Farmers markets offer the best of Michigan’s bounty

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Michigan is one of the great agriculture states. We produce more than 300 different crops, including apples, tart cherries, blueberries, dry beans, asparagus, cucumbers, and many, many more. This makes Michigan second only to California in agricultural diversity.

In addition, the food and agriculture industry contributes more than $100 billion annually to the state’s economy. With 923,000 people employed in this industry or a directly related one, this sector of the economy accounts for about 22 percent of the state’s employment.

Producing these hundreds of commodities are Michigan’s thousands of farms, orchards and vineyards. And some of the best places to find your favorite produce is at one of hundreds of farmers markets across the state.

Farmers market season is in full swing, which means accessing the best of this fresh produce is now as simple as a short drive to your local market.

Oakland County is home to the Oakland County Farmers Market in Waterford, which is open year round on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In addition, there are at least 15 other markets being held this year in Oakland County with varied hours and offerings. Visit OaklandCountyMoms.com and search for “Oakland County Farmers Markets 2018” for more information.

This year, as in years past, there also will be three farmers markets at the Capitol, held on July 26, Aug. 23 and Sept. 20. Each year, nearly 100 vendors from all over the state travel to Lansing to attend these events. They bring a wide array of products, including all manner of produce, cheeses, baked goods, fish, soap, honey, cut flowers and more.

In addition to offering quality goods for sale, these markets showcase our state’s food and agricultural products to educate my colleagues and me on the importance of supporting farmers, ag-based businesses, and farmers markets.

Whether here in Oakland County, in northern Michigan or the U.P., at the Capitol in Lansing, or in numerous other locations across the state, there’s sure to be something for everyone in the family at a Michigan farmers market. Best of all, while you enjoy healthy, flavorful food and other products, you help Michigan growers and the local economy at the same time.

So this year, be sure to head to a farmers market near you!

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Save the Date: Kowall announces Plymouth event honoring Vietnam era veterans

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Wednesday announced that he is sponsoring a formal Vietnam veteran lapel pinning ceremony on Wednesday, July 25 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Kowall, R-White Lake, is hosting the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families” in Plymouth to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. He encourages all interested residents and veterans to join him in paying tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.

Kowall said the event, made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 25 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6695, 1426 S. Mill St., Plymouth.

The ceremony will be held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled car show at the post. Kowall said no RSVP is required and to contact Vietnam veteran and VFW Post 6695 Commander Richard Adis at 734-737-9077 with any questions.

The senator will provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to U.S. veterans who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 – May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The symbolism attached to the lapel pin is significant, Kowall said.

“The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period,” he said. “All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.”

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners, such as Kowall, hold events for the veterans and their families.

“Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life,” Kowall said. “This ceremony is a way to recognize veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation and the Michigan Legislature.”

Kowall has held numerous events, in both Lansing and throughout the state. The ceremonies are held in a variety of locations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars/American Legion posts, veteran memorial parks and banquet halls. Kowall often partners with the senator of the district where the event is being held.

“It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

‘Roadmaps’ assist in Great Lakes fishing

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Tuesday reminded area residents of valuable resources to guide them when they go fishing.

“Many Michigan anglers have favorite fishing spots on one of the state’s beautiful inland lakes or rivers, but would also love to fish the Great Lakes,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “Thankfully, there are online guides that can help them in their efforts.”

Kowall said that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has developed four “roadmaps” that serve as starting points to provide new or experienced anglers with information on many Great Lakes fishing sites and times of the year when great opportunities exist.

The roadmaps focus on fishing four of Michigan’s Great Lakes — Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior — as well as the St. Clair system.

“When you want to fish one of the big lakes but you aren’t sure when or where to fish, the roadmaps are invaluable,” Kowall said. “They will tell you the best times to head out for your favorite fish, and where to go.”

Each fishing roadmap was developed with the expertise of the DNR Fisheries Division staff.

Visit www.michigan.gov/fishing and click on the link to Roadmaps to Fishing Michigan’s Great Lakes to discover new fishing opportunities this summer.

Oakland Press: Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week reminds us to be diligent

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Here in Michigan, we are blessed with a superabundance of lakes, rivers and streams, and now that summer is here, many of us have already been out boating, fishing and swimming in them.

As we enjoy our time on the water, it is important to remember that Michigan still faces serious threats to our waters that could devastate our natural resources and economy.

Aquatic invasive species present a significant risk to the ecosystem and overall health of the Great Lakes. As more and more invasions have been tracked in the region, it has become apparent that unless sweeping measures are taken, the health of the basin, its habitat and the fishery will continue to decline.

The first week of July has been designated Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week. This week is a time to remind everyone of the critical role they can play in the fight against aquatic invasive species.

Residents are encouraged to increase their understanding and awareness of aquatic invasive species and their ecological and economic impacts, and to take preventative measures to help stop the spread and introduction of these species in Michigan.

An invasive species is one that is not native to an area and whose introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

A few years ago, I was the lead sponsor of a package of bills, now law, that addressed continued threats posed by the illegal introduction, possession, use, transfer or sale of prohibited aquatic invasive species.

That law has increased the fines for the illegal possession of aquatic invasive species; allows for the seizure of all equipment used in the introduction, possession and sale of these species; allows for the suspension of related commercial licenses; and suspends the responsible party’s right to fish and hunt in Michigan.

More than 180 nonindigenous aquatic invasive species have been introduced to the Great Lakes, many of which are displacing native species, disrupting habitats, and degrading natural, managed and agricultural landscapes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has reported that the invasive species bighead and silver carp are spreading to lakes, rivers and streams in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region. They are not yet established here but are well-suited to the climate of the region.

Biologists expect that if these carp establish themselves, they will significantly disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes, diminish fishing opportunities and reduce the desire for recreational boating activities in areas inhabited by these fish.

We must remember that we are the first line of defense in preventing the accidental spreading of invasive species. If we’re boating or fishing, we can take a few proactive steps to avoid accidentally spreading invasive species, such as washing boats and trailers before leaving access areas and drying boats and equipment for at least five days before launching them into a different body of water.

We all treasure the beauty of Pure Michigan. May we do all we can to keep it beautiful.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, visit www.michigan.gov/Invasives.

This column appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall encourages a safe and happy Fourth of July

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Monday wished area residents a happy and safe Fourth of July.

“Independence Day is one of the great American holidays,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “On this day we celebrate our freedom and we remember what it cost our forebears to secure it for us.”

Kowall encouraged residents to participate in Fourth of July activities, such as their local parades and picnics. He also reminded them of other traditions.

“One popular tradition is for communities and volunteers to place American flags on the graves of veterans as a tribute to our fallen heroes and in remembrance of the true cost of freedom,” Kowall said. “I encