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Michigan Governor's 'Meatout Day' Angers Farmers

By: for AP on March 24, 2010
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Some Michigan agriculture organizations have a beef with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm over her proclamation encouraging residents to not eat meat for a day.

Granholm declared Saturday March 20th "Meatout Day" in Michigan earlier this month. Her proclamation encourages residents to choose not to eat meat in observance of the day and to try different recipes rich with vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

The Michigan Farm Bureau blasted the proclamation as "unconscionable and an insensitive slap in the face" to livestock farmers and meat-eating residents. The Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a resolution Wednesday urging the Democratic governor to rescind the proclamation.

"This is like telling people not to buy Fords or Chevys that are made here in Michigan," said Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks.

Cattle, hogs, sheep, poultry and other animals accounted for more than $750 million in cash receipts in Michigan in 2008, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That's not counting milk and eggs.

Sen. Liz Brater, D-Ann Arbor, noted that many Michigan farmers also grow the very commodities Granholm encouraged Michigan residents to eat.

"Are not fruit, grains and vegetables a very important part of agriculture?" Brater asked fellow lawmakers.

The flap over "Meatout Day" revealed deeper tensions. Some agriculture groups say Granholm has not put enough emphasis on their contributions to the state's economy. They also are mad about cuts to the Michigan Department of Agriculture in Granholm's budget proposal for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

And, farm groups objected to Granholm's decision last year to issue an executive order taking away the right of the Agriculture Commission to appoint the state agriculture director and instead have the governor appoint the director. Granholm kept the same director in place.

Granholm — who is not a vegetarian — tried to soothe hurt feelings last week by issuing an additional proclamation declaring Saturday an all-inclusive Agriculture Day in Michigan. She also called the leader of the Michigan Farm Bureau to say she meant no harm to the livestock industry with her earlier proclamation.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd noted that no matter what day Saturday was deemed to be, many Michigan residents ate "a lot of chicken wings and burgers" as they watched NCAA basketball tournament games and attended other gatherings.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs weighed in as well, saying that it was declaring every day "Michigan Meat Eaters Day."

Governors in at least two other states, Connecticut and New Hampshire, also have designated Saturday as Meatout Day, according to a sponsoring group called the Farm Animal Rights Movement. Several states have had similar proclamations since 1985.
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