Agriculture contributes $71.3 billion annually to Michigan’s economy, making it the second largest industry in the state. It also employs more than 1 million people, and plays a large role in our way of life in Michigan’s great southwest.
It is an economic powerhouse that cannot be overlooked by state government, which must strive to work better with farmers and agri-business to encourage new jobs in this industry.
I am proud to support the House Republican Strategic Task Force on Agriculture, which recently unveiled a report outlining ways to strengthen agriculture across the state and decrease government bureaucracy.
Solutions proposed by the task force include promoting “Buy Local, Buy Michigan” through an advertising logo on state materials; providing the same tax incentives for innovative agricultural processes that alternative energy proposals receive; and ensuring state regulations aren’t more stringent than federal regulations.
The Agriculture task force report is part of an ongoing effort by the House Republican Caucus to reinvigorate, reinvest and reform Michigan’s economy.
Included in this effort was my Strategic Task Force on Jobs initiative, which outlined several opportunities to encourage job growth across Michigan.
The Agriculture report and my Jobs Task Force report serve as a road map for pro-job, growth-oriented policy.
Both reports can be downloaded online at http://www.gophouse.com.
Cottage kitchens are now legal in Michigan, as Governor Granholm this week signed my cottage kitchen legislation into law.
My legislation to encourage family farm businesses and entrepreneurship in the food and agricultural industries through cottage kitchens is now officially state law.
The House and Senate both overwhelmingly approved this measure to help stifle a government bureaucracy and foster agricultural entrepreneurialism.
When signed into law, venders at roadside stands and farmer’s markets will be able to produce goods in their own homes, but all products will have to be labeled with “Made in a home kitchen that has not been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.”
This legislation sets a home entrepreneur’s maximum sales at $15,000 per year, and will allow cottage food operations to sell out of their homes, at farmers markets, roadside stands, county fairs and town events.
The agriculture industry has long been a leader for our state, and we must encourage job opportunities in this industry.
This is an important jobs tool, and I am pleased that Lansing lawmakers were able to recognize the clear need for action and work together.
July 13, 2010
LANSING – Governor Jennifer Granholm Monday (July 12th) signed legislation that promotes Michigan agriculture by encouraging the production and sale of certain foods made by Michigan residents in their home kitchens.
These foods, called cottage food products, don’t require temperature control for safety and include jams, jellies, granola, dried fruit and herbs, cereal, dry mixes, candy and baked goods. The production or packaging of cottage food products by someone in their home kitchen is defined by the legislation as a cottage food operation.
Regulatory barriers in the state’s food production and distribution laws presently discourage many farmers from organizing cottage food operations. The legislation signed by the governor today removes these barriers by exempting cottage food operations from the licensing and inspection provisions of the Food Law of 2000 if they have annual gross sales of $15,000 or less. To ensure food safety, cottage food operations would still be subject to enforcement actions by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Cottage food products would have to be pre-packaged and properly labeled prior to sale. Certain information is required to be on the product label, including ingredients, allergen information as required by federal law, and the name and address of the cottage food operation.
The legislation also specifies that cottage food products can be sold only directly from the cottage food operation to the consumer. Internet and mail order sales are prohibited, as are sales by consignment or at wholesale.
The bills signed by the governor Monday are House Bill 5837, sponsored by State Representative Pam Byrnes (D-Chelsea), and House Bill 5280, sponsored by State Representative John Proos (R-St. Joseph).
By JESSICA SIEFF
July 12, 2010
‘Tis the season for endorsements, and state Rep. John Proos, currently running for state senator, received two significant signs of support by his own “political mentors,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton and outgoing Sen. Ron Jelinek during a stop in Niles on Monday.
The three conservatives were in town to take a tour of Niles’ Delta Machining and talk to area manufacturers.
“Government does have something to say about where folks locate and learn their skills and everything else,” Upton, R-Mich., said.
Speaking to the vitality of incoming legislators, the congressman noted “when we look at the state of Michigan, (with) 38 state senators, we’re looking at probably 32 freshman next year…
“If we’re going to fight for our jobs, if we’re going to fight for our families, we’re going to need somebody to fight for us,” he said. “As we look to replace Ron, because he’s unable to run again, we have to look for someone to do that.”
Calling Proos, R-St. Joseph, a good listener and a public servant who knows the area’s industry and business community, Upton said he believed Proos would be able to “step up to the plate” if elected to the senate.
