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Sunday, 20 December 2015 23:35

Q&A: Carl Bednarski, President, Michigan Farm Bureau

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Carl Bednarski Carl Bednarski

As West Michigan’s agriculture sector wraps up a strong year, industry leaders plan to focus on several issues heading into 2016. Carl Bednarski, president of the Michigan Farm Bureau, says he’d like to see the state attract more food processors and work on agricultural talent development.

What are the top legislative priorities for the Farm Bureau in 2016?

For this past year and going into the future, the top one is energy. Energy is a big one and it’s not only the fuel that we put in our vehicles, but when we look at the natural gas supply and three-phase power in rural areas, it’s lacking. We’re also looking at the drone issue. It’s some fantastic technology that agriculture is looking forward to using but as it stands currently, a drone cannot be used commercially. We have companies out there who would like to use that technology to get it out to producers, but they’re unable to do that.

If you could choose one thing for Governor Snyder to champion in 2016, what would it be?

We’ve been working with him and talking a lot about food processing. This state has so much diversity, there are so many different commodities out there that we produce. (But) there are too many that we are shipping out of the state to get processed that turn right around and come back in. We want to try to identify those opportunities for food processors and try to make it feasible to make them come into certain areas (in Michigan) and set up shop.

Do you see any major headwinds impacting Michigan agriculture in 2016?

The labor issue is still huge in Michigan. It’s not only the labor that people think about, which is picking the crops. We need people in the technology area, we need people working in the food processing plants. We are just up against a drain of talented people that agriculture needs. It’s not just your entry-level people.

That talent extends into farm owners and managers as well, right?

Absolutely. When you look at that, it’s not just driving a tractor anymore. Most of the time we don’t drive the tractor. There is so much technology — it’s GPS guidance and we’re recording everything we’re doing. We’re putting nutrients on in small areas and at variable rates. There is so much technology in agriculture that we just cannot take that entry-level person and put them in a $300,000 piece of equipment. We need to have some training so they have some expertise. There are some great opportunities at that level.

Interview conducted and condensed by John Wiegand.

Read 1637 times Last modified on Monday, 28 December 2015 10:30

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