By Janelle Walworth
Hillsdale County Farm Bureau members recently attended a legislative breakfast and farm tour to connect with legislators while touring a local horse farm. Policy Development Chair Denese Belson led the event April 21.
The day began that morning at Brett Boyd’s Racing in Jonesville, where Boyd shared that the horse-racing business has been in their family for four generations. He and his wife Brandy manage the operation; their son Braxten has also demonstrated a love for racing, leading him to compete in other states where horse racing is more prevalent.
Boyd mentioned he hopes Michigan will once again have a prosperous horse racing industry so his son and other passionate racers can race back home.
In the barn Boyd showed members the whiteboard where everyone knows the schedule for the horses whether they are on training, jogging or resting for the day. He explained how each horse has a different personality, different diets and some of the common health concerns they watch for.
“What is your biggest challenge right now?” asked Julie Alexander, chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
“Costs,” Boyd responded. “Grain costs have doubled, and the cost of diesel has continued to rise, which increases transportation costs to travel throughout the U.S. for horse races.”
In Lansing, Alexander has proven herself to be a vital voice supporting Michigan’s equine industry.
Boyd shared that he has struggled to get legislators to understand the value of horse racing, which once equated to 45,000 Michigan jobs.
In the next barn Boyd introduced his guests to several new foals, sharing that he and his wife have spent several sleepless nights helping to deliver them safely.
Members and legislators then visited Sharon’s House of Pancakes inside the Hillsdale Market House. Belson opened with an invocation before dismissing members to a breakfast buffet.
County President Kayla Lewis introduced Congressman Tim Walberg and House Representative Andrew Fink.
Congressman Tim Walberg highlighted mask mandates, gas and energy prices, and soaring fertilizer costs — when it can be found at all. Dist. 58 Rep. Andrew Fink highlighted infrastructure, road funding and rural broadband.
Michigan Farm Bureau Public Policy Director Matt Smego gave a presentation highlighting the Waters of the U.S., Senate Bill 885 (currently in appropriations) which includes possible funding for agriculture; and the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine on fertilizer, fuel and export markets.
President Lewis introduced Molly Kauffman from Dist. 16 Senator Mike Shirkey’s office, who shared that the Senator was in session that morning and so couldn’t attend. She highlighted a new program being introduced called Wyatt’s Law, which is a central registry for child abuse offenders.
“Don’t assume we know,” she said, emphasizing the importance of constituents reaching out to Shirkey’s office with concerns.
Smego wrapped up the legislative update with a question-and-answer session so members could ask questions directly to the legislators.
The event was organized by Hillsdale County Farm Bureau’s Policy Development Committee, tasked with identifying local issues for policy recommendations. Belson is currently recruiting to expand the committee. No experience is needed; the grassroots process gives local members like you a voice on local issues. If interested, contact the county office (517-437-2458) or email Denese Belson.
Janelle Walworth is administrative manager for the Hillsdale County Farm Bureau.