ARLENE — This growing season has been one for the ages and when those involved with agriculture in Michigan look back at it they will have a few issues that will undoubtedly stand out.
The calendar year 2019 will be looked at as a year that agriculture in Michigan dealt with major trade issues, major weather issues, planting challenges and a volatile agriculture economy. Those issues and more were some of the things discussed with 4th District Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, Monday at Six Sisters Ranch during the Farm Bureau’s Dinner on the Farm event.
Moolenaar said he looked at Monday’s event as a way to gather information from those on the frontlines — the farmers themselves.
“For me it is an opportunity to listen, learn and hear from people first-hand how things are going and how the farm economy is being affected by these different factors,‘ he said.
He also said he wants to get a feel from the farmers how the implementation of the new Farm Bill is going and try to gather the perspective of what needs to be done to help keep rural America in the forefront. The 2018 Farm Bill was signed by President Donald Trump on Dec. 20.
In addition to that, Moolenaar said he wants to know what farmers are experiencing regarding trade issues, which he believes the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement can help.
“It is a rework of (the North American Free Trade Agreement). It is modernizing, improving and opening up new markets,‘ he said.
While the United States, Mexico, and Canada have concluded a new, rebalanced agreement, NAFTA currently remains in effect. The USMCA can come into effect following the completion of Trade Promotion Authority procedures, including a Congressional vote on an implementing bill. Moolenaar said Mexico has already ratified the agreement and the hope is that Canada will do so in the coming weeks.
“I’m hoping we can vote on it in the House because I strongly support it. I think it is good for agriculture, it is good for manufacturing and something that opens new markets to provide certainty in the agriculture trade,‘ he said.
Ben LaCross, who is the District 9 Michigan Farm Bureau Director, said the effectiveness of his organization can be directly related to its members’ relationships with elected officials. So when an opportunity comes along to bring a congressman or other policy makers, like Moolenaar, to a farm to see firsthand some of the issues farmers are dealing with, they jump at it.
With the issues facing farmers in Michigan, having those interactions are crucial.
Also during the dinner, Moolenaar was given the Friend of the Farm Bureau award for his continued support of agriculture.
“It is our organization’s highest honor we can give to show our appreciation to elected officials who really take the time to understand farm policy issues, what our rural communities need and try to reflect that in their voting records,‘ LaCross said. “Congressman Moolenaar has been a great friend of agriculture in voting along with farmers’ interests throughout his terms in Congress, the Michigan Senate and Michigan House.‘