Michigan Governor Rick Snyder had a busy year. In addition to winning his gubernatorial bid for re-election by a very slim margin with 4.07 percentage points, Snyder has been steadily chipping away at the long-cherished rights of his constituents.
Most recently, Governor Snyder has signed into law a strange piece of legislation that allows for a trial run of drug testing welfare recipients in three Michigan counties for one year. While popular opinion often favors these types of legislative actions, and Snyder apparently agrees, data gathered from other states does not. It is a widely held belief that welfare recipients are often drug users as well. Images of “welfare queens,” sucking up public funds are hard to dispel. If the reality were close to that, the point would be hard to argue.
However, in enacting this legislation, Snyder is ignoring the few states that have already attempted this. As reported by the USA Today, the savings to taxpayers has not materialized, and in some cases, the costs have risen as the number of drug users has been so small that the costs of the drug tests exceeded the “savings” of denied benefits. Additionally, a great number of the laws open the states up to costly legal challenges. Michigan has already had one drug testing law struck down, but Snyder deems it is a wise decision to attempt another.
Just a few weeks ago, on December 12, Governor Snyder quietly abolished the Michigan Food Policy Council. Snyder did this via an executive order which can be read here, and relegated all of their advisory and other duties to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). All 5 of the MDARD council members are Snyder appointees.
As reported on by the Inquisitr, the Michigan Food Policy council was a great organization despite its somewhat dowdy name. The Michigan Food Policy Council gave ordinary citizens a collective voice in the state government, and it helped to bring fresh foods to under-served Michigan communities that generally only offered very processed options using a tax incentive program.
The FPC assisted small farmers in Michigan’s Farmer’s Market Associations in being able to accept SNAP benefits, which benefited the farmer and the shopper, supported and encouraged small councils across the state to continue or begin, and many other aspects too numerous to name. In an era where factory farming, mass production, and genetic manipulation practices are coming under heavy scrutiny, small farm councils and access to sustainably grown local food is very important to people. The backlash is not pretty. One Detroit, Michigan educator, Malik Yakini, owner of D-town farm, sees Snyder’s actions as a purposeful attack on the farm to table movement.
“Governor Snyder’s elimination of the Michigan Food Policy Council seems to be a backwards move that will minimize the public voice in the creation of public policy. States and municipalities throughout the nation are creating food policy councils while the Governor of Michigan eliminates ours. In so many way, Michigan republicans have created a template of how to cripple democracy.”
The same board that Snyder has now relegated to assume the Michigan Food Policy Council’s duties, eliminated many of the protections enjoyed by backyard farmers earlier this year. Prior to the sweeping regulation changes, the MDARD denied the Michigan Small Farm Council a seat at their site selection GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices) meetings two years in a row. The decision made by the Snyder appointees effectively eliminated all the protections back yard farmers enjoyed under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act.
Now the MDARD is going after back yard beekeepers. The additional regulations being proposed are mostly “without justification” according to Wendy Banka of the Michigan Small Farm Council and coming at a time when the entire nation’s bee population is in crisis. These laws, of course, in no way influence how actual nuisance bees and wasps such as yellow jackets and hornets are handled. The MDARD also went so far as to seize the produce, meat, dairy products and honey of a mid-Michigan co-op and destroyed most of it.
Governor Snyder’s policies and appointments seem to be making a dent, but not in a good way. Freedoms enjoyed for centuries are coming under fire. Bee keepers are looking at costly, unnecessary additions in order to keep honey bees on their properties, while backyard farmers are largely disallowed from keeping a few chickens, goats or rabbits. In some cases, even gardens are becoming a point of contention. It seems quite amazing that the U.S. is just a few generations from victory gardens, where the government was actively encouraging people to keep rabbits and chickens for meat and eggs and to grow gardens to feed themselves, to the policies being enacted by Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder and his efforts to effectively remove all those things from people’s grasp.