On any other day in early June, Tony and Jeanie Igl, along with her father, Sid Hawkins, would likely have been tending to farm fields with crops emerging. But on June 6, 2019, another cool and wet start prevented them from adding to the mere 16 percent of farmland seeded.
In lieu of farming, they took the opportunity to welcome freshman Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin to their 2,500-acre farm in Ingham County called Hawkins Homestead.
“It was nice to have Congresswoman Slotkin out to visit the farm,” Jeanie said. “For many of our elected officials, it helps them better understand the challenges we’re facing when they can come out and see it for themselves. We did discuss the weather and the potential disaster we have in front of us with not being able to plant. We talked about resources our farmers need if they’re feeling stressed, so we don’t lose them. We talked about new opportunities for farmers, especially with cannabis and hemp.
“And we talked about getting Democrats and Republicans to quit fighting and start working for us.”
Slotkin serves Michigan’s 8th Congressional District, which is made up of Ingham, Livingston, and North Oakland counties. A third-generation Michigander, she’s not unfamiliar with agriculture, as she was raised on the family farm where she and her family currently reside.
“There are those who think it’s already difficult enough to be a farmer, especially with the concerns of the weather, and on top of that, you have the instability that comes from the tariffs,” Slotkin said. “We all feel the urge to send a strong push-back signal to China. I just want to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the disease. We also want to make sure we get to a good place on USMCA, or NAFTA 2.0. To me, just being civil and decent, and using a little common sense, we can hopefully work these two things out.”
Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski was on hand for the congresswoman’s visit.
Though agriculture-specific topics were at the forefront of discussion, he was pleased to learn of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives, that includes approximately 48 members — equally divided between Democrats and Republicans — who seek to create bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues.
“It was refreshing to hear a freshman congresswoman talk about unity, talk about bipartisan issues, and the need to work together on issues that affect all of us,” Bednarski said. “She indicated she was frustrated with the amount of partisanship involved in Congress, and that’s why she joined the caucus. And it was great to hear her ask for our industry to help keep her informed on the issues that affect our industry.”
“What’s interesting about the caucus is you can only join one Democrat and Republican at a time,” Slotkin said. “It’s like Noah’s Arch — for you have to go into it together. We meet every single week for an hour and a half and work on bipartisan legislation. This past week was prescription drug pricing. And we have a whole group working on USMCA. It’s my most bipartisan time of the week. I’m extremely proud to be a part of the group.
“To work in a bipartisan fashion is the mandate I have from my district, and it’s the way I’ve always worked.”