Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022. This is part of a series of articles aimed at informing Farm Bureau members about elected and appointed positions that offer opportunities for representing agriculture in government.
By John Kran
For two decades Phil Kuyers has represented farmers and farming on the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, including three years chairing the body that governs the agricultural powerhouse county sandwiched between Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan. He recently retired from dairy farming and now manages vegetable production on the farm of State Senator Roger Victory near Allendale.
On the county commission Kuyers represented a district including part of the city of Grand Haven, plus rural and suburban areas of Grand Haven, Olive and Robinson townships.
“I grew up in a family that was active in politics; my dad was a township clerk,” Kuyers said. “I wanted to make a difference and bring a fresh perspective to the county — that’s why I initially got involved.”
As a member of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, including a stint as president, Kuyers says he learned a lot about the responsibilities of representing constituents, making group decisions by consensus and standing firmly behind those decisions once made.
“Farm Bureau helped me to grow tremendously as a leader, and it’s skills I learned there that prepared me to be a county commissioner and serve in leadership roles,” he said.
Kuyers credits Farm Bureau’s policy development process for preparing him for working with state- and national-level county associations. He also participated in MFB’s Campaign Management School, the predecessor of today’s Academy for Political Leadership.
The combination of Farm Bureau and county government involvement equipped Kuyers well to help his fellow farmers from a new angle.
“Being involved, you learn how to get things done,” he said. “Getting to know people through your involvement is critical, and then when it comes time to solve a problem, you can look to that network outside of your ag circle to find solutions.
“Being connected has helped me be a resource for my industry.”
Kuyers is currently first vice-chair for the Michigan Association of Counties and serves on a national-level agriculture and tourism committee.
“Being involved in MAC has given me the opportunity to network with county commissioners from across the state and country. It’s also given me the opportunity to advocate on behalf Ottawa County and my fellow commissioners in Lansing and Washington D.C.,” Kuyers said.
“Most of the people involved in county government and our associations are not farmers. It’s important for farmers to seek out these positions.”
Mason County native John Kran is MFB’s national legislative counsel.
Local government positions examined in this series:
More coming soon!