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Department of Agriculture adds rural development to mission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011

Contact: Geralyn Lasher
517-335-6397
lasherg@michigan.gov

LANSING, MI - Governor Rick Snyder has signed an executive order officially adding rural development to the Department of Agriculture's mission.

The executive order - his second since taking office on Jan. 1 - follows through on his pledge to make sure all of Michigan moves forward without leaving some behind. "This should be seen as more than just a symbolic name change," Snyder said. "This should be seen as a clear signal that my administration intends to work with the agriculture industry to help it grow in order to bring more and better jobs to our rural areas, which are suffering with some of the highest unemployment rates in the state."

As director of the newly-renamed Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Keith Creagh has been charged by the governor with integrating resources across government in order to make infrastructure improvements and expand educational opportunities that will make producers of food and other agricultural products anchors in rural communities, providing sustainable, long-term jobs. We already have a lot of the necessary tools at our disposal, it's just a matter of making sure they are used wisely," Creagh said.

To that end, Creagh has already had discussions with Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle about making smart investments in infrastructure to enhance economic growth in rural areas. Creagh also said it is important to expand educational opportunities.

"Agriculture today is a high tech industry that relies on trained professionals with knowledge of the newest methods from biology and chemistry to packing and shipping. Expanding educational opportunities will give Michigan's agricultural producers a competitive edge and ensure jobs are available for recent graduates who want to stay in their home communities," Creagh said.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will focus on expanding agriculture's role in Michigan's economy by making sure regulations are based on sound science and expanding programs such as the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, which aims to help farmers run environmentally-sound operations.

It will also work to improve customer service by providing technical assistance to food processors and farmers that need help solving permit and regulation issues.

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