Zorn co-sponsors $1.4B agriculture investment plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has co-sponsored new Senate legislation that would direct $1.4 billion to improve Michigan’s food security and invest in rural communities.

“Michigan is second in the nation for agriculture, yet during the pandemic our families saw — and continue to see — empty grocery shelves due to an underinvested and overstretched food supply chain,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I co-sponsored this budget supplemental to help provide greater access to local produce, improve our food processing and distribution, support our farmers and rural communities, and drive down costs facing Michigan producers and families.

“In addition to better securing our food supply, this funding plan would support worker training, innovative research and rural economic development — to ensure our system can provide Michigan families with affordable food now and for years to come.”

Senate Bill 885 would invest $350 million in food distribution security and stability grants; $144 million for bovine TB mitigation at beef and dairy operations; $45 million to help operate and expand farm markets; $75 million to support the stability and expansion of Michigan’s agriculture supply chain businesses like protein processing plants; and $15 million to help local food banks purchase fresh produce, dairy products, and meat and seafood products.

The bill also invests in rural development, including:
• $350 million to support agriculturally beneficial infrastructure projects,
• $100 million to help communities that did not receive enough federal broadband funding to complete a full-scale installation,
• $50 million to assist agricultural operations to meet Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) certifications, and
• $26 million to partially offset lost revenue from 2020 COVID-19 shutdowns for the U.P. State Fair and local fairgrounds across the state.

SB 885 would also invest in education and workforce training, including $95.8 million for MSU to support a modernized dairy facility and state-of-the-art greenhouse, $150 million to support new housing units for agricultural workers, $10 million for agriculture technical training grants, and $5 million to establish and begin operation of the Michigan Center for Agricultural Innovation as a public-private partnership between the agricultural industry and the state.

The bill was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.