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State Rep Fred Upton tours Michigan farms

SCOTTS, MI -- During the Independence Day break, U.S. Representative Fred Upton, along with others from the Michigan delegation, took time to visit farms in three southwest Michigan counties and visit with members of the farming communities. He was seeking input from farmers and producers as to the extent of their difficulties during the unusual spring weather patterns.

Upton visited farms in Berrien, Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties. The stops included Russell Costanza Farms in Sodus, a large vegetable growing operation with numerous acres of tomatoes; Hood Dairy Farms in Paw Paw; and Gibson Farms in Scotts, a 4,000 acre farm growing corn, soybeans and hay. All three of the farms have dealt with struggles this spring as they tried to plant crops, care for animals, and plan for the future.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer put in a request for a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designation after learning that 64 of the state’s 83 counties are in need of assistance for their operations. The majority of the Michigan delegation supported and were appreciative of Whitmer’s initiative concerning the farms. The wet spring weather, which has been determined to be the third wettest in Michigan’s history, is causing problems with getting tractors into the fields, much less planting crops.

“I supported a disaster supplemental appropriation bill...which has $3 billion reserved for ag,” Upton said. “I think Michigan should qualify for some of that money.”

This comes with the understanding that many, if not all, crops were planted two to three weeks late. Unfortunately, it was also noted that some acres were not planted at all, leaving them fallow. Options were discussed as to what could be planted and how farmers could work with those crops. Cover crops will be allowed on prevent plant acres for use in grazing, haying and chopping for silage. The date has been moved to September 1, earlier than the previous year’s date of November 1. It was also highlighted that these crops could not be sold; rather the farmer is allowed to use it themselves or donate it.

“We are going to try to clarify that point because there was some concern as some farmers work with others to provide for their needs,” Upton said.

One of those farmer was Robert Gibson of Gibson Farms who was mowing hay the day of the tours. His farm was doing quite well in spite of the weather; There are only 120 acres of their 4000 that didn’t get planted.

“It has been difficult,” Gibson said. “But the community comes together and helps each other. This spring has been no different.”

Upton is intending to send a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressing the concerns shared by farmers and producers during the tour and otherwise. The legislators have been truly interested in the trials and tribulations of the American farmer with 2019 being an extremely depressing and stressful one. With the relaxing of regulations and offering options along with aid, these men and women are serving those who literally serve the food on our tables every day.