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State food and agriculture housing task force launched

The Detroit News

State officials on Tuesday announced a task force aimed at addressing a housing demand in the food and agriculture industries and town hall meetings to seek input on challenges. 

“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," said Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, in a statement.

Citing federal statistics showing hired labor numbers rising in recent years, the department said there's a "sharp increase in the need to hire additional labor" in the food and agriculture communities. 

The food and agriculture industry contributes over $101 billion dollars annually to Michigan's economy.

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," McDowell said.

The group includes representatives from the departments of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and Labor and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan State Housing Development Authority, USDA Rural Development and Michigan Farm Bureau, according to the release. It will be led by Deputy Director Dr. James Averill at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Meanwhile, six town hall meetings are scheduled across the state to gather public input on community needs that will be used to develop a final report this summer to identify solutions and a plan.

"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,” Averill said. “By addressing housing issues for food and agriculture, we will also help address workforce issues and continue to see the sector grow.”

The meetings are as follows:

•1-4 p.m. Feb. 5, Wayne County Community College, Ray Mix Conference Room, 21000 Northline Rd., Taylor

•1-4 p.m. Feb. 11, Western Michigan University – GR Beltline Campus, Woodland Suites, 2333 E. Beltline Ave., SE, Grand Rapids

•1-4 p.m. Feb. 12, MDOT Office Building, East/West Conference Rooms, 1501 E. Kilgore, Kalamazoo

•1-4 p.m. March 10, Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center, Exhibition Room

3775 S. Reese Rd., Frankenmuth

•1-4 p.m., March 30, NW Michigan Horticultural Research Center, 6686 S. Center Hwy., Traverse City

•1-4 p.m. March 31, Bay de Noc Community College, Room 952, Herman University Center, 2001 N. Lincoln Rd., Escanaba

Attendees can RSVP online