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While Luke Meerman appears like a laid-back farmer, he intends to put pressure on both state and federal governments if he’s elected to the Michigan House of Representatives from the 88th District.
Starting with infrastructure, Meerman said in his questionnaire to the Ottawa County Farm Bureau Candidate Evaluation Committee that pressure tempered with reason is required.
“Maintaining our infrastructure should be a top priority of government,” he said. “Reasonable allocation of funding to keep our roads in good condition is vital to avoid unreasonable taxation. Failure to address the issues facing our infrastructure cannot continue, and Lansing needs pressure to move the needle in the right direction.”
Immigration reform needs pressure as well, Meerman said.
“As a state, we must maintain pressure on the national level for real immigration reform that promotes a comprehensive guest worker program,” he said. “We need to make sure employers do not face undue burdens of acting as immigration (enforcers) by advocating for effective migrant worker policy.”
In part because of inattention to migrant labor issues, Meerman told the committee he believes the state can solve some of its labor shortfall issues with vocational and technical education.
“Creating opportunities for students to work with professionals in vo-tech careers will help students realize there are many alternatives to college that end in success,” he said.
Along with that, Meerman said Michigan State University must maintain a strong agricultural leadership role.
“Cooperative Extension Services should prioritize adaptability to local needs to promote responses that cater to Michigan’s diverse agricultural community,” he said.
Meerman also wants more local control, to a point.
“Local control has been devalued, and the best way to solve the problems facing our communities is by returning control of these problems to our communities,” he said.
At the same time, he said there needs to be recognition of agriculture’s challenges when local governments seek to override state rules.
“Local government should maintain equilibrium between residential, commercial and ag properties to avoid conflict that damages the interests of the agricultural community,” he said. “I believe that Right-to-Farm has benefitted agriculture and has allowed farms to expand and operate as they see fit and must be protected.”
Economic protection for agriculture can come from new and expanding processing, he said.
“Courting potential agricultural processors to expand or move to our state is a role state legislators can act on to grow our agricultural community,” he said. “It is also vital that our MDARD inspectors be top-notch and responsive with concise and effective inspection procedures.”
While regulations sometimes dictate that responsiveness, Meerman said he believes all regulations should have proper justification.
“If not, then they must be removed,” he said. “Reviews need to be implemented to learn how other states and countries handle their regulations to discover the best options.”
State oversight is much preferred to national oversight, Meerman said.
“The DEQ should do more regional management, because different areas of the state struggle with varying degrees of environmental issues,” he said. “For example, not all areas truly suffer loss of wetlands.”