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Michigan's gubernatorial candidates: is agriculture on their mind?

Date Posted: June 22, 2022

Michigan Farm Bureau reached out to all gubernatorial candidates asking four basic questions to help members learn more about the candidates. Following are the responses we received. MFB staff did not write or edit the candidates’ submissions. This information is not a part of the formal MFB candidate evaluation committee and AgriPac process.

Tudor Dixon (R)

Tell us about yourself and your work experience.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tudor Dixon
Tudor Dixon is a mother of four, wife, cancer survivor, and former small business owner. The daughter of a steel industry worker, Tudor grew up around factories her entire life and spent a decade working in steel manufacturing herself.

Tudor began her professional career in Chicago with an industry-leading public relations and marketing firm after graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in psychology. Her father recruited her to the steel industry after investing in a foundry in Michigan in the early 2000s. She was highlighted at just thirty-one years old as part of "Metalcasting's Next Generation" by trade magazine Foundry Management & Technology and served as Chairwoman of the Steel Founders Society of America's Future Leaders Committee.

Tudor spent nearly a decade in manufacturing before giving birth to her four girls and beating cancer. She briefly returned to the steel industry before getting back to her roots in public relations and media production as an entrepreneur in 2017.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have a background in manufacturing, so I understand the struggles of the industry as they relate to workforce and regulation. I have offered thorough proposals to improve our workforce and increase skilled trades. I am the mother of four school-age girls, so ensuring a world-class education is available to every Michigan family is very important. I am walking alongside every parent who wants to ensure schools are teaching proper lessons and prepare our students to be successful in life.

What is the biggest issue facing Michigan agriculture and what do you see as the best solution?

As I travel the state and meet with farmers and producers and processors, the feedback is almost universal: regulation and the regulatory agencies are a hindrance to growth. A dairy farmer was unable to expand his business in Michigan, so he did so in Indiana and South Dakota. At the end of each year, he receives a thank you call from those governors. The current governor’s agencies instead find excuses for why our business can’t expand. EGLE and MDARD must have a customer service-based philosophy: Farmers, producers, and processors don’t work for them, it’s the other way around.

Agriculture is vital to Michigan’s economy and should not be hampered by bureaucrats and a self-important bureaucracy. Farmers are stewards of the land. They know what is best. They have an inherent interest in protecting the environment because their livelihood derives from it.

Gretchen Whitmer has created a “gotcha state”--fining business owners for this, punishing them for that. It was especially obvious during her unconstitutional states of emergency. It is no way to run a state and expect business to grow and our population to increase. We must send a clear message next January that Michigan is open for business, and when I am elected, we will.

How will your administration build relationships and work with the agricultural industry?

I have already developed relationships with cherry growers, pickle farmers, milk producers, sugar beet processors, corn growers, ethanol producers, and others. I have visited their operations to see their work and challenges firsthand. If we are going to have a customer service-based government, we must understand their struggles and issues on location. Last December, I attended the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable & Farm Market and participated in a roundtable with members from across the state. I welcome a partnership with Farm Bureau and related organizations to ensure we grow our agriculture sector and make it easier to do business in our state. I will also continue to work with legislators such as state Sen. Roger Victory and state Rep. Luke Meerman, as well as outgoing state Rep. Julie Alexander, who have helped counsel me on agriculture policies and related issues. All three have endorsed my candidacy.

Ryan Kelley (R)

Gubernatorial Candidate Ryan Kelley
Tell us about yourself and your work experience.

Dedicate husband, father of 6, and small business owner. Currently own a real estate firm. Been in real estate various capacities for 12 years. Prior to that was a union employee with AT&T for 10 years. Studied electronic engineering in college. Have lived in West Michigan for 35 years.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Courage to fight for what is right when it matters most. Many politicians talk a good game but do not take the actions that align with those words. While left-wing policies plague our state, businesses, and society, I will find unapologetically for conservative values that bring prosperity and freedom.

What is the biggest issue facing Michigan agriculture and what do you see as the best solution?

From speaking with farmers it’s federal regulations. Reduce or stop taking federal money that controls our agriculture and rural development budget to start. Determine what the federal government actual constitutional authority is and what falls under states right. Fight for farmers.

