Hear the Conversation 15:01 – 8.6 mb mp3
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development director Jamie Clover Adams joins Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes to examine the recently released 21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report from an agriculture and rural development perspective.
Clover Adams says sewer infrastructure, broadband internet access to rural areas, and transportation – roads, rail bridges, boat traffic – are the three areas in the report that look at the issues rural Michigan faces.
Heinze points out that funding all of Michigan’s infrastructure needs will be a challenge, and Clover Adams suggests we look at the situation like we look at our houses. She says we pay our mortgage payments but still put aside money to fix the roof or replace the windows and do other routine maintenance.
“You don’t just let the roof go because then your asset isn’t worth anything,” she says. “I think the hard thing for people is – except for roads and bridges, which you can see with your eyes – a lot of this is under the ground and we don’t see it. So it’s kind of out of sight, out of mind.
“The mindset people have to have isn’t about just what we do tomorrow. This is about what our state looks like 30 or 50 years from now for our kids and our grand kids and maybe even our great grand kids. And we have to start taking care of those things that are the foundation to the functioning of our economy.”
She talks about the state’s efforts to increase its food processing capability, the growing export market, and the overall importance of trade. Michigan’s top five markets are Canada, Mexico, China, South Korea and Japan.
She says Michigan’s craft brews are increasingly being exported to places like China and highlights a Michigan company called Brew Export as an example.
“The company is led by a young woman who took an entrepreneurial step and a risk and is making good out in the world. We already have a number of companies working the Chinese market and are looking to expand that.”
She hopes agriculture has a seat at the table for any potential negotiations that would rework NAFTA.
“It is absolutely critical to our industry that we be able to export.”
Clover Adams talks about MDARD’s robust food inspection program and looks ahead to challenges and opportunities for 2017 to growing Michigan’s food and agriculture economy.