Migrant workers’ housing still unsafe, civil rights official says

Capital News Service
LANSING – Five years after a report called migrant working conditions “intolerable,” Michigan is far from addressing its problems, the state’s civil rights director says. “The migrant farmworker situation in this state, my opinion, is not as good as it should be,” said Matt Wesaw, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Wesaw, who said he worked in the fields of Southwest Michigan alongside migrant workers as a boy 40 years ago, believes housing conditions for workers are worse now than they were then. “You look at the conditions today, you’ve got a lot of mobile homes that are no longer suitable for other families,” said Wesaw. “But they would be brought on to these farms, hooked up, and you would have multiple families, unrelated, multiple families, living in there.

Young farmers struggle to buy Michigan farmland

Capital News Service
LANSING – Young farmers don’t always have the opportunity to buy or rent suitable land nor have the capital to acquire enough land to be profitable, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Educational programs help young farmers face these challenges. Tom Nugent, director of field operations for Michigan Farm Bureau, said its Young Farmers program, started in 1935, is designed to give beginners a solid foundation for a future in farming. The program consists of 18-35 year-olds but new farmers older than 35 are able to participate, Nugent said. The USDA defines a young farmer as one with 10 years or less experience operating farms.
Ryan Vanderwal of Lake City went through Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer program and now owns his own dairy supply company, Star City IBA.

As weather warms, corn will be grown up north

Capital News Service
LANSING – Climate change would influence the volatility of corn prices more than government energy policy or changing oil prices, a new study by researchers from Stanford and Purdue universities shows. The study suggests that frequent heat waves will cause a sharp price lift unless heat-tolerant varieties are developed or the geographic concentration of corn production shifts. That means Michigan’s Corn Belt could move north into the Northern Lower Peninsular and the Upper Peninsula. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn is the second top agricultural commodity in Michigan. The top five counties growing corn are Huron, Lenawee, Saginaw, Cass and Sanilac, according to Michigan Agricultural Statistics.