[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]
E-M:/ Outrageous Op-Ed by Sen. McManus
Enviro-Mich message from firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's Free Press contains an opinion piece by Senator George McManus called
Michigan's farm Crisis <http://www.freep.com/voices/columnists/qemcman29.htm>.
The piece starts with a lot I can agree with -- the problems facing farming in
our country. Then about 2/3 of the way through the column, Sen. McManus
"Federal environmental regulation is another threat. Few regulators have
agricultural backgrounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture abdicates its
authority to extremists from the Environmental Protection Agency.
"Fruits and vegetables account for two-thirds of all crop income in Michigan,
yet are particularly threaten by the EPA. If its regulators had their way, we
would be out in the fields killing pests by squeezing them between two flat
rocks. Farmers are committed to preserving the land and environment. The EPA
should be seeking a partnership, not a regulatory dictatorship."
This is part of a column in which Sen. McManus is "inviting" folks to have
input to a task force on the future of agriculture in Michigan. But this
vicious attack on environmental protection within agriculture is hardly a
welcoming tone, and makes it extremely hard to have confidence that there will
be openess to concerns about the horrific conditions imposed on people who are
neighbors of industrial scale livestock operations, or any other potentially
environmentally harmful activities associated with agricultural production.
And this despite the fact that Michigan's agricultural regulatory regime is
almost entirely voluntary. That there are now controls or prohibitions on
toxic pesticides that used to not only destroy wildlife and contaminate food
and water, but poison the very people Senator McManus contends he is defending
is not reason for complaint, but rather hope that we can make agricultural
conditions better, for those who work the fields and barns as well as those
BY GEORGE McMANUS JR.
MICHIGAN'S second largest industry -- agriculture -- faces a silent crisis that
threatens the very foundation of our economy. The public, as well as our leaders
in Lansing and Washington, needs to take notice.
TO BE HEARD
The final Senate task force hearing on Michigan agriculture is June 29, 11 a.m.,
Michigan State University Livestock Pavilion, East Lansing, Mich.
For dates, times and locations of earlier hearings, call 1-517-373-1725.
Michigan's loss of 2,700 food processing jobs in the past two years has received
little public or media attention. If those jobs were lost at a General Motors p
lant, there would be major panic in local communities and at the state level.
Competition from cheap Russian steel draws big headlines and demands that the U.
S. government "do something." Meanwhile, Chinese apple concentrate, priced below
production cost, floods the American market, and the damage it does to U.S. far
mers never hits the public radar screen.
Michigan agriculture contributes $4.15 billion to the U.S. economy. Nationally,
13 percent of the gross domestic product and 16 percent of jobs come from agricu
lture. If any other sector accounting for that much of the economy faced the pro
blems agriculture faces, it would be cause for a national emergency and daily me
Consider these issues:
ò Prices for commodities such as cherries, apples for processing and hogs are at
ò Prices for crops such as corn and soybeans are below the cost of production.
ò Prices have fallen faster than production has increased, leading to a decline
in farm incomes.
ò Prices consumers pay at the grocery store remain the same while farm prices de
cline, due in part to fewer marketing opportunities, which is the result of a de
cline in the number of food processors.
With prices so low and taxes so high, farmers have little choice. They are force
d to sell their land for non-farm purposes.
Government policy makes matters worse. At the federal level the "Four Horsemen o
f the Agricultural Apocalypse" are easy to identify: the Federal Reserve's monet
ary policy, the lack of a coherent trade policy, fewer food-processing firms, an
d environmental regulations that are ever-changing and based on politics instead
The Federal Reserve, fearing increases in the extremely low rate of inflation, h
as pursued policies that increase the dollar's value. An overvalued dollar restr
icts exports of U.S. farm products and encourages imports.
Federal Reserve policies also keep real interest rates artificially high, making
borrowing more difficult and discouraging young people from entering farming. I
t has gotten so bad that it ought to be considered child cruelty to leave the fa
mily farm to our children and expect them to farm it.
Washington has a double standard on trade, as the apple and steel examples show.
Free trade should mean one set of rules for everyone, not one set for your powe
rful friends and another for everyone else.
Federal environmental regulation is another threat. Few regulators have agricult
ural backgrounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture abdicates its authority to
extremists from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fruits and vegetables account for two-thirds of all crop income in Michigan, yet
are particularly threatened by the EPA. If its regulators had their way, we wou
ld be out in the fields killing pests by squeezing them between two flat rocks.
Farmers are committed to preserving the land and environment. The EPA should be
seeking a partnership, not a regulatory dictatorship.
We need a federal policy that promotes strong, effective food production. This i
s really an issue of national security. How dependent do we want to be on other
nations for our food?
Michigan needs a strategy, too, to attract younger people into farming. Today th
e average age of a Michigan farmer is 53, and there are few under the age of 35.
Tax policy is another area the state needs to consider. Now, when a farmer passe
s the family farm along to the next generation, the property tax rises sharply b
ecause of the ownership transfer. This "pop up" effect makes it harder for the n
ext generation to stay in farming.
A state Senate task force has convened to look at the future of agriculture in M
ichigan and give citizens a chance to be heard. We are looking for strategies to
bring progress to the farm economy, improve prices and lower costs. We need to
begin dealing with the cause of the agricultural crisis.
If we fail to recognize and address the problems, our next crisis could be the p
roblem of how to replace the second-largest industry in the state. But the prese
nt mentality in both Lansing and Washington seems to be: "Who needs farmers? We
get our food from the supermarket!"
STATE SEN. GEORGE McMANUS, R-Traverse City, is a cherry grower and chair of the
Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Write to him at State Capitol Buildin
g, Lansing, Mich. 48913 or E-mail him at email@example.com.
FREEP FRONT | VOICES FRONT
Comments? Questions? You can reach us at The Freep
<Picture: navigation bar>
All content ¬ copyright 1999 Detroit Free Press and may not be republished witho
ENVIRO-MICH: Internet List and Forum for Michigan Environmental
and Conservation Issues and Michigan-based Citizen Action. Archives at
Postings to: firstname.lastname@example.org For info, send email to
email@example.com with a one-line message body of "info enviro-mich"