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Chairwoman Stabenow Discusses Major Job Growth Potential in West Michigan Agriculture Industry, Sees Fruits and Vegetables Sector as Bright Spot

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Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today met with fruit and vegetable growers in Ottawa County to underscore the critical role agriculture is playing in West Michigan's economy. Sen. Stabenow noted that new job and investment opportunities are ripe in Michigan's fruit and vegetable sector, which is the most expansive and diverse in the country, behind California.

"Michigan continues to grow and produce the safest, most abundant and widest variety of fruits and vegetables," Stabenow said. "Our agriculture sector brings in more than $71 billion a year and supports one out of every four jobs in the state. 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. We are poised to continue building on that success and creating jobs here in Michigan, and the fruits and vegetables sector is prepared to help lead that charge."

Chairwoman Stabenow participated in a roundtable discussion with area growers and highlighted the potential for new jobs in the fruits and vegetables sector, noting that food processing and manufacturing is one area primed for growth. Statewide, food processing accounts for more than 40,000 jobs, and contributes nearly $15 billion to the Michigan economy, and is continuing to expand. In Ottawa county alone, there are 49 wholesale food processing plants and fruits and vegetables bring in more than $82 million annually. Ottawa county ranks second highest in Michigan in terms of revenue from fruits, tree nuts and berries, bringing in nearly $70 million a year.

Sen. Stabenow said that work is already underway on the 2012 Farm Bill, which renews national agriculture policy every five years, and she is focused on strengthening the specialty crops section to ensure that growers are given the tools they need to harvest, protect and market their crops, and help expand their operations.

Roger Victory, Owner of Victory Farms, hosted the roundtable and led Senator Stabenow on a tour of his farm. Victory Farms grows 1000 acres of vegetable crops including rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, squash, beans, peas, and peppers. Victory Farms sells produce at local food stands as well as Meijer, Safeway, and Publix Super Markets.

"I was pleased to have the opportunity at this critical time to discuss with Senator Stabenow agriculture issues facing Michigan growers," Roger Victory said. "Having the Senator as Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee and being a voice for the concerns and challenges of Michigan specialty crop producers is a great benefit."

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