A local lawmaker weighed in on challenges facing Michigan’s agriculture industry during a recent committee meeting.

A joint meeting of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees was held at Michigan State University last week. Republican State Representative Mike Mueller of Linden is a retired Livingston County Sheriff’s deputy. He also owns and operates Mueller’s Orchard, the family farm that has been part of the Linden community since 1941. Mueller commented that most people don’t just become a farmer – they’re born in to it and it becomes a way of life. He says the mental health aspect of farmers was discussed as farmers have a higher rate of suicide than a lot of people – adding the succession of family farms is also stressful on the younger generation. Mueller says Michigan agriculture faces challenges from weeks of heavy rain, cyclical factors and even health concerns. He says unless you’re a big crop farmer or a dairy farmer, most farmers work second or third jobs. He says a lot of the smaller family farms have to think outside of the box and start going into agri-tourism in order to make up for some of the shortfalls because of adverse years like this. Mueller says that’s what he did, noting they opened up a wedding venue to help sustain their family farm.

Ron Hendrick, dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, also spoke during the meeting and said Michigan is the second most diverse agricultural state in the nation – which means a lot of different needs and a lot of different challenges. He commented that external forces this year have seemingly mounted against Michigan’s agriculture industry from weather and climate to invasive species and diseases; to trade and labor uncertainties. Hendrick says these challenges make it more difficult to plan and practice agriculture here, and they’re seeing it take a drastic toll. He says it plays out in higher numbers of individuals dealing with mental health crises, those dealing with tough financial decisions and some even closing their operations. Hendrick said one of the best ways MSU can help is through building resilience and various programs to do so were highlighted.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is planning another trade mission to China. The fourth annual trip is scheduled for November 8th through 12th. The agency says representatives of Michigan food and agriculture companies will travel to Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Shanghai. It’s part of an effort to better understand the Chinese market and meet with Chinese buyers interested in Michigan products. Facebook farm photo. (JM)