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U.S. Congressman Fred Upton is the AgriPac-endorsed Friend of Agriculture candidate for the 6th Congressional District, encompassing Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties.
Prior to being elected to Congress in 1986, Upton worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget. While there, he says he learned the President’s example that it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, as long as it gets done - an approach he’s lived by during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives.
During his 34 years in Congress, he’s been among only a few Republican members that have a 100% voting record with the Farm Bureau, working tirelessly for agriculture on a number of issues, especially those affecting farmers in Southwest Michigan.
“I’ve been a champion in pushing bipartisan immigration reform with a guest worker component, voted against regulatory overreaches such as the WOTUS rule, voted for Tax Reform that doubled the estate tax exemption, and have supported every single Farm Bill since I have been in Congress,” Upton said.
“When I’m home in Michigan, I always make time to visit agriculture operations throughout southwestern Michigan,” he added. “I’m also a frequent visitor to many Farm Bureau meetings throughout the year and regularly communicate with my local agriculture leaders. I don’t think there is a week that goes by that I am not interacting with our Farm Bureau members.”
One of those members is Fred Leitz of Leitz Farms LLC in Berrien County, producer of blueberries, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, round tomatoes, roma tomatoes, and apples. He employs 225 on an annual basis, 170 being H-2A workers, 15 seasonal and 10 full-time. Fred’s been a strong supporter of Upton since day one in Congress.
“Year after year, Congressman Upton has proven he’s in Washington on our behalf to get the job done,” Lietz said. “He’s a work horse, not a show horse. And he’s a standup guy. I’ve been in his office on Capitol Hill asking him a question, and when he hasn’t known the answer, he’s picked up the phone and called another member of Congress to get it.
“The Congressman’s also been very supportive of my stance on work authorization for migrant workers. We rely heavily on them and appreciate Fred always having an open door and mind on the matter.”
According to Upton, in the short and medium term, the uncertainty facing farmers brought on by the coronavirus epidemic is of utmost interest to him. Since COVID-19 first landed on American soil, Fred has been leading the fight to defeat it and rushing assistance to southwest Michigan families and small businesses.
Back in March, Congress passed, and Fred strongly supported the CARES Act that established the Paycheck Protection Program to support millions of small business jobs across the nation, enhanced unemployment benefits, distributed stimulus checks to individuals and families, and provided emergency funding for our hospitals, health care workers, and greater COVID-19 testing.
Fred has also led the charge to secure personal protective equipment (PPE) for our brave front-line workers who are working day and night to put an end to this vicious virus. In addition, he has worked with several private companies to get thousands of masks, gloves, gowns, and other medical supplies to hospitals and health centers in Southwest Michigan.
“Today, with COVID-19, we face one of the greatest public health crises that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Upton said. “In 2016, I was proud to have my 21st Century Cures legislation signed into law, which speeds up the discovery of life-saving drugs and devices. And now, with my colleague Rep. Diana DeGette from Colorado, I’ve introduced provisions for a Cures 2.0. This legislation will build on the successes of the 21st Century Cures legislation and deliver the next round of life saving discoveries including pandemic preparedness, among several other key areas.”
In the long-term, Upton feels access to affordable farm labor continues to be a major concern with farmers needing certainty for their current workforce and a guest worker program that is fair and actually works for all concerned.
In addition to his Friend of Agriculture designation, Upton is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Realtors PAC, Michigan Credit Union League, and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.