“And he’s going to be standing up for us here in southwest Michigan,” he said. “John Proos has got my vote, he’s earned it.”
Proos announced his plan to run for the seat to be left vacant by Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, in February.
“It’s very important that every one of us Republican senators is replaced with a Republican senator and John is ready to do that,” Jelinek said.
“It’s a big job,” he added. “We have a really tight, tight deficit budget this year and we’re going to balance it, we’re going to pass it balanced. But next year is going to be worse.
“It’s going to be another very very tight budget,” he said. “And if we don’t have somebody there strong enough to say no, we’re going to be in trouble. I think John Proos has enough guts to say no and stand up to these tax increases.”
The three legislators addressed a group of concerned business owners, many of them who have been forced to lay off employees and have watched opportunities for jobs moved to countries like Mexico and China.
“It’s a humbling honor for me, when the people that you work with every day give you an endorsement,” Proos said, addressing the intimate gathering after listening to Jelinek. “I can’t help but be a little emotional about it.”
Proos said legislators like himself, Jelinek and Upton understand the desire of those business owners who are working hard to support their families and the families of their employees.
“We have that same desire to serve and that same desire to see the families of southwest Michigan, in our small roles of representation whatever they may be, to try and make a difference,” he said.
Monday’s endorsements, Proos said, “makes me realize just how much work I have to do to fulfill those expectations.
“And those expectations can only be fulfilled by meeting your expectations,” he continued. “It’s one thing to have my political mentors, it’s quite another to have your support, to earn your support. That only comes through time, that only comes through action, that only comes through listening to you.”
There is no question that a strong education system is instrumental in moving our state out of the economic doldrums.
If we are going to prepare our students for their future properly, it is important to equip our schools with the resources they need.
The state is hurting financially, but education must always remain a priority. I’m very pleased to announce that the House and Senate recently reached an agreement to increase school aid funding by $11 per pupil.
While this doesn’t sound like much, we were able to protect surplus dollars in the School Aid Fund.
The budget that was approved also maintains important programs such as early childhood development, at-risk grants and Michigan Virtual University funding.
The Legislature has failed in years past in completing an accurate budget in a timely manner to help schools draft their individual budgets.
I’m very pleased that we were able to meet a self-imposed July 1 deadline this year, in line with the deadline local schools face.
There was also a move to raid a surplus in the School Aid budget to balance this years budget which I opposed. I am pleased dollars will remain dedicated to schools, and I will continue to advocate for our students futures.
By WILLIAM F. AST III
July 4, 2010
I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…
– John Adams
Laws that ban fireworks are probably the most widely ignored laws in Michigan.
At no time is this lawlessness more evident than on and around Independence Day. Michigan law forbids any consumer fireworks that leave the ground or explode, but you can step outside on many nights and feel that you’re in a war zone, with firefights and artillery barrages raging around you and anti-aircraft explosions filling the skies.
How did it come to this? The laws banning fireworks are prudent, because fireworks are dangerous, no question about it. Every year many people are injured, maimed or even killed by fireworks.
Why risk injury when you can enjoy a professional fireworks display?
Well, probably because setting off your own fireworks is fun. Making lots of noise is fun.
Also, it’s the Fourth of July, when Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the great document that said “nuts” to perfidious Albion and told the aristocratic British overlords where to get off. What better way to symbolize our disdain for tyranny and our support of freedom and free trade than setting off a string of firecrackers made in China?
And, after all, no less an august personage than John Adams urged the use of illuminations – a 17th century term for fireworks – to celebrate Independence Day. Who are we to disobey the wishes of a president and a Founding Father?
The glorious past
As a boy, there was no greater thrill than having your dad or a favorite uncle disappear for a few minutes on July 4 and reappear with handfuls of fireworks. There were almost always disapproving frowns from mothers and aunts, who always issued a stern safety lecture, but apparently they realized there was no sense trying to get their men to suppress their inner juvenile delinquent when it came to fireworks.
Later on we boys developed our own sources. I honestly can’t remember what they were – a friend of a friend who’d traveled to some fireworks-friendly state, probably. But we were rarely without a stash of firecrackers somewhere.
There was the holy grail of fireworks lovers, the ne plus ultra of explosives, the queen of battle, the baron of bangs – the cherry bomb and its close relations, such as the M-80 and the Silver Salute. It was awe-inspiring, powerful, and extremely, extremely dangerous. It’s more like a piece of dynamite than a firecracker.
