East Lansing, Mich., July 19, 2011 — While many sectors of Michigan's economy have stagnated in the past decade, one has remained resilient, Gov. Rick Snyder said during opening remarks of the 2011 Ag Expo at Michigan State University (MSU).
"The last decade in Michigan we've had a hard time," Snyder told the crowd at the kickoff breakfast Tuesday. "There was one industry that stood up and stood out — agriculture. And I am going to ask for more because there are opportunities to be even better."
The crowd at Ag Expo, a three-day event bringing together agricultural professionals, experts and businesses, stood in applause as the governor challenged the agriculture industry to work even harder to make the state better.
Snyder outlined three areas Michigan's agriculture community would need to work with him on in the next year: processing, exporting and consumption.
The governor challenged Michigan growers to add value to processing and to continue the food chain in Michigan, which would add to the state's job base. And keeping the processing in Michigan would also allow the state to boost exports across state lines to other states and even other countries.
He also said his administration would highlight the importance of health and wellness in the fall, and said the agriculture community would play a large part. "We need to increase the consumption of fresh products, fresh fruits and vegetables. We have a fabulous product and people (in poor communities) that need to consume healthier foods. We could add tens of the thousands of jobs."
So even while Snyder commended and thanked the agriculture community, he also made clear more work needed to be done. It highlighted a quality that MSU President Lou Anna Simon said was one of Snyder's greatest strengths — impatience.
"He is impatient about moving forward. He knows we are in this global competition and speed makes a difference," she said. "We need to have the metrics that everyone can understand."
Helping highlight those metrics and working to improve them is MSU Extension, with its "I Know MI Numbers" initiative. Educators throughout Michigan are focusing on five key needs to Michigan's successful future — knowing and improving Michigan's water quality, reducing adult obesity, knowing the fiscal health of its cities and towns, improving early childhood literacy and improving science literacy.
The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has booths full of information on each Extension initiative all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Snyder acknowledged his impatience, but said Michigan could no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. "There is no time like the present to move things forward," he said. "We are not just talking about where we're at and what we've done but where we're going."