And most of the schools that I deal with are really limited on storage. They could take a lot more product if they had more storage."
Bardenhagen says if the legislation is passed, it will be important for schools to help each other in adopting farm-to-school programs.
The organizer of Farm Tokens for Education says that the number of tokens brought in this year tripled from last year. The grand total was more than 3000 tokens, up from last year's 908.
The school bringing in the most tokens was Concord Academy in Petoskey. Students there gathered 890 tokens. Pond Hill Farms gave out the most tokens - 942. Toril Fisher, the executive director of Farming for our Future at Pond Hill, says participating businesses and farms were pleased with how much the program helped the local economy.
"The economic impact of those tokens is based on an assumption that each purchase at that point of sale represents a minimum of about five dollars. For the Harbor Springs/Petoskey area it's over $15,000 of a conscious purchase of goods from a local farm and businesses that sell locally-grown produce. So we're very excited."
Fisher says she's very excited that people are making such an effort to buy locally, and it's working.
If a school or business is interested in participating in Farm Tokens for Education, visit farmingforourfuture.org for Toril Fisher's phone number and more details.
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of E15 for certain cars and light trucks. E15 is a gasoline blend containing 15% ethanol. The EPA says it's safe to use in cars and light trucks from model year 2007 and later.
Ryan Findlay, national legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau, says this will allow the US to use more renewable energy.
"The thought from EPA was, 'We're going to check the engines that are out there, and make sure that they can withstand an increase from an E10 to an E15.' So future gasoline will have a fifteen-percent ethanol blend, as opposed to ten percent. At the end of the day, that's going to allow us to increase the amount of ethanol we consume on an annual basis, which we're already producing."
Findlay says the decision is good for some of the state's farmers, whose products -- mainly corn -- are made into ethanol.
"As you look into the future, what else is going to be out there? There's cellulosic. There's some of the left-over aspects of the corn -- they refer to it as cornstover. The corn stalk itself, or the remainder of the ear, after you take the kernel of corn off. That's one option. There's some discussion of grasses or other cellulosic-type material that would be out there."
Findlay says all five of Michigan's ethanol plants currently produce corn-based ethanol.
Most gas sold in the US contains 10% ethanol. The EPA is testing cars from 2001 to 2006 for their compatibility with the 15% blend.
You may have heard or Box Tops for Education, the program where kids can collect coupons from things like cereal boxes and cake mix to earn money for their schools.
Harbor Springs and Petoskey have their own spin on this program. It's called Farm Tokens for Education. These tokens though come from farmers in their own communities instead of from a company thousands of miles away.
This is the second year for the Farm Tokens program. It encourages families to eat healthy foods, support the local economy, and earn money for local schools.
When students buy from a local vendor, they're given a five-cent token. The students turn the tokens in to their schools, and the total amount of tokens is counted at the end of the program. Then, each business that participated would write a check to the school for the amount of tokens that they gave out.
The program was started by Toril Fisher, the executive director of Farming for Our Future at Pond Hill. She says in addition to the fact that five local businesses have been added to the program, she anticipates a much higher number of students participating this year.
"Last year we had a return of approximately 3000 tokens returned back to Farming for Our Future and this year we anticipate at least between five and ten thousand tokens returned."
Fisher's ultimate goal is expanding the program to all of the schools in Emmet County. Token counting begins on October 29th.
Michigan's candidates for governor, secretary of state and attorney general will outline their plans for the state's agriculture industry today.
Candidates from both sides of the aisle have been invited to speak before the Michigan Farm Bureau beginning at 10 a.m. in Lansing today.
According to the Farm Bureau's Matt Kapp, the candidates will cover a wide range of topics.
"The economy, the state budget and how agriculture is going to fit into the state budget, how the candidates see agriculture fitting into the role of the state's economy, and what the candidates' vision for the Michigan agricultural industry is," Kapp said.
The forum is being held at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing. It will also be broadcast live on the farm bureau's website to farmers throughout the state.
Housing developments, invasive species and pollution are just some of the challenges faced by privately owned forests in Michigan, according to a new report from the U-S Department of Agriculture.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the USDA needs to work with private forest owners to mitigate the threats.
