TRAVERSE CITY — Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan can realize huge growth in agriculture by encouraging more people to go into farming and related careers.
“People don’t realize how important the agriculture industry is,” Snyder said Friday during a roundtable discussion at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals group at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
“It’s one of our big three,” Snyder said. “Manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.”
Snyder said Michigan witnessed nearly 16 percent growth in exports in 2013. The state, he said, is working on public-private partnerships and programs to encourage more to go into farming. It’s also important, he said, to facilitate training for farm workers needing advanced technological skills, and to create more markets for value-added processing of farm products.
“I’m concerned we are going to have a talent shortage in agriculture in two ways,” Snyder said. “We need people who are not agriculture people to go into agriculture. These are skilled trade positions. This is not something you just go into.
“In other cases we have people running quarter-million dollar pieces of equipment, half-million pieces of equipment, that are highly electronic,” he said. “We need people who know how to run them, so we need to really encourage that.”
Snyder said Michigan is working to address immigration roadblocks that hamper farmers’ ability to hire enough workers to harvest crops.
“We can be more welcoming…I think we can attract more people to come here because really other states are making people feel unwanted,” Snyder said.