Michigan creates Office of Rural Development

After more than a decade following the addition of Rural Development to the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s official title, a new office with an expanded focus will be opening within the agency.

Director Gary McDowell, with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, tells Brownfield the pandemic demonstrated the need to address growing issues within rural communities.

“Studies show over and over again that the rural part of the state, for a lot of different reasons, has lower medium incomes, education levels are lower, and also the opportunities for our young people, so that’s what we’re really going to focus in on,” he explains.

McDowell says rural development in the department has focused on increasing food processing and economic development in the past and the office will support broadband, housing, workforce development, and rural infrastructure needs.

“We’re going to continue to focus on agriculture of course and do everything we can do to help our farmers grow and be more prosperous which is really going to help the rural part of the state,” he says.  “We’re going to expand to everything and anything that’s rural.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order also outlines a need to promote sustainability, environmental preservation, and green energy development.  Established with federal pandemic dollars, McDowell says efforts are underway to permanently codify it into law.

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