"It's clear that USDA's Forest Service must not be an agency concerned with only the fate of our national forests," Vilsack said, "but that we must be equally concerned about and work with our state and private lands."
Over 50 percent of Michigan forests are privately owned, according to the Michigan Forest Products Council.
Vilsack says his department is looking at ways to help private owners profit from keeping their forests intact, instead of selling the land to developers.
Newly-approved federal assistance aims to help US asparagus farmers recover from losses related to drug wars.
Industry officials say the federal government removed tariffs on asparagus from Central and South America in the early '90's to discourage drug trafficking.
The aim, officials say, was to increase import of a legitimate crop.
Asparagus farmers say instead that the move increased production of and competition from cheaply-grown crops.
Now, they might be eligible for assistance from the USDA's Trade Adjustment Assistance program, to develop business plans for adjusting to changing markets.
John Bakker is the Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. He says he expects the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to help farmers produce their crop more efficiently.
"The first bit of training qualifies a grower for $4,000, and then if they follow through with a detailed business plan, they're eligible for another $8,000. So $12,000 per farm, total.
He says the surge in imports is affecting Michigan farmers.
"For instance, we're selling asparagus to the processing market today for the same price - or even a little bit less - than we did fifteen years ago. So obviously, that makes it very, very difficult for producers."
Bakker says Michigan's asparagus industry shrank from $20 million to $14 million in the last five years.
Crops planted in the early spring are thriving -- thanks to warm conditions -- but recent rain has made it hard for farmers to work the fields.
"Moist, warm weather, you know, is just ideal for crop growth. You know, usually the rule is 'knee-high corn by the Fourth of July.' Well, we have knee-high corn right now. We're just having a hard time completing planting. The hay harvest has just been real slow, trying to get it in between rains," says Paul Gross, Director of the Isabella County Extension Office.
It's been difficult, too, to control weeds and pests - which have also been helped by good growing conditions.
"We've seen some army worm and some cut worm in some of the crops. The problem that we're having right now, probably, is getting weed control out into those fields. Good growing conditions are good for the weed, as well as the crop."
Gross encourages farmers to scout their fields for pests.
At this point, Gross expects an above average yield for corn and beans this season, but he says there's still some time to go.
Projections of Michigan's fruit-crop yield are expected next week.
State officials say a disease infecting black walnut trees in some western states should be kept out of Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture implemented an exterior quarantine to prevent Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) from infecting Michigan's black walnut trees.
The walnut twig beetle has infected trees in nine western states with TCD. It's a fungus -- carried by those beetles -- that infects walnut trees as the insects tunnel into bark.
Jennifer Holton is the Public Information Officer for the Department of Agriculture. She says the quarantine restricts several products.
"Black walnut logs, green lumber, and nursery stock, from Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. Also, our quarantine regulates the shipment of hardwood firewood from those states."
The disease hasn't yet been found in Michigan - and Holton says that's good.
"We want to prevent the introduction of this new invasive pest into the state to preserve our walnut resource. We have an estimated 8.5 million black walnut trees in Michigan. That sawtimber is estimated at over $86 million. That's one of the most desirable woods used in the furniture industry."
Holton says the only exceptions to the quarantine are nuts, nut meats, and kiln-dried walnut wood.
Since the Toxic Substances Control Act became law over thirty years ago, many new chemical technologies have evolved that aren't regulated by the federal government.
Stephen Rapundalo is the President and CEO of MichBio. He says the newly-formed Michigan Coalition for Chemical Safety is encouraging Congress to reform chemical regulations to protect businesses, consumers, and the environment.
"The EPA does not have the statutory enforcement wherewithal to regulate many of these chemicals and technologies. If we're going to have regulations on the book, then the EPA should have the ability to be able to make sure that those regulations are adhered to."
According to Rapundalo, the E-P-A doesn't even have the ability to regulate a substance like asbestos - documented to be a major threat to human health. He says new chemical regulations must also have some mode of enforcement.
State Representative Jeff Mayes from Bay City represents part of a region that has been called "Michigan's new chemical and clean energy alley." He says the Toxic Substances Control Act needs to be updated in order to protect the public and to let businesses grow.
