Friends of Ag hold strong in House, Senate amid new leadership | Michigan Farm News

Friends of Ag hold strong in House, Senate amid new leadership

Category: Politics

by Nicole Sevrey, Michigan Farm Bureau

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Michigan’s political landscape shifted quickly overnight, but Farm Bureau members vying for state House and Senate seats, along with many other farm-friendly candidates, are celebrating Election Day wins.

To be exact, 100 Friends of Agriculture had successful races. The lengthy roster of candidates was endorsed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) political action committee, AgriPac, based on grass-roots recommendations.

Among the newly-elected victors are several engrained in, and devoted to, the state’s farm sector:

  • Lapeer County Farm Bureau member and former state representative Kevin Daley was elected to the 31st Senate District (Bay, Lapeer and Tuscola counties).
  • Jackson County commissioner and Farm Bureau member Sarah Lightner won her race in the 65th House District (Eaton, Jackson and Lenawee counties).
  • Iron Range Farm Bureau member, dairy farmer and former state representative Ed McBroom succeeded in his bid for the 38th Senate District (most of the Upper Peninsula).
  • Ottawa County Farm Bureau member Luke Meerman was elected to the 88th House District (Coopersville and several rural townships in Ottawa County).
  • State Representative and past Ottawa County Farm Bureau president Roger Victory won his bid for the 30th Senate District (Ottawa County).
  • State Representative and Berrien County Farm Bureau member Kim LaSata was elected to the 21st Senate District (Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties).
  • St. Clair Farm Bureau member, crop farmer and State Representative Dan Lauwers succeeded in his bid for the 25th Senate District (Huron, St. Clair and Sanilac counties, plus northeastern Macomb County).
  • Pauline Wendzel was elected to the 79th House District (portions of Berrien County along the Lake Michigan shore). Wendzel promotes Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and agritourism through her job as product brand development manager at Coloma Frozen foods.

Several Friends of Agriculture also with direct experience in the industry had successful re-election campaigns, including Reps. Hank Vaupel, Julie Alexander, Gary Howell, Roger Hauck and Triston Cole.

“In the era of term limits, there’s a constant need for farmers to run for office, and our members have stepped up to represent agriculture and positively influence the legislative process,” said Matt Kapp, MFB’s government relations specialist.

U.S. House and Senate

Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry was successfully re-elected. According to MFB President Carl Bednarski, the organization endorsed her, in part, because of her unyielding support of the 2018 Farm Bill.

“Despite the challenging political climate, she’s found ways to work in a bipartisan fashion on behalf of agriculture,” Bednarski said. “Along with being a fierce advocate for specialty crops, she’s worked to improve crop protection options, crafted needed improvements to U.S. dairy policy, and worked for the passage of the legislation authorizing full funding for the modernization of the Soo Locks.”

In Congress, several Friends of Agriculture won re-election, including Reps. Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, John Moolenaar, Fred Upton, Tim Walberg and Paul Mitchell.

Statewide races

While Democratic leaders now hold the governor, attorney general and secretary of state offices, both chambers of the state legislature retain Republican majority: 58-52 in the House and 22-16 in the Senate.

“Our members pulled out all the stops and should be extremely proud of their efforts to support Attorney General Bill Schuette, but unfortunately the votes didn’t fall our way,” Bednarski said. “Even so, we will work to foster relationships with newly-elected leaders at the state, federal and local levels.

“We look forward to working with Governor-elect Whitmer to ensure the state’s food and agriculture sector continues to prosper. We are eager to be part of productive conversations with her and all our legislative partners that lead to policy and decisions in the best interest of Michigan farmers and consumers alike.”

I Grow Michigan. I Vote.

Farm Bureau members across the state also delivered a fruitful get-out-the-vote social media campaign, coined “I grow Michigan. I vote.” Kicking off shortly after the primary, the campaign encouraged farmers—and basically anyone who eats—to hit the polls Nov. 6.

The campaign was in addition to numerous county Farm Bureau meet-the-candidate events and rallies in support of Friends of Agriculture.

“We reached more than 250,000 Michigan residents through social media with photos of our members in their fields harvesting, caring for their livestock, and spending time with their families.” Kapp said. “I’d like to think our staff and members’ work played a role in the state’s strongest midterm election turnout we’ve see in decades.”

“I can see us continuing this campaign in future election cycles because at the end of the day what matters is that farmers and consumers show up to the polls and exercise their right to vote.”

See how all Friends of Agriculture fared in the general election