Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) hosted the 2018 Candidate Interview Forum Aug. 15 in Lansing, giving the state’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate contenders a platform in front of more than 120 farmers and agribusiness leaders. The candidates answered questions from AgriPac, MFB’s political action committee, about their policy priorities and positions on issues important to the food and agriculture industry.
Watch a recording of the event
Participants included the Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, Debbie Stabenow and John James and Republican candidate for governor, Bill Schuette. The Democratic candidate for governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was invited but did not attend.
Both U.S. Senate candidates outlined their top three priorities for agriculture if elected in November.
Stabenow’s response highlighted the Farm Bill, trade and labor:
James’s response highlighted regulations, trade and immigration:
Both candidates were also asked what regulations they would work to eliminate.
“I would find it insulting that someone from the federal government says they know how to handle your land better than you do,” James responded. “I’d work to make sure our clean air regulations are not draconian and expensive and are affordable, achievable and constitutional. We must protect our great lakes and our air, but in a manner that does not put our farms out of business.”
Stabenow detailed the need for improvements in the NRCS delivery process and her previous work creating the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to provide more control and decision-making to the local level.
“I’ve heard a lot about there being a slow process. We’ve made a lot of changes in this new farm bill that I think will help in streamlining decision-making.”
Bill Schuette rounded out the event. No stranger to agriculture, he’s worked with Farm Bureau members for years in his former roles as Congressman, state senator and Michigan Department of Agriculture director. Shortly before the event, Schuette announced his choice of running mate: former state representative and current Kent County Clerk, Lisa Posthumus Lyons.
The current attorney general said his top priorities for his first 12 months as governor would include rolling back a 2007 income tax increase, reforming auto insurance to lower consumer costs, and focusing on ways to improve student reading scores.
Schuette also reaffirmed his support for the state’s Right to Farm law.
“I understand the significance of agriculture and that when local units of government try to zone you out or limit or inhibit to grow and produce your products…that hurts you,” he said. “I’ve been one who’ve stood by the Right to Farm laws…I issued that Attorney General’s opinion that local ordinances can’t exempt Right to Farm laws.”
“I’ll continue to do that as your governor. And I’ll work with you legislatively if we need to do other things to preserve it.”
Specific to rural development, Schuette outlined his desire to focus on community economic growth plans, agricultural market access and tax reduction
“I like the concept of agricultural renaissance zones. Every county and every community needs to have a growth approach…what is our growth plan for more people…what can we do to sharpen our economic toolbox to have more jobs in rural parts of the state.
“We need to have access to markets. I understand that agriculture is about exports. As your governor I will be able to work with you…to make sure what we can do to help sell Michigan products.
“Reducing your taxes puts more money in your pockets and you get to keep more of what you make.”
Note: Additional AgriPac Friend of Agriculture endorsements will be announced in the coming weeks.