How will your administration build relationships and work with the agricultural industry?

Food independence is critical to our survival. Meeting with, and understanding the concerns of the AG industry will be a priority to my administration. Finding the best ways to get government out of the way while maintaining integrity in farming is a best practice. Michigan’s #2 industry is agricultural and needs to receive the attention and support of sure a large component of Michigan's economy. Plus no one wants to go hungry, support local farmers!

Ralph Rebandt (R)

Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Rebandt
Tell us about yourself and your work experience.

Born and raised in Michigan, I learned to farm, which gave me the drive to succeed in other areas of employment that formed a broad resume of work history necessary to put myself through college and graduate school; factory worker/manager, lathe operator, carpenter, painter, business owner. I served as lead pastor for the church I planted 35 years ago, chaplain for the Michigan Chiefs of Police, and member of the Board of Governors for the Council for National Policy in D.C. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 46 years. We have four children and seventeen grandchildren.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

The other candidates represent similar attempts to affect change that have been tried for the past 60 years, resulting in increased problems. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again but expecting different results. I represent what our Founders correctly understood as a world view based on Judeo-Christian values. If we don’t get God right, nothing else will matter. We’ve tried a society without God for over 60 years, and we have nothing to show for it other than more problems and accumulating debt as a result of the social programs necessary to fix them.

What is the biggest issue facing Michigan agriculture and what do you see as the best solution?

Issue: Inflation. As I listen to farmers across Michigan, the issues of fuel and fertilizer shortages, and even artificially created shortages, including possibly food shortages, can result in cancelled contracts with foreign nations and drastically hurt Michigan farmers.
Specifically, inflation has affected the price of fertilizer which is up 2-3x over 2020 costs, the price of diesel fuel which is 2-3x more that 2020, as well as increased equipment and repair costs.
Solution: There are several ways to solve these issues - eliminate the gas tax, especially fuel tax for farmers; make Michigan energy independent by using our own resources, and allowing farmers a seat at the table where discussions that affect farmers have representation from farmers. Agriculture is the most necessary industry in Michigan and I will support, encourage, and protect it.

How will your administration build relationships and work with the agricultural industry?

Growing up in a farming family, agriculture is extremely important to me. I own my dad's 1960 John Deere 3010, and implements. On my website ralphrebandtforgovernor.com there are “Four Strategies”, one of which is “Operation Round Table”. This will be an opportunity for the agriculture industry to sit in my office to discuss every form of legislation that affects the agriculture industry. My philosophy is that the people who the decision affects the most should have the greatest say on any legislation. This will be my check and balance against legislators who don’t listen to the people, and in this case, the farmers. The Michigan agricultural industry will always have a voice in my office.

Kevin Rinke (R)

Gubernatorial Candidate Kevin Rinke
Tell us about yourself and your work experience.

My family has owned and operated businesses in Michigan for over 100 years. As the head of the Rinke Automotive Group, I was known for a leadership style that welcomed input from every team member. Under my leadership, we became one of the most successful private dealership groups in the country. Outside of my time in the auto industry, I owned and managed a post-acute traumatic brain injury rehabilitative workplace. I also participated in Centria, an autism service provider with its world headquarters located in Michigan.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

My business experience makes me the most qualified candidate to be the Chief Executive of the state of Michigan. After four failed years, we need a new kind of leadership. A governor who has decades of executive experience, who has signed the front and the back of a check, who listens to the people he leads, and empowers them to be part of the solution, rather than dictating the terms of their lives. We know business leaders solve problems differently than career politicians. Our next governor needs to be someone with proven leadership and proven results. Experience matters.

What is the biggest issue facing Michigan agriculture and what do you see as the best solution?

The Michigan Agricultural Industry is facing significant hardship due to inflation, misguided government spending, and over-regulated policies. I believe that there are two major issues facing the industry: labor shortages and cost of goods.

I propose two solutions to help alleviate the labor shortage crisis that our farmers are facing. When I am governor, I intend to implement vocational training in our public schools. The vocational training will have career paths in agricultural as well as mechanical training to increase interest in the industry as well as to better prepare our young workforce for an agriculturally related career. Agriculture is one of our biggest industries in Michigan, and it is vital that we expose our young workforce to the opportunities for successful careers in this industry.