There was the workhorse of fireworks, the common firecracker. Versatile and reliable, it was (and still is) sold in blocks and strings. The strings make for a lovely sustained series of bangs.
The ladyfinger is a smaller version. Sophisticated and refined yet still packing a solid punch, its small size allowed creative variations of uses.
Everyone loved bottle rockets. They are small rockets on sticks, and have the name because one puts the rocket in a pop bottle to launch them. Oh, yes, leave the bottle on the ground. Do not hold the bottle in your hand. Not a good idea, if only for the sake of not burning your hands.
Police this time of year are inundated with calls complaining about someone setting off fireworks.
“Oh, yeah,” said Lincoln Township Police Chief Dan Sullivan. “I think everywhere there’s a population, you’re going to get them. It’s happened in every department I’ve ever worked in, around the Fourth in particular – to the point where it’s almost overwhelming. It’s a constant flow of calls.”
Police responding to such calls often simply warn the perpetrators to knock it off, Sullivan said.
“Unless we catch them in the act, we tell them to cease and desist,” Sullivan said. “There’s so much of it, especially with the out-of-state places they can buy fireworks. It’s difficult to seize all of it and cite everyone. It’s unrealistic.”
Sullivan said he hasn’t had to look into many fireworks injuries, fortunately. But when there are injuries, that’s going to be forwarded to the county prosecutor for possible action, he said.
Users need to be extremely cautious if children are present, Sullivan said. Even legal fireworks such as sparklers can cause serious and painful burns, he said.
“Keep the children away,” Sullivan said. “Everyone wants their children to have sparklers, and I can remember doing that with my kids. But M-80s and cherry bombs? No, no, no.”
One of the less obvious dangers of fireworks is fire, Sullivan said.
“An explosion is one thing, but if people are using Roman candles and if the ground cover is not recently wet, you could have some fire issues on top of everything else,” the chief said.
Across the border
It’s true that fireworks that are illegal in Michigan aren’t far away. In fact, just drive across the border into Indiana.
If you drive south on LaPorte Road from New Buffalo, you’ll find three fireworks stores right across the state line, obviously there to serve Michigan buyers. Business was slow on the rainy days in June, but was picking up handsomely as July 4 approached, proprietors said.
Inside the stores are rows and rows of aerial shells, firecrackers, ground displays and fountains. There is “Crazy Evil,” an obvious nod to violent video games, the “Heart Attack,” which urges people with cardiac issues to keep their distance from its heart-stopping ending blasts, and the proudly patriotic “This is America.” For the thrifty, the stores offer “Buy One, Get Ten Free” bargains.
There are blocks upon blocks of Black Cat firecrackers, believed by many to be the most reliable brand. There are small novelty items – a tank that, when ignited, rolls forward in a shower of sparks and then shoots its cannon, a frog that does who knows what when lit.
These stores are places where no one argues with the “no smoking” policy.
Drive farther afield into Indiana, and you’ll find enormous warehouse-sized stores dedicated to selling fireworks.
Obviously there’s a lot of revenue involved. State Rep. John Proos supports a bill that might dampen the explosive flow of Michigan money into Indiana for fireworks.
“Every year we watch Michigan’s hard-earned dollars go to the benefit of other states that surround us,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. The bill, which he co-sponsored, would “eliminate the trunkloads of fireworks that people get from other states” and produce more revenue and badly needed jobs in Michigan, he said.
The bill, which passed in the House in May by a 79-28 vote, would legalize the sales of such items as firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets in Michigan. Right now, sparklers and toy noisemakers are about all that can be sold here.
Proos said the bill would require fireworks be sold by reputable dealers from permanent buildings, although non-profit groups would be allowed to continue tent sales.
Rep. Harold Haugh, D-Roseville, said the bill could raise more than $5 million a year through fees and licenses for cash-strapped Michigan.
The Associated Press said some lawmakers have received automated phone calls opposing the legislation. Haugh dismissed them as likely coming from out-of-state interests that don’t want to lose the business they now receive from Michigan customers crossing the border.
The bill is now before the Michigan Senate. “I have no idea what will happen with the bill” in the Senate, Proos said, though he added it passed with “strong bipartisan support in the House.”
And what does he think about fireworks personally?
“I’ve loved fireworks since I was a kid,” Proos said. “It was always fun enjoying sparklers, or larger stuff when my parents would allow it.”