Snyder shows farmers the love

Did anyone else notice the little linguistic trick Gov.Rick Snyder played in his State of the State Wednesday night? At one point, he started talking about unsung heroes of the economy and mentioned agricultural. He then said, "We are the second ...

I was sure he was forming a an all-too-familiar paean to the "second-largest industry in Michigan." He's made that mistake before.

In a March 17, 2011, proclamation on agriculture, Snyder stated that it is the state's second-largest industry.

However, as reporter Melissa Preddy detailed in this Bridge Magazine report last September, it's not.

And just this week, I saw on State Sen. Rick Jones' Facebook post the same throwaway line: second-largest industry.

Snyder or someone in his camp apparently has shook off the mythology. On Wednesday night, he actually said, "We are the second most diverse agricultural state in the nation."

The governor was effusive in his praise for the agriculture industry, continuing a trend back to his days as a gubernatorial candidate. Agriculture has been a bright spot on the economic stage in the last few years. But it's not really a driver of new jobs. You can produce bumper crops without that many workers.

If you look at the county by county jobless numbers (click here to start your search), you will quickly notice that being located in rural counties is a major hurdle to finding work.

So what's going on here?

Snyder and his team are supposed to be against special tax deals, yet backed just such a deal for cherry processing in the Grand Traverse area.

In December in a speech to the Michigan Farm Bureau, Snyder said farmers should be the role model for pretty much everyone due to their innovation skills and their entrepreneurial spirit.

Maybe this is just rhetorical flourish to distract from a lack of new programs or angles. It wasn't like Snyder used the SOS to detail a new state policy outlook on farming or food processing.

Maybe this is just politics: If he runs again in 2014, Snyder must suspect that he'll need to run up major vote margins in rural counties to help him counter what I'm sure will be much less enthusiasm from voters in Michigan's cities.

Maybe there is a firm belief in the administration that agriculture can significantly bolster the economy, despite the evidence to date that 21st century job growth is more the creature of urbanized areas -- and in the case of Michigan right now, manufacturing plants.

To be clear, this isn't a knock on agriculture, but rather a question of context. In modern political discourse, can an economic sector just be important, without being overblown?


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