U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, called for federal trade officials to hold a hearing in West Michigan to demonstrate the impact of unfair trade practices on farmers in the region.
Huizenga, who represents Michigan's Second Congressional District, wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, Jan. 17, requesting that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Commerce hold a field hearing in West Michigan in order to hear from farmers negatively affected by international trade practices.
Huizenga specifically pointed out that blueberry, cherry and asparagus farmers have faced "questionable" trade practices. He wrote in his letter that despite Michigan producing mass amounts of the crops, the amount of imported crops continues to rise.
He argues that by holding a field hearing in the region, federal officials will get a firsthand glimpse into the obstacles farmers are facing.
"As West Michigan’s representative, I understand how critical it is that our farmers and growers have the opportunity to be heard and to compete on a level playing field," he wrote. "That is why I believe it is imperative for a field hearing to be held in West Michigan."
In December, the American Farm Bureau said the agricultural economy is in one of its worst slumps since the Great Depression. In Ottawa County, a wetter-than-usual planting season delayed crop planting, resulting in a lower yield.
The USDA reported in August that nearly 900,000 acres of crops in Michigan alone went unplanted.
Huizenga said that farmers in Michigan need to be on a level playing field in order to successfully operate their businesses.
“West Michigan is one of the most diverse agricultural communities in the nation,” Huizenga said in a statement. “Currently, our seasonal and perishable specialty crop growers are forced to compete on a playing field that is tilted against them. Making matters worse, Michigan’s asparagus, blueberry, and cherry growers lack the proper ability to address the dubious trade practices being used by other nations.
"Holding a hearing in West Michigan would give our farmers the ability to share how these illicit trade practices negatively impact our economy at the local level, disrupt free market competition, and threaten the viability of family farming."