[APRIL 1, 1998] Michigan agriculturea $37 billion industryis
one of the states most important economic sectors.
well as farm crop and livestock production, the agriculture industry
includes food processing, agricultural suppliers, forestry, and fishing.
Agricultures economic importance is increasing as new uses for
agricultural products are developed, such as alternative fuels.
is Michigans second largest employer; one of every 15 state
residents is employed in the agriculture and food industry. Michigan
farm payroll exceeds $318 million a year.
ranks first in the nation in production of red tart cherries, blueberries,
pickling cucumbers, dry beans, potted geraniums, hanging flowers,
and Easter lilies.
ranks sixth in the nation for agricultural exportsnearly $2
billion worth of goods annually.
Farming requires large capital
investment. In 1992 (latest complete data available) the average value of a farm,
including machinery, land, seed, and chemicals was more than $300,000, and average annual
production expenses were more than $55,000. Only 43 percent of all Michigan farms reported
a profit. Only 21 percent of all farms reported a net income above $10,000, and 64 percent
of Michigan farmers had off-farm employment.
According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), there were an estimated 52,000
farms in Michigan as of June 1, 1997, down by 1,000 from 1996. Although there was little
change in the number of small or large farms, the number of medium-sized farms fell by 6
percent. The average Michigan farm in 1997 was 202 acres. Large farms, which occupy 6.2
million acres in total, average 775 acres, a 2 percent increase over the previous year.
Eighty-seven percent of Michigan farms are individually owned. By 2012, if current trends
hold, 10,000 farmers will produce 90 percent of all Michigan farm sales.
Michigan is losing farmland at a
greater rate than any other state in the Great Lakes region. From 1982 to 1992 Michigan
lost 854,000 acres of farmland to development. At current rates, all farmland in Wayne and
Oakland county will be converted to other uses by 2012, and total farmland will be 8.3
million acres, a decrease of 1.8 million acres. The value of farmland is increasing,
especially in areas of rapid population growth. Competing land uses in these areas often
boost the price of agricultural land so that it is not affordable for agriculture. Once
farmland has been converted to another use, such as residential or commercial, it usually
cannot be converted back to agricultural land due to the difficulty of aggregating small
The MDA recognizes that it is important to involve the agricultural community in
environmental protection. Environmental concerns arising from agricultural practices
include soil erosion, groundwater contamination from leached fertilizers and animal waste,
and pesticide use. In 1997 the MDA created an Environmental Stewardship Division to
coordinate programs that can reduce farmings detrimental environmental effects.
Since 1995 the MDA has issued $6.6
million in Groundwater Stewardship Program grants. Funds for the program come from
fertilizer and pesticide registration fees. In 1996 more than 3,000 Michigan farms
received assistance to help protect Michigan groundwater.
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) has announced that it will regulate large livestock farms as it does other
waste-producing industries; the goal is to keep animal waste out of rivers and streams and
prevent the algal blooms and disease that it can cause. Under the federal Clean Water Act,
states have authority to regulate large livestock operations, yet few do. In applying the
full authority of the act, the EPA will require large livestock farm operators to obtain
permits to produce waste, develop waste disposal plans, and agree to inspection. The plan
is expected to be implemented in spring 1998, following the public comment period.
Although Michigan already has programs in place that address nonpoint-source pollution in
agriculture, the EPA regulation will go further. The Michigan Farm Bureau maintains that
the EPA approach may create economic stress for the already declining dairy industry and
also greatly affect Michigans pork producers.
Marketing Michigan Products
One MDA role is to encourage consumers to direct more of their spending toward Michigan
products. The departments Grown in Michigan program provides grants to agricultural
commodity organizations to help them develop innovative and creative approaches to
promoting Michigan products. Current programs are being designed to increase the demand
and use of such Michigan products as nursery plants, Christmas trees, corn, and milk.
In cooperation with the MDA, Travel
Michigan (the state tourism agency) promotes Michigan wineries and rural fresh-produce
vendors as tourist attractions. Experts predict that agriculture will be linked
increasingly with tourism in Michigan. General interest in sources of our food supply has
increased, and agricultural tourism is an important strategy for attracting visitors.
Export promotion is another
market-development avenue. In 1995 Michigan exported almost 12.8 million pounds of apples,
88 million pounds of beans, 1.6 million board feet of timber, as well as corn, other
fruits, nursery stock, perennial plants, popcorn, and Christmas trees.
The market for Michigan agricultural
products will expand as new food and non-food uses of commodities are discovered and
developed. For example, alternative fuels produced from corn and soy are being developed,
ink can be made from soy products, and biodegradable plates and utensils can be made from
Food safety is always a concern for the agriculture industry, from the field through
processing to the table. The MDA is responsible for testing and monitoring the
states fruit/vegetable/dairy-product production, processing plants, restaurants, and
grocery stores. Currently, there is concern about bovine tuberculosis (TB) spreading from
infected white-tail deer to livestock, and the MDA and Michigan Department of Natural
Resources instituted cooperative monitoring efforts that indicate that livestock in
Michigan is TB-free. Other recent food safety concerns include E. coli bacteria in apple
cider, and a cider advisory committee has been established and charged with reviewing the
processing techniques used by Michigans 114 cider producers; no evidence of E. coli
bacteria in Michigan cider has been observed in samples taken from any producer.