"We're hoping to become leaders in battery technology, and we want to have high standards as a country, and we want to make sure the public is safe. But in the event that each of our fifty states has slightly a different standard in terms of how you would approach battery manufacturing, it's going to make it challenging for companies that want to locate here to build batteries and to be competitive."
Battery manufacturing is just one sector affected by chemical regulations - others include agriculture, biotechnology, and retail.
"Here in mid-Michigan, companies like Michigan Sugar, and Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, Hemlock Semiconductor are part of the national effort to promote changes in this act."
Representative Mayes says the Michigan coalition is part of a national effort to reform chemical regulations.
Rapundalo says the U-S Senate is already considering reforming the regulations.
"In early December, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held an oversight hearing. The chairman of that committee is making a big push in the Senate on this topic. We're feeling pretty good that this will see the light of day."
According to Rapundalo, the coalition's efforts are meant to improve the goods that people use in daily life.
These range, he says, from food and the agriculture industry to the chemical products and by products from Dow Chemical and Dow Corning.
The coalition is encouraging Congress to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act first passed in 1976, which the group says is outdated.
The Michigan Coalition for Chemical Safety is composed of about thirty member businesses and organizations.
The Pioneer Hi-Bred Corporation's main focus is as a corn research center focused on local farmers needs. They say the testing they do to different kinds of soil and seeds will allow farmers to be able to generate more produce.
Pioneer has had a research center in Ithaca since 1986 but has outgrown this current site.
Chelsey Foster is the city manager.
"The city of Ithaca is really excited about the project it's a really neat fit in the area with our thriving agricultural base".
Foster said that the new center will be a great addition to the agricultural and industrial cluster of Gratiot County.
Pioneer Hi-Bred said they plan on opening their doors in the middle of next year. Currently they have ten employees. Within the next three years they hope to have ten new positions
A majority of farmers in Michigan
have been using genetically modified sugar beet seeds for about two years. Since
then, they've seen crop production increase by nearly 20 percent.
The modified seeds contain a gene that
protects beets from herbicides and other chemicals. Environmental and food
safety groups have expressed concern over the practice.
Bob Boehm of the Michigan Farm Bureau
says this could end up hurting Michigan,
which is one of the nation's leading producers of sugar beets.
want to make sure that that technology is available. It's safe, it's been
utilized for over ten years in soybeans and corn and other commodities, and we
can see the benefits in sugar beets and would like to have the opportunity to
continue to use that technology in the sugar beet seed," Boehm says.
Lawmakers and members of the
agriculture industry will meet again later this month to discuss the issue.
Milk prices are at the lowest they've been in almost half a decade, and it's not making things easy for local farmers.
While paying less than $2.00 a gallon for milk may seem great for consumers, it's ultimately hurting smaller, more local farmers. For most, the cost of producing milk these days comes with little to no profit.
Paul Gross of Isabella County's MSU Extension Office says the lower prices could be the result of a weakened demand in the global economy.
"You know, in the export market, when the dollar weakens or the worldwide economy softens, the demand for products decreases," Gross says. "The thing about the dairy industry; these cows are milked every day. You can't turn production on and turn it off. And so you're building these inventories when demand is poor."
The built up inventories and poor demand translate into lower prices, Gross says.
Farmers probably won't be cutting production just yet.
Gross says prices may go back up once demand increases.
The U.S. Senate is considering landmark food safety legislation, a week after it was approved by the House.
The legislation, which is more than two years in the making, establishes a national food tracing system, and gives the Food and Drug Administration subpoena power and mandatory recall authority.
Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) says the legislation should help reduce the number of food-borne illnesses...
"There's probably about 76 million per year," he said, that result "in over 300,000 hospitalizations and about 5,000 deaths annually."
"The FDA will have access, and inspectors will have access to records, we gave them subpoena power," said Stupak. "They (food producers) have to produce the documentation requested."
According to Stupak, no additional taxpayer money is needed to pay for the bill. Instead, each food processing facility will pay a $500 annual fee. The legislation also creates exemptions for small and home businesses.
There have been a number of food-borne illness outbreaks over the last few years, including E. coli in peanut butter and salmonella in jalapeno peppers.
