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MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau Joint Statement on the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report

Agency: Agriculture and Rural Development

For immediate release: December 5, 2016 MDARD media contact: Jennifer Holton, 517-285-9884 MFB media contact: Jeremy C. Nagel, 517-323-6585

Lansing, MI – Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Jamie Clover Adams and Michigan Farm Bureau Board of Directors member Ben LaCross, who is also a Leelanau County cherry grower, today applauded the recommendations made in Governor Snyder’s 21st Century Infrastructure Commission report. Both LaCross and Clover Adams represented the state’s agricultural community on the Infrastructure Commission since its inception in April 2016.

“These recommendations are the first step in putting a better foundation in place to keep Michigan’s rural communities and food and agriculture growing. Through targeted infrastructure investment, we set the stage for new food and agriculture value-added opportunities and additional jobs in rural Michigan,” said Clover Adams. “Additionally, a shared vision for water, sewer and storm water management as well as private septic systems will assure environmental impact improvements providing better water quality for both agricultural and non-agricultural users. There are a lot of recommendations for the agriculture community to be excited about.”

“This report is the first of its kind in the nation—a blueprint to guide our state toward best-in-class infrastructure for the next 30 to 50 years,” LaCross said. “In it we addressed things farmers and rural communities really need, like improved road funding and expanded broadband capabilities. Those two issues are key to enhancing Michigan’s agriculture sector as it seeks to expand its markets for agricultural products, and as rural residents look for more opportunities to conduct business online.”

Clover Adams added the Commission’s vision of Michigan is that residents and businesses have access to affordable advanced broadband services, even in previously unserved and underserved areas, and that tools and training are available to adopt a broadband connection by 2024. 

“The data shows about 17% of Michigan households don’t have access, or have not adopted, a fixed broadband connection at 100 Mbps. A low density of households, businesses and institutions -- much of rural Michigan -- creates an investment gap in broadband infrastructure.  The reports also points out there is limited federal, state, and local government authority to encourage or require broadband deployment in underserved areas. We have some work to do to bridge that gap.”

There are a number of important recommendations with the report. These are some of the key recommendations to help improve the quality of life for rural Michiganders and offering a plan to expand for farmers and food and agriculture businesses of all sizes in the state. Recommendations include, but aren’t limited to:

Broadband communications

  • Entice investors to provide affordable mobile and fixed broadband access to households and businesses statewide by providing a subsidy to stimulate private sector investment. The Commission estimates a state investment of $62.8 million annually over 25 years.
  • Create a financing program to remove installation cost barriers for customers who want to pay for one-time capital costs to connect broadband to their home or building.
  • Establish a grant or revolving loan program to assist local government and private sector broadband providers in collaboratively establishing P3s to support the sharing and joint use of existing assets.

Wastewater/drains

  • The commission recommends that a coordinated effort between MDARD, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and county drain commissioners take place to update legislation to allow for increased collaboration on planning, performance-based incentive mechanisms, and remove inconsistencies in the drain code.  
  • MDARD, DEQ and county drain commissioners should develop draft revisions and work with other stakeholders to provide recommendations to the Michigan Legislature to update the Michigan Drain Code (if appropriate) and municipal separate storm sewer system program to better facilitate joint action and collaboration among jurisdictions to manage storm water on a watershed basis. 
  • Chapter 22 of the drain code should be updated to allow petitions to request development of collaborative watershed management plans as well as watershed-based engineering and design studies. The code should also be updated to allow performance-based (rather than prescriptive) mechanisms to incent property owner behavior to achieve water quality and quantity outcomes.

“We need our Michigan residents and especially our farmers to look at this report and see what it means for all of Michigan. The more we can get people excited about our proposals, the more those legislators will want to move forward and tackle some of these issues,” said LaCross. “It’s an investment, and if we want Michigan to continue to grow and be as great a state as we all know it can be, we have to make those strategic investments. The benefits certainly outweigh the costs.”

To read the full report, go to www.miinfrastructurecommission.com.

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Distribution channels: Agriculture, Farming & Forestry