Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today made a series of visits in Northern Michigan to underscore the critical role agriculture plays in Michigan's economy as well as protecting Michigan's Great Lakes and natural resources. She visited American Spoon in Petoskey, a thirty-year-old small business that partners with local fruit producers to make preserves, and also the Horticulture Research Station in Leelanau County, to meet with conservation leaders and discuss the roles landowners and farmers are playing, protecting Michigan's Great Lakes and other treasured natural resources.
"Agriculture supports one out of every four jobs in Michigan and brings in more than $71 billion to the state annually," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "From food processing and manufacturing to farming and marketing, Michigan's agriculture industry is diverse and wide ranging, and is expanding five times faster than the general economy. As Michigan's agriculture industry continues growing and profiting, our communities benefit from local investments and new jobs. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'll work to keep that momentum going, and will continue working on behalf of the people of Michigan to make sure their voices are heard as Washington develops new agricultural policies."
Chairwoman Stabenow discussed the importance of Michigan's fruit and vegetable sector at American Spoon in Petoskey, noting that Michigan has the greatest crop diversity in the country, behind California. She also discussed the importance of food processing in terms of jobs, noting that statewide, food processing accounts for more than 40,000 jobs, and contributes nearly $15 billion to the Michigan economy. She said that businesses like American Spoon are investing back into Michigan's economy by processing locally grown foods and creating jobs in the state.
"Here at American Spoon, we've been working directly with local farmers and fruit growers since our founding in 1982 to source ingredients for our fruit preserves and condiments," said Justin Rashid, President of American Spoon. "We were pleased to host Senator Stabenow for a tour of our kitchen, and we appreciate her efforts in support of Michigan specialty crops, Michigan family farms and small businesses."
She also underscored the importance of conservation at the Horticulture Research Station in Leelanau County, where she hosted a roundtable discussion with some of Michigan's conservation leaders to discuss how Michigan's farmers are helping to protect the state's greatest natural resources like the Great Lakes, and to identify new opportunities to strengthen these efforts. She said the Great Lakes are important to Michigan's identity and way of life, but also noted its impact on the state's economy, demonstrating the need to keep them pristine and healthy.
"We are extremely pleased to host Chairwoman Stabenow at today's roundtable," said Dr. Nikki Rothwell, Coordinator, Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station and District Extension Horticulture Educator. "As specialty crop producers, we are very interested in conservation efforts and are excited about the potential opportunities in the next Farm Bill."
Chairwoman Stabenow discussed the recently announced effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help protect and preserve the Saginaw Bay and the Western Lake Erie Basin, saying the effort "represents a major step forward in ensuring that we maintain the integrity of our outdoors and wildlife communities."
The roundtable discussion builds on the discussions held on Tuesday at the East Lansing field hearing, where Chairwoman Stabenow met with farmers, ranchers, foresters, academics and community leaders from across Michigan to discuss how a new streamlined approach to the Farm Bill can benefit Michigan's economy. The fifteen witnesses, from all corners of the state representing nearly every area of the agriculture industry, offered insights into how the policies could be strengthened to better serve the people.
Additional information regarding Tuesday's field hearing, as well as the recently announced effort by U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect the Great Lakes, can be found on Senator Stabenow's website at http://stabenow.senate.gov.