The legislation is pending before the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Beginning tomorrow, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission will begin taking testimony about the state of migrant and seasonal farm workers in Michigan.
Civil Rights officials say they've heard allegations that some workers are being subjected to forms of discrimination in communities around the state. And as spokesman Harold Core says, the commission is also looking at how Michigan's struggling economy may impact this segment of the workforce.
"and the agriculture industry is vital to Michigan and if the perception is conditions deteriorate we'll no longer be able to recruit and bring in migrant and seasonal farm workers here to do work. That is a definite economic issue."
The first hearing is scheduled for tomorrow in Oceana county. There are hearings scheduled in August in Manistee and Arenac counties. Information on the hearings is at Michigan (dot) gov (slash) MDCR.
Two bills that would set the standard for farm animal care in the state are being backed heavily by some of the people who raise them.
The Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Milk Producers Association are two of several organizations supporting the measure. The bills would make certain that standards for farm animal care are set in accordance with state law The bills also state the standards can be modified with public input. Getting people more involved in knowing where their food comes from.
Ken Nobis is the President of the Michigan Milk Producers Association.
"Consumers today are more and more removed from the source of their food. When I was growing up most everybody had a relative tat was on the farm producing food. So they had a familiarity with livestock production and food production. And that's not the case today. So I can understand how people are somewhat concerned with where their food comes from and how the animals are treated on those farms."
Changes could soon be coming to the state's bovine tuberculosis boundaries - which were put in place 2002 to prevent the spread of the disease.
Six counties in the northwest Lower Peninsula could lose their high-risk designation, including Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Crawford, Emmet and Otsego.
The counties have been grouped with seven northeast Michigan counties in the high-risk area since 2002.
State Veterinarian Dr. Steve Halstead says bovine TB hasn't been found in the western counties since 2006.
"We have a very clear idea of where TB is, both in the wild and where it tends to spill over, and how it tends to spill over into cattle," he said.
That means cattle producers would have fewer restrictions on where they can move animals, provided they take steps to protect their herds from wild deer that may have TB.
"It might mean fencing. It might mean buildings for storage. It might mean changes in farm management for where feeding occurs, closer to the buildings for example," said Halstead. "It's going to be unique for every farm."
He says the boundary changes will also save the state money.
"We're dealing with a budget problem that forces us to make some changes, to be fiscally responsible and to control our expenses, reduce our expenses significantly. And this is one way we can do it."
There are several public meetings scheduled to discuss the proposed changes. They include:
West Branch on Tuesday, July 7, 2009, from2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Ogemaw County Extension Office, 205 South Eighth.
Tawas City on Tuesday, July 7, 2009, from7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at theIosco County Annex Bldg, 420 West Lake Street.
Alpena on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 West Fletcher Street.
Atlanta/Hillman on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at MDA's Atlanta Field office, 16860 M-32 East. The MDA Field Office is 4-1/2 miles east of the post office in Atlanta.
Gaylord on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the University Center, Room U111-112, 90 Livingston Boulevard.
Cheboygan on Thursday, July 9, 2009, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. at Church of Christ Restored, 1200 Sand Road.
Harbor Springs on Thursday, July 9, 2009, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the John R. Watson Community Center, 3434 Harbor-Petoskey Road.
Traverse City on Friday, July 10, 2009, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the State Office Building, 701 South Elmwood, 3rd Floor.
BY RICK PLUTA Lansing Bureau Chief, Michigan Public Radio Network
The state Supreme Court has ended a five-year legal fight between an environmental group and state regulators.
The Sierra Club sued the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over its rules for issuing permits to industrial-sized animal feeding operations. The environmental group wanted the state to order the operators of large-scale pig, cattle, and chicken farms to provide information on the designs of their facilities, and their plans for getting rid of animal waste. State regulators said that information was not necessary, but the Sierra Club said the public should have the right to examine the plans and comment on them.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled for the Sierra Club last year. The Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear the state's appeal. Two Republicans on the court dissented. G-O-P Justices Stephen Markman and Maura Corrigan said the case deals with questions that are very important to Michigan's agricultural economy.