Like farming, Rick Snyder’s job has gotten more difficult the last couple years. But as he addressed Michigan Farm Bureau delegates for the last time as Governor during the President’s Lunch at the 98th State Annual Meeting, he continued down the optimistic path that endeared him to the farming community since he first ran for office.
“You’ve been one of my strongest supporters since back when I was a margin for error,” Snyder told farmers in Grand Rapids who gathered to make 2018 Farm Bureau policy. “You were with me from the beginning, and together we’ve created a foundation for success,” he said. “We’ve always been about taking a broken place and putting it on the road to greatness again. We cannot be complacent or take that for granted.”
The path to greatness, Snyder said, could be illustrated by several developments. He cited expansion of the state’s turkey industry, the new pork processing plant in Coldwater, and a recently announced milk processing plant as examples of value-added agriculture, which, he said, adds stability to the agricultural marketplace.
Those examples, he said, gives farmers and their products more room to grow, and provides “a better long-term answer. More value-added work creates more stability in the marketplace,” he said.
When marketplaces grow, he said, it means there’s more opportunity for exports, and it also means that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) must be improved, but not dissolved.
“It’s important to improve NAFTA, not break it,” he said. “It’s important to have good exports and trade, but in a win-win fashion.”
Citing several trade trips, including MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams’ recent trip to China, Snyder noted that closer to home, Michigan is the nation’s top trading partner with Canada and third-largest with Mexico.
“We’re finding new markets for our products,” he said. “We need to tell the world that we’re back, and tell the world how to lead our country toward a bright future.”
That bright future will move forward from a foundation that is much stronger than it was seven years ago, Snyder said.
“In 2010, we went backwards on population growth,” he said. “Today, we’re growing faster than the national average. Our personal income growth is number one in the Great Lakes, and number seven in the nation. Private-sector growth is number one in the Great Lakes and number six in the nation after being number 50 out of 50.”
If delegates thought Snyder was optimistic at the end of his first term, he described several ways to keep optimism growing for the next 50 years.
“First,” he said, “we can do a better job with professional trades. “It’s not all about college degrees, but professional opportunities. We talk about credentials, not degrees. It’s no longer about ‘is there a job,’ but ‘do you have the skills, background and experiences to take that position and be successful.’”
Second, Snyder committed to continue to improve the state’s infrastructure, and of particular importance to farmers, roads.
“We have a ‘flex route’ on Route 23,” he said. “We have a six-hour solution that opens shoulders up during the three hours in the morning and night when there are traffic jams. It’s a six-hour solution instead of a 24-hour solution, and instead of (costing) $400 million, it cost $90 million. That’s the kind of investment we want our public servants to have.”
Snyder noted that he’s still trying to instill fiscal responsibility into state government as his last year as Governor begins, and he equated that effort to balancing the family budget.
“I pretend we’re sitting at the family kitchen table,” he said. “We go over the bills and find out how to pay them. Then we figure out what’s left and how to invest it smartly. The first bill to pay is the mortgage, which is our long-term debt.”
Noting his pre-speech trip through the Farm Bureau crowd, Snyder said he has a “really cool job” suggestion for the young FFA members with whom he shook hands.
“If you run for Governor in 2038, we will have paid off our long-term debt, but only if we continue our payment plan after I’m gone,” he said. “Think about how wonderful that would be. Think about it in your own lives, when you pay off that mortgage. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? We can do that by having strong convictions, smart practices and fiscal responsibility for the next 20 years.”
Finally, Snyder said, there needs to be more civility in our nation.
“We need a lot more people than me talking about relentless positive action,” he said. “At the national level, there’s too much biting and too much blame. We can’t meet the ‘greatest country in the world’ status if we can’t get along with ourselves. We, fundamentally, have to decide that we’re best when we do something together. That’s common sense, and you need to speak out and tell people the same thing. Let’s stand up for what we believe is right,” he said. “Fighting is for the beaches of Normandy, not the beaches of Lake Michigan. When we don’t agree with each other, we can respect one another and do it with civility. We’re best when we stand up together.”