Midwest Energy Cooperative’s CEO, Bob Hance, was invited by U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas to testify before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Frankenmuth last Saturday, May 6.  Mr. Roberts is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman and hails from Kansas.

The title of the hearing was “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan.”  Both MECA and NRECA worked very closely with U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Staff as well as personal staff for Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Committee’s top-ranking Democratic member to help secure a spot for Michigan’s electric cooperatives at the field hearing.

Mr. Hance testified on rural development and the critical role played by the Rural Utilities Service through programs such as REDLEG, REAP and the RUS Smart Grid Loan program–the program being used by Midwest to finance its current smart grid/broadband project.  A copy of Mr. Hance’s written testimony can be found here.

Hance was joined by several witnesses from throughout Michigan on a wide variety of items/programs that are included in the current Farm Bill, which is set expire in 2018.

During the Q&A session, Chairman Roberts asked each of the participants to cite the one thing they felt could most improve the area in which they operate in rural America. In response to that question, Mr. Hance indicated freeing up the money already collected in the FCC’s Connect America Fund would go a long way in spurring additional broadband deployment in rural America.

A complete listing of those who testified on Saturday can be found below:

Witness List

Dr. Ronald Hendrick, Dean, Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, East Lansing, MI 

Panel 1

Mrs. Janna Fritz, JDF Farms, LLC, Bad Axe, MI, Corn, Dry Bean, Soybean, and Wheat Farmer, and Board Member, Michigan Corn Growers

Mr. Chris Alpers, RedPath Orchards and Alpers Farms, Lake Leelanau, MI, Apple and Cherry Grower, U.S. Apple Association

Mr. Rick Gerstenberger, Gerstenberger Farms Inc., Snover, MI, Sugarbeet, Alfalfa, Corn, Dry Bean, Soybean, and Wheat Farmer, and Chairman of the Board, Michigan Sugar Company

Mr. Darrin Siemen, Prime Land Farm, Harbor Beach, MI, Dairy, Beef Cattle, Corn, Sugarbeet and Wheat Farmer, and Member, Michigan Milk Producers Association

Mr. Andy Snider, Snider Farms, Hart, MI, Hog and Organic Turkey Producer, and Corn, Rye and Soybean Farmer

Mr. David Williams, W Farms, LLC, Elise, MI, Soybean, Corn and Wheat Farmer, and President, Michigan Soybean Association

Mr. Adam Ingrao, Bee Wise Farms, Lansing, MI, Beekeeper and Founder, Michigan Farmer Veteran Coalition

Mrs. Pam Bouma Miller, Hopyards of Kent, Greenville, MI, Hop and Floriculture Grower


Panel 2

Dr. Oran Hesterman, President & CEO, Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, MI

Faith Maguire Watson, Montcalm County SNAP Recipient, XXX, MI

Mr. Jim Nugent, Fruit Grower and Chairman, Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, Suttons Bay, MI

Mr. Kyle Rorah, Great Lakes & Atlantic Region Policy Specialist, Ducks Unlimited,      Ann Arbor, MI

Mrs. Jerry Ann Hebron, Urban Farmer and Executive Director, Northend Christian CDC, Detroit, MI

Mr. Collin Thompson, Manager, Michigan State University, USDA Organic Certified North Farm, Chatham, MI

Mrs. Kristen Matson, Inventory & Planning Specialist, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division, Shingleton, MI

Mr. Bob Hance, President & CEO, Midwest Energy Cooperative, Cassopolis, MI