State government must also work with agriculture to make certain that our regulatory scheme doesn’t put undue burden on farmers while at the same time protecting our environment. I trust farmers which is why I support voluntary programs like MAEAP so that every Michigan farmer can be recognized for their environmental stewardship while also reducing the unnecessary costs that come with overregulation.

The costs of fuel, energy, fertilizer, and other input costs in the industry have increased dramatically in recent years. Michigan must make energy resources more available so we can have cheap, reliable, and safe energy to feed our nation and the world. Solutions such as keeping Line 5 open and building the Mackinac Straits Tunnel are needed to guarantee access to energy and to control ever higher costs that are hindering the industry. We need common sense solutions to make our supply chain work more efficiently, make our energy more available and affordable, and keep the cost of goods low.

How will your administration build relationships and work with the agricultural industry?

It is imperative to build and maintain an open dialogue with farmers and leaders in the agricultural community. I have already met with farmers and agricultural leaders and remain committed to continuing to build trust with them. The Michigan Farm Bureau is an incredible resource to hear from the agricultural community and learn the specifics on the issues that they are facing. I believe in an open-door policy with the Michigan Farm Bureau, and I hope to have their expertise and insight on important issues when I am governor.

In my role leading large companies, I knew I had to speak to the workers on the front lines in an honest and open manner to be successful. As governor, I’m not going to sit in Lansing and dictate what’s best for Michigan farmers. I’m going to come to your farms to see for myself and hear from you. I’m going to hold periodic meetings to discuss challenges and work together to solve those issues. I’m also going to eliminate the individual income tax so hard-working family farmers can keep more of their money.

Garrett Soldano (R)

Gubernatorial Candidate Garrett Soldano
Tell us about yourself and your work experience.

Dr. Garrett Soldano D.C. is a Chiropractor, small business owner, former football player, family man, and political outsider. Soldano owns and operates Soldano Family Chiropractic Center in Kalamazoo, and is raising two boys, Jack and Alex, with his wife Jennifer.
 
Garrett graduated from Onsted High School before receiving his bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Western Michigan University. Garrett played football for the WMU Broncos for 5 years, captaining the team his senior year. He then signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears, before being cut prior to the beginning of the next season. After his dream to become an NFL football player had faded, he attended chiropractic school and opened his own center in Kalamazoo.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

In April of 2020, Gov. Whitmer began stripping away freedoms at the beginning of the pandemic, Garrett started a Facebook group titled “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine” that rose to nearly 400,000 members in a matter of days, before Facebook shut the group down. After witnessing the censorship of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders, Garrett worked with others to form the organization “Stand Up Michigan” to put an end to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s endless lockdowns and radical COVID policies. Garrett also served as a co-chairman of the Unlock Michigan campaign, fighting back to repeal Gov. Whitmer’s use of one of the state’s emergency declaration laws. Garrett's efforts were ultimately successful, leading to the repeal of the laws that allowed Gov. Whitmer to enact such dangerous policies. Garrett is the only candidate that has held Gretchen Whitmer accountable and has a 1-0 record against the sitting governor.

What is the biggest issue facing Michigan agriculture and what do you see as the best solution?

While there is a plethora of issues that Michigan farmers face throughout the state, regulatory reform is paramount to the continued success and economic contribution of Michigan's farmers. In a Soldano administration, burdensome regulations and unnecessary red tape imposed on the agriculture industry will be carefully examined and removed to facilitate industry expansion.

How will your administration build relationships and work with the agricultural industry?

Farmers represent a key foundation of Michigan's economy. Under a Soldano administration, outreach to leaders, worker, and key stakeholders within the agriculture industry will be of paramount importance. In order to assist Michigan's agriculture workers and businesses, experts will be brought in to assist in the understanding of the everyday issues facing our farms and facilitate meaningful solutions that will be developed in conjunction with the state legislature. Such as examples may include but are not limited to, advisory boards, regular roundtables with those within the industry, and a clear line of communication between the agriculture industry and policymakers.

Media Contacts
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Matt Kapp

Government Relations Specialist
517-679-5338 [email protected]

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