The greatest risk to Michigan agriculture is the loss of agricultural land, which is
expected to shrink by about 2 million acres in the next 20 years; this threatens the
production base of the second-largest industry in Michigan. A 1997 survey revealed that 65
percent of Michigan residents are concerned about the amount of farmland being converted
to commercial and residential development. Although technological advances have improved
crop yields, future advances may not be able to increase yields enough to offset the
expected huge loss of agricultural land.
In 1996 the Michigan Legislature
enacted amendments to the Subdivision Control Act known as the Land Division Act (P.A. 591
of 1996). The act was intended to keep large land tracts together and prevent urban
sprawl. The law allows "splits," or divisions of property, but attempts to keep
them concentrated in one area of a parcel, leaving most of the original parcel undivided.
The Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan environmental groups argue that this legislation,
because it permits more divisions that are exempt from review by public agencies than did
the previous law, will be ineffective at preventing urban sprawl and limiting the
conversion of farmland to residential property.
Other efforts to address farmland
loss include the 1996 changes to the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Act that provide
$14 million to enable the state to purchase the development rights on Michigan farms.
Under the program, farmers are paid for the difference between the agricultural and
development value of their land. Many farm owners have expressed interest in the program,
which is managed by the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Unit of the Department of
Natural Resources. Applications for the program became available in March 1998.
The Michigan Farm Bureau cites
another economic benefit of protecting Michigan farmland from development: In residential
areas, for every dollar raised in property taxes, $1.17 is spent on services such as
roads, utilities, schools, fire, and police. In farm, forest, and open space areas, for
every dollar raised in property taxes, only $0.34 is spent on servicesleaving the
balance available for other purposes.
Although through the years synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides have
increased agricultural productivity, it has come at some cost to the environment.
Increased awareness of the dangers as well as the benefits posed by chemicals is leading
the publicincluding farmersto push the industry toward "sustainable"
agricultureprofitable, productive farming with minimal environmental damage. In
1996, industry representatives began participating in developing a pollution-prevention
strategy for Michigan agriculture; such a strategy includes changing farming practices so
as to minimize the use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and prevent the loss of
Technology also is changing farming
practices to the benefit of the environment and public health. Genetic engineering has
produced crops that are more resistant to disease and pests, thus reducing the need for
artificial additives such as pesticides and fungicides. Advances in farm equipment
technology can reduce fertilizer use, enabling it to be applied only when sufficient
nutrients are not present naturally in the soil.
Changes in agricultural practices
are not without drawbacks, however. While decreased fertilizer and pesticide use may
improve environmental quality, in order to maintain current agricultural productivity it
may be necessary to devote more land to agriculture and plant crops that have higher
New technology is available for detecting and preventing contamination of Michigan
agricultural products, and the MDA is developing and altering standards and
food-production monitoring programs. For example, the departments annual Food
Monitoring Program assesses potential pesticide exposure throughout the food chain in
Michigan; licensing and inspection programs are conducted on all dairy farms and
processing plants; the MDA monitors testing of all raw milk for animal drug residue; and
the MDA tests samples from slaughter plants to keep the state free of animal diseases that
may be passed to humans through the food chain.
Losing the states TB-free
designation for cattle could have a very damaging effect on Michigan agriculture and
tourism$42.1 million could be lost annually, according to a study commissioned by
the departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Community Health. The Michigan
Agriculture Commission approved a feeding ban for deer and elk in a five-county
northern-Michigan area, where cases of deer and coyote infection have been confirmed. The
ban, which is intended to stop deer from congregating and thereby spreading TB, prohibits
baiting except from September 1 through the end of deer season and restricts the amount of
bait that may be used.
For FY 199899, Governor Engler
has proposed a 12 percent budget increase for the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Included in the increase is substantial funding for university research on pest control
and food safety. The governor and others feel a crisis could arise because food safety and
environmental regulations potentially could reduce productivity.
Genetic Cloning and Testing; Land
Use; State Lands and Waters; Traffic
Safety; Water Quality.
Cooperative Extension Service
Michigan State University
108 Agriculture Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1039
(517) 355-6473 FAX
Michigan Agricultural Statistics
201 Federal Building
P.O. Box 20008
Lansing, MI 48901
(517) 337-1829 FAX
Michigan Association of Homebuilders
1627 South Creyts Road
Lansing, MI 48917
(517) 322-0504 FAX
Michigan Department of Agriculture
611 West Ottawa Street
Ottawa Building, 4th Floor
P.O. Box 30017
Lansing, MI 48909
Michigan Farm Bureau
7373 West Saginaw
P.O. Box 36960
Lansing, MI 48909-8460
Landmark Building, Third Floor
105 West Allegan Street
P.O. Box 30226
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 373-0670 [For travel information]
(517) 373-0059 FAX
CONTENT CURRENT AS OF
APRIL 1, 1998.
Copyright 1998 Public Sector Consultants, Inc.