Food/Agribusiness

CALEDONIA — As consumers’ interests shift to a more locally-focused food supply chain, companies like Revolution Farms LLC hope to change how that food is grown. 

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The Michigan Milk Producers Association plans to invest $24 million to expand its existing dairy plant operations in St. Joseph County.

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Despite construction being “slightly behind” schedule, Zeeland Farm Services Inc. expects full operation of its new Ithaca soybean processing facility to come online in September 2019, according to President Cliff Meeuwsen.

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By implementing auto-steer technology on tillage equipment, Jeff VanderWerff has increased efficiency by roughly 15 percent on his 2,000-acre Kent County farm.

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As discussions over international trade policies have ramped up in recent months, West Michigan farmers say more needs to be done to ensure the U.S. has a “level playing field” with other countries.

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Not even depressed commodity prices, stalled trade talks, labor constraints and climate change can stanch farmers’ optimism.

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SARANAC — Inking a deal with a Chinese firm will allow a West Michigan machine control software developer to reach a broader market, as well as possibly move beyond some legal troubles that have plagued it over the last decade.

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HOLLAND — A farmworker shortage and low commodity prices are forcing West Michigan blueberries farmers to alter how they approach their harvests.

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The U.S. House and Senate each passed their own very different version of the 2018 farm bill, setting up a sprint to a Sept. 30 deadline, when the current legislation expires. If they fail to come to a compromise and pass a bill that President Trump will sign, farmers could face disruptions in many crucial federal programs covered by the farm bill, including crop insurance programs and agricultural research, as well as food assistance for low-income citizens. 

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KALAMAZOO — The $12 million in new capital Vestaron Corp. seeks to raise would enable the company to complete a journey to bring to market a new environmentally friendly pesticide. 

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Vander Heide, the current president of the Michigan Cider Association, said the cider industry fought hard to be included specifically in the new law’s language outlining the council’s governing board.

An update to Michigan law is bringing a more equitable approach to how license fees from craft beverage producers are spent. 

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Paul Pyle is no stranger to the turmoil facing Michigan dairy farmers.

So far in 2018, his Zeeland-based Pyle Dairy Farm Inc. is experiencing its worst year on record. With little funds available to replace dilapidated equipment, Pyle’s often left “duct-taping stuff together” to keep his farm operations afloat.

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An often overlooked component of the ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan would create a commercial market for pot’s more utilitarian relative: hemp.

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On the label of a recently released pale ale, New Belgium Brewing Co. proclaims “Hops and hemp reign — together at last.” 

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With an oversupply of many hop varieties in the marketplace, growers might look to curb their growth until demand increases

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As a third-generation farmer at Hamilton-based Koeman Farms, Steve Koeman is monitoring how possible tariffs could affect the economics of his family business.

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Michigan’s farmers and food processors are closely watching how talks of trade wars and retaliatory tariffs could affect the nearly $2.7 billion in exports they send to other countries.

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GRAND RAPIDS — The new generation of agricultural leaders across West Michigan will likely look different than your grandfather’s farm.

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While they operate in the shadow of West Michigan’s brewing industry, local cideries, distilleries and wineries make up a growing piece of the region’s overall craft beverage scene.

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Farmers’ increasing use of credit to finance operations has left some operators financially exposed during a volatile period for the industry.

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GREENVILLE — After being on the market for more than a year, a West Michigan restaurant and brewery has sold to new owners.

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PAW PAW — A Southwest Michigan-based provider of fresh and frozen blueberries, asparagus and grapes has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

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ZEELAND — A federal judge ordered Boersen Farms Inc. to pay more than $19.5 million to a Cottonwood Heights, Utah-based firm it leased equipment from over a two-year period.

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GRAND RAPIDS — The potential reversal of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could jeopardize West Michigan farmers and food processors.

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Concerns over the fate of NAFTA come at a time of pricing pressures for Michigan’s hog farmers.

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GRAND RAPIDS — As the craft beer industry continues to grow, it’s contributing to more economic activity in Michigan, both within the sector and its expanding supply chain. 

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GRAND RAPIDS — A West Michigan investment company has completed the first in what it hopes to be a string of acquisitions of independent, regional seed producers. 

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WHITE CLOUD — A statewide rush to increase livestock production has proved to be a boon for one West Michigan producer of animal feed.

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ZEELAND — When a lawsuit surfaced showing one of West Michigan’s largest corporate farmers was facing insolvency, the news sent shockwaves through the state’s agricultural industry.

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NEWAYGO — After months of negotiations with city officials — and a contentious City Council vote in July — a medical marijuana startup plans to open a large-scale growing operation at an industrial park in Newaygo next year.

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In April, Native Traits LLC was gearing up for a $1.5 million Series B raise from venture capital investors.

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GRAND RAPIDS  Alliance Beverage Distributing LLC plans to expand into the northern Lower Peninsula by acquiring another wholesaler’s beer distribution rights, MiBiz has learned.

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LANSING — A series of bills could open the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council to members from the distilling, craft beer and other alcoholic beverage segments.

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Greg Koch has a front row view of the seismic shifts playing out in the world of American craft brewing. The co-founder and executive chairman of Escondido, Calif.-based Stone Brewing Co. — the 17th largest brewery in the country — also isn’t shy about sharing his views on the trend of large conglomerates buying up craft breweries.

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GRAND RAPIDS — When Edwin Collazo and Dave Petroelje announced plans in late 2015 to launch a craft brewery north of downtown, only one other producer had set up shop in the area.

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“It’s definitely not easy anymore.”
— Jason Spaulding, Brewery Vivant

As Michigan’s craft beverage industry matures and gets more competitive, it’s causing more than a few growing pains to emerge. Additionally, the pace of growth has slowed, forcing producers
to rely on solid business practices to succeed. In this comprehensive special report, MiBiz examines how these companies are adapting their strategies to survive in the ever-changing market.

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Thirsty Michigan craft beer consumers bought the equivalent of around 59,000 more pints of Brewery Vivant’s beer in 2016 than they did the year before.

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Saugatuck Brewing Co. thought it was being edgy in 2011 when it coined the name “Hop on a Blonde” for its new blonde ale.

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As the craft brewing industry grows in Michigan and beyond, it has been met with a continual skepticism about whether the market can support even more producers. Every industry hiccup stirs talk of a craft beer bubble that’s on the verge of bursting. In separate interviews, MiBiz brought that discussion to three professional advisers to get their take on the state of the industry.

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Dynamics within the maturing craft beer industry are creating new growth opportunities for suppliers.

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Proposed federal budget cuts have the potential to wipe out key hop and barley research programs that have helped improve the quality of the raw material supply chain for craft brewers.

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Michigan craft breweries have only just started to sell their beer in international markets, but many in the industry believe exporting could soon become an important diversification strategy.

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