Stories indexed with the term ‘agriculture’

In It For The Money: Whole Hog

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

You might choose to disintermediate your meat consumption for a variety of reasons.

Maybe you’re a local organic kinda gal. Maybe you want a niche product (e.g., heritage pork, halal goat, bilingual llama) but can’t swing the upmarket prices at Whole Foods and their ilk. Maybe you want to keep the government out of your meat purchasing decisions.

Maybe you thrill to the challenge of using the whole hog, one piece at a time. Maybe you want to eat meat as ethically as possible, personally verifying that the animals are treated kindly in life and compassionately in death. [1]

Whatever your motivation, as Michiganders, you are perfectly situated to enjoy the most deliciously ethical domestically raised meat available in this modern world.

Who do you have to thank for this boon? Lazy deer-hunters, fickle farmers, conspiracy theorists, gun “nuts” – the usual folks. [Full Story]

Econ Development Tax Increase Postponed

The handling of a proposal to increase a tax for economic/agricultural development drew criticism from some Washtenaw County commissioners, ultimately leading to a postponement of the item that was discussed at the county board meeting on Sept. 19, 2012.

The millage for economic development and agriculture is authorized under the state’s Act 88, and has been levied by the board since 2009. That year, it was levied at 0.04 mills. It was raised to 0.043 in 2010 and 0.05 in 2011. Because the Michigan statute that authorizes this millage predates the state’s Headlee Amendment, the board can levy it without a voter referendum.

On Sept. 5, it had been given initial approval by commissioners on a 7-to-3 vote, with dissent from Alicia … [Full Story]

Animal Issue Dominates County Budget Talks

Washtenaw County board of commissioners meeting (Nov. 2, 2011): At a meeting that lasted nearly five hours, commissioners gave initial approval to the county’s 2012-2013 general fund budget, following a discussion dominated by the topic of funding for state-mandated animal control.

Jenny Paillon, Yousef Rabhi

Jenny Paillon, director of operations for the Humane Society of Huron Valley, reviews some HSHV financials with county commissioner Yousef Rabhi (D-District 11) during a break at Wednesday's board of commissioners meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

With supporters of the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) demonstrating outside the county administration building and speaking during public commentary at the meeting, commissioners debated at length over how to handle its contract with the non-profit. The proposed budget calls for cutting HSHV’s contract from $500,000 this year to $250,000 in 2012 and 2013.

HSHV’s current two-year contract expires at the end of 2011, and leaders of the humane society have expressed reluctance to sign a new one with such a significant cut, saying that even at the current rate the county is not paying what the services are worth. [.pdf of HSHV analysis of legal and financial costs for mandated services]

For their part, some commissioners contended that they don’t yet know the actual cost of providing mandated services, and that HSHV hasn’t provided them with the kind of financial data they need to make an informed decision.

In the budget that received initial approval, the line item that originally earmarked $250,000 in annual payments to HSHV in 2012 and 2013 was renamed to “Mandated Animal Control,” a generic reference that reflects the possibility that the county might contract with another agency for animal control services – an option they discussed explicitly.

Board chair Conan Smith also proposed an amendment to move that line item out of the county’s funding for outside agencies, where it has traditionally been listed, and add it to the budget for the sheriff’s office. The funding could then be combined with a line item of $180,000 that is already part of the sheriff’s budget – for animal control officers. The county recently has discussed the possibility of paying HSHV $250,000 plus $180,000 – a total of $430,000 – if the humane society also takes responsibility for the work now done by the animal control officers. The shift in fund categories was approved on a 8-3 vote, with dissent from Rob Turner, Rolland Sizemore Jr., and Ronnie Peterson.

After the vote, sheriff Jerry Clayton spoke to the board during public commentary, saying he hadn’t been notified that this shift in funding to his office might occur. He expressed a range of concerns about the decision.

After making two other amendments not related to animal control, the board ultimately gave initial approval to the budget on a 9-1 vote, with dissent from Sizemore, who said he still has questions about it. Felicia Brabec abstained. Appointed two weeks ago to fill Kristin Judge’s vacated seat in District 7 (Pittsfield Township), Brabec indicated she’d like more time to review the budget document. Additional amendments are expected before the board takes a final vote on the budget, likely at its Nov. 16 meeting.

The board also got a third-quarter 2011 update from the county’s finance staff, projecting a nearly $1 million shortfall for the year, which will be covered by use of the county’s fund balance.

In other business, the county voted to create a planning task force for a new pilot program in agribusiness. Called ”Seeds for Change: Growing Prosperity in Ypsilanti,” the project is intended to provide job training and placement to unemployed workers interested in agricultural employment, and to offer shared commercial kitchen space and business support to local agribusiness entrepreneurs. No funding has yet been identified for the effort. [Full Story]