Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 11, 2014

Michigan's ag sector on the grow

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development


Director, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development

TRAVERSE CITY — With the end of 2013, it’s important for us to step back and reflect on some of the remarkable accomplishments for the year in Michigan’s food and agriculture sector.

Make no mistake about it -- there are literally hundreds of other victories that evolve every single day, many which we simply take for granted.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of industry, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and local officials, we broke ground on a new dairy manufacturing facility in Cass City that will start processing in October 2014. This plant will process current milk supply in the thumb region and will increase investment in both supply chain opportunities and production.

Additionally, Imlay City’s community received an economic boost when the Vlasic pickle facility celebrated its official expansion earlier this year, adding about 30 permanent jobs and 500 seasonal positions. Pinnacle Foods, Vlasic’s parent company, spent $14 million to expand operations. Pinnacle owns many other iconic food brands, including Duncan Hines, Birds Eye and Mrs. Butterworth.

Michigan’s dynamic food and agriculture industry also increased its global footprint in 2013 by facilitating the export of a variety of commodities from fruit and veggies to plants and trees to 83 different countries, including Canada, Mexico, China, Vietnam, Japan, and Brazil. The continued demand for Michigan’s high quality and diverse food and agriculture products is helping drive job creation and growing economic impact for our state’s communities. International exports provide more than 22,000 jobs and $3.2 billion annually in direct activity for Michigan’s local economy.

One thing I am especially proud of is MDARD’s Pet Food Investigation Team. This team - comprised of employees from our Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division, Food and Dairy Division and Lab - received the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Commissioner’s Special Citation, one of the highest-level awards at FDA for their work in Michigan’s 2012 Pet Food Salmonella Infantis outbreak recall response. The outbreak caused numerous human and animal illnesses that ultimately resulted in a massive nationwide pet food recall (over 30,000 tons). The team’s discovery is unique and serves as a national case study on the interconnection between animal feed safety and human health.

You’ll note that our accomplishments are strategically aligned with our priorities - kids, jobs, and a talented workforce remain at the forefront of reinventing Michigan. The outcomes we’ve witnessed this past year in the food and agriculture industry is evidence of our commitment to Michigan’s comeback.

So, this year, please thank a farmer or agriculture producer for their dedication to growing a safe and abundant food supply, but also for providing jobs and supporting their local communities.