common / Progress

AG BUSINESS EVOLVING

Diversity brings additional investment
BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 • jhogan@mihomepaper.com


According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, in 2017 there were 1,317 farms in Lapeer County — most of which are less than 200 acres. The predominant row crops are corn, soybeans and wheat. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, in 2017 there were 1,317 farms in Lapeer County — most of which are less than 200 acres. The predominant row crops are corn, soybeans and wheat. LAPEER COUNTY — Jason Hamilton, 26, of Attica Township wants to farm his grandfather’s property in northern Lapeer County as well as a 325-acre parcel in St. Clair County.

“He’s getting old and wants someone to carry on the tradition, and I hope I will be able to do it,” said Hamilton. “But I’ve got some new ideas. The organic market seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I also want to do black beans and other non-traditional crops.”

Hamilton looks to become part of the rich agricultural heritage common to hundreds of households in Lapeer County that continue to make farming and ag-business the No. 1 overall contributor to local economy. While it remains a dominant player, agricultural-related properties have noted decline over the last decade.


Local ag-business producers are hopeful to continue to diversify the crops and livestock raised and produced in Lapeer County. Local ag-business producers are hopeful to continue to diversify the crops and livestock raised and produced in Lapeer County. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), in 2017 there were 1,317 farms in Lapeer County; in 2012 there were 1,133 — a 14-percent decline. In 2016 (latest figures available) the number of active farms had declined to about 1,100.

In 2017, the average size of a farm was 134 acres; that has grown to 157 acres today according to USDA statistics.

Countywide, in 2016, the market value of products sold was $121 million — a 64-percent increase since 2007. So while the number of farms may be down, the value of their crops and production has increased.

“I think there’s still money to be made in farming, but you have to be smart about what you’re doing. The world has changed, and farmers need to adopt to what people are asking for,” said Hamilton, who remains encouraged by the overall income of today’s farmer.

The last four years have been a roller coaster for corn and soybean prices, leaving some producers to exit those markets in search of other crops.

In 2017, the average market value of products sold in Lapeer County was $52,427. Today that average figure is closer to $143,000 per farm.

USDA data for Lapeer County shows that in 2016 there were 53,400 acres in production of soybeans, followed by 43,128 for corn. Another 26,147 in acres was in forage-land used for hay and haylage, grass silage and greencrop. Approximately 9,300 acres were used for wheat for grain and another 8,967 acres were in production for winter wheat for grain.

The USDA information indicated that in 2016 livestock inventory was also a leading contributor to overall market value. Cattle and calves inventory were 14,991, making Lapeer County the 25th largest producer. Sheep and lamb numbers for the year were 1,882, which ranked Lapeer County as the 11th largest producer.

Patricia Lucas, executive director of the Lapeer Development Corporation, continues to work with her economic development peers along the I-69 corridor and Thumb region to bring additional investment in ag-business to the area.

Officials from the counties of Lapeer, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Tuscola, Genesee and Huron are excited about the collaborative efforts of the I-69 corridor authority to market and promote the region to investors who are looking to locate food processing plants and other ag-businesses.

Lucas recently told The County Press, “Ag-business is one of our greatest priorities. We want to do more to help those businesses that are already here, but also to attract new facilities to the area that would take advantage of the diverse agricultural heritage we have here.”

The regional partners have completed an I-69 Agribusiness Development Plan thanks to more than $1 million that has been secured in funding by partners within the seven county collaborative team.

With partners like MichiganWorks!, the Michigan Agribusiness Association and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation officials are working to provide local resources to expand and help the agricultural interests in this region.

The target markets for Lapeer County and the other six counties are the beverage, commercial bakery, milling, dairy processing and animal food processing industries.

“We have the land for ag-business development, and with access to railroads and the ease to move products thanks to I-69 and highways like M-53 and M-24 Lapeer County is ideally located for companies to locate and be able to serve many large nearby urban markets,” said Lucas.

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