Concern over his local planning commission’s plan to require 10-acre minimum building lots — and what he considered to be very poor land use — was motivation enough for then 24-year-old Lapeer County dairy farmer Kevin Daley to serve in public office.
Now 66 and a “recovering dairy farmer,” Sen. Daley said the experience was a lesson that still rings true today — production agriculture needs to be represented by farmers willing to serve in elected office at all levels of government.
Speaking with farmers attending Michigan Farm Bureau’s 104th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids, Daley stressed the value of the organization’s grassroots AgriPac-endorsement process to political candidates seeking to be designated as a “Friend of Agriculture.”
“Agriculture is such an important and large part of our state’s economy — we need to have representation,” Daley said. “AgriPac can be very helpful. That's why we've got four state Senators right now out of 38 that are active in agriculture.”
After serving as a member of the Arcadia Township planning commission, Daley went on to serve in the positions of township trustee, treasurer, and eventually, township supervisor.
He was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2008, representing Lapeer County in the 82nd District until 2014.
“I was the only active farmer serving in the House at the time, so I took over the job of educating 209 other state representatives on ag issues,” Daley said.
His expertise earned him an appointment to serve as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
While a member of the House, Daley was the primary sponsor of the legislation that created the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) in 2011. As a MAEAP-verified farmer himself, Daley recognized the importance of the program and worked to ensure MAEAP remained voluntary, with a statewide focus and no new fees for farmers.
In 2018 Daley was elected to represent the 31st state Senate District, which included Bay, Lapeer, and Tuscola counties, and was once again chosen as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Following redistricting he was elected to serve as senator for the 26th Senate District encompassing portions of Lapeer, Tuscola, Genesee and Saginaw counties.
As a senator, Daley has been crucial in helping to reauthorize funding for the MAEAP program, extending the fees on fertilizers and pesticides that make the program work and help pay for local staff on the ground.
In addition to his work with MAEAP, Daley also worked with the Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee chair to secure an additional $25 million over five years to pilot a voluntary conservation program in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Daley said the transition into the Senate was notably different with three other active farmers also serving in the chamber, including Sens. Roger Victory, Ed McBroom and Dan Lauwers.
“So, we have four AgriPac endorsed farmers representing agriculture. But all four of us are leaving in three years, so we need more farmers to get involved,” Daley said.
Looking to 2024, Daley said only one farmer, Rep. Jerry Neyer, is currently serving in the Michigan House, noting agriculture has some work to do before next fall’s general election.
“It's common sense, more than anything, that we need right now when you see some of the craziness we've had,” Daley added.
“It’s so important, now more than ever, that we get either the House or the Senate back in the next two elections or both and bring some common sense back to Lansing.”
Daley challenged farmers to either consider running for office or volunteering with their county Farm Bureau's grassroots candidate evaluation process as part of MFB’s AgriPac endorsement process and focus on electing Friends of Agriculture.
“If this little farm boy from Lum can do it, anybody in this room can do it. It's not rocket science! It's about working with people, and everybody loves farmers — everybody.”