By Roger Bezek
Lenawee and Monroe County Farm Bureaus recently co-sponsored an agricultural town hall meeting with Dist. 7 U.S. Representative Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). More than 30 producers from both counties came together April 18 at Mark Prielipp Greenhouse & Mohr near Britton, bringing questions for the congressman concerning issues they deal with every day in their operations.
One top concern was a shortcoming in the existing H-2A guest worker visa program. Farms that rely on H-2A workers in local orchards, greenhouses, dairies and other agricultural operations are limited to employing them for 10 months, even if they need help year-round.
A related issue is that only 33,000 H-2B workers are granted visas into the U.S. every six months — not nearly enough to meet the labor needs on American farms.
Walberg commented on the divisive atmosphere in Washington, saying it’s difficult to institute changes that don’t align with the Biden Administration’s current goals on immigration, energy, or supply chain issues.
Farmers in attendance asked the congressman about his position to not support a current “New Fuels” proposal, which would clarify the use and production of ethanol and biodiesel — both of which offer a lucrative market for area crop farmers.
Other topics addressed during the meeting included the lack of reliable broadband internet service in rural areas; the resurgent interest in solar energy systems — often on productive farmland — and the challenges farmers are facing obtaining basic supplies like fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides and micro-nutrients.
Host Paul Prielipp closed the discussion by imploring the congressman to remember the many economic difficulties young farmers face, and how that impacts the entire farm sector, ultimately threatening the availability of food for everyone.
While participants were surrounded by countless flats of newly growing plants and hundreds of blooming baskets inside the warm greenhouse, upon leaving they were greeted by two inches of fresh snow.
Roger Bezek is president of the Monroe County Farm Bureau.