Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Eaton County Farm Bureau member Duane Smuts on Monday, July 8, to see an example of the damage and hardship experienced by many Michigan farmers caused by this spring’s unprecedented and extremely cool, wet weather.
During her time on Smuts Farms in Charlotte, Whitmer signed House Bill 4234 into law, making $15 million available from the state to lending institutions for farm loan interest rate reductions (learn more). Sponsored by Rep. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker), the bill was earlier approved by the House and Senate to provide some relief to the state’s farmers trying to keep their businesses viable.
Smuts gave Whitmer a first-hand look at nearby vacant and water-logged fields, explaining to the governor it should be full with a soybean crop, but isn’t.“We as farmers, we’re doers,” Smuts said. “We don’t ask for a lot and this has been a challenge.”
Whitmer later shared how the visit made her feel.
“It’s less about what the field looked like and more about what the farmer’s eyes looked like,” she said. “This is a family that’s only able to put in half of their crops this year…there’s a personal toll but there’s obviously a broader economic toll for our state.”
Whitmer also provided an update on her request for a disaster declaration to USDA Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
“I talked to him personally on July 1 and made the case,” she said. “... I am optimistic, but I do think it’s important that we’ve got great allies like Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Peters and our bipartisan Congressional delegation that are really pushing to ensure that at the federal level we get the support that our farmers need.”
Also joining the group were Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Gary McDowell and Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp).
“I’m hearing everything from stress on the crops, stress on them,” Witwer said. “…One of the farmers just told me today that driving through the roads is actually depressing because we think they’re just open fields but they’re actually fields that always produce corn or some sort of cash crop, and that’s not happening this year.”
“It’s a ripple effect from our crops to our animals to agribusiness, and it’s a real stressor for our community and our state.”
View a photo gallery from the event.