GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Where some people see danger in a rapidly growing world population, Michigan's agriculture leaders see a business opportunity.
Michigan feeding the world and the state government's support of that initiative was a hot topic at a food business summit at Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids Thursday.
"It's the opportunity for growth around the world that we have have to pay attention to," Mike DeBernardo of the Michigan Department of Agriculture said.
DeBernardo seems to want to make Michigan the food basket for the world.
"We hope so. We think it's a great opportunity," DeBernardo said.
DeBernardo is the state's chief food salesman and the Michigan Agriculture Department's economic development point man.
He says agriculture is the second biggest economic driver in the state, worth $91 billion annually. It takes up 10 million acres of land and employees nearly a million people.
Michigan is already exporting nearly $3 billion annually in food to places like Canada, Japan, South Korea and China. DeBernardo said the policy of state government is to sell much more to other countries.
"We have a role to play in the fact that there is a growing middle-class population. There's a population going in around some of these areas that have a need for food that cannot produce or process that food. Those countries eventually will, but today they just don't have the ability to do that and for us that's a huge opportunity to produce to partner with those countries," DeBernardo explained.
DeBernardo says agriculture will probably never reach the economic volume of the automotive industry, but he said it will be interesting to see what happens.
The Snyder administration's policy is to help the agriculture industry develop, DeBernardo said, and there is state grant money coming to help.
Michigan Department of Agriculture
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