Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MDARD

Jan 21, 2020
Michigan creates Food and Agriculture Housing Task Force

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 U.S. 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. The new Food and Agriculture Housing Task Force, led by Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) Deputy Director James Averill, will be delving into housing needs throughout the state. Other members include the departments of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and Labor and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, USDA Rural Development, and Michigan Farm Bureau.

“The state’s $104.7 billion a year food and agriculture sector is ripe for growth. We’ve consistently heard that a lack of hired labor is a significant impediment for those businesses. This is the first step for MDARD to help address the lack of housing,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “The Task Force will be working to address the need for food and agriculture housing while balancing the individual needs of communities, which may have its own challenges and require a more regional solution-driven approach.”

Individuals interested in offering feedback about housing may take a survey through the following website: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C2CYPTG

MDARD will be hosting six regional town hall meetings across the state to hear from community leaders, economic development representatives, and food and ag-based businesses to garner input about their individualized needs. To RSVP for these meetings, please click this link.

The meetings will be held on the dates listed below:

Taylor – Wednesday, February 5
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Wayne County Community College, Ray Mix Conference Room

21000 Northline Rd., Taylor

Grand Rapids – Tuesday, February 11
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Western Michigan University – GR Beltline Campus, Woodland Suites

2333 E. Beltline Ave., SE, Grand Rapids

Kalamazoo – Wednesday, February 12
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

MDOT Office Building, East/West Conference Rooms

1501 E. Kilgore, Kalamazoo

Frankenmuth – Tuesday, March 10
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center, Exhibition Room

3775 S. Reese Rd., Frankenmuth

Traverse City – Monday, March 30
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

NW Michigan Horticultural Research Center

6686 S. Center Hwy., Traverse City

Escanaba – Tuesday, March 31
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Bay de Noc Community College, Room 952, Herman University Center

2001 N. Lincoln Rd., Escanaba

“These town hall meetings will help identify the needs of the food and ag businesses, the potential challenges within local communities, and how the department can be a catalyst for identifying regional solutions,” said Averill. “By addressing housing issues for food and agriculture, we will also help address workforce issues and continue to see the sector grow.”

Results from town hall meetings, survey, and one on one meetings will be used to develop a final report this summer to identify solutions and implementation plan.

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