LANSING — Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Director Gary McDowell announced the department will be hosting a virtual town hall discussion regarding food and agriculture housing challenges in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The meeting will be held on Thursday, August 13 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. via Microsoft Teams.
It was originally slated to be held in-person at the end of March, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MDARD already held four meetings around the state before COVID-19 had been confirmed in Michigan.
Michigan’s food and agriculture workforce traditionally consisted of the self-employed and family members, but the trend has been showing a sharp increase in the need to hire additional labor within the food and agriculture communities. According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey, hired labor rose from 25.3 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2016. The current labor situation is underscored by the increasing use of the U.S. Department of Labor’s H2A program. In 2005, there were 48,000 applications; and in 2018 there were 243,000 applications nationally.
With an increased demand for hired labor in the food and agriculture sector, housing has become a major issue in Michigan. MDARD would like to hear from the northern Michigan and U.P. community leaders, economic development representatives, and food and ag-based businesses to garner input about their individualized needs.
“Michigan’s Food and Agriculture Housing Task Force is working to address the need for housing while balancing the individual needs of communities, which may have its own challenges requiring regionally solution-driven approaches,” said Gary McDowell, MDARD Director. “By addressing housing issues for food and agriculture, we will also help address workforce issues and continue to see Michigan’s agriculture sector grow.”
To pre-register for this remote meeting, individuals should contact Brenda Smith no later than August 6 via email at SmithBL9@michigan.gov and provide their name, organization they represent, email address, and telephone number. Individuals may participate via Microsoft Teams or by telephone: 1-248-509-0316 and enter the Conference ID: 591 266 140#. An agenda and other meeting materials will be provided in advance of the meeting.
Results from the town hall meetings, along with the prior survey, will be used to develop a final report later this year to identify solutions and implementation plan.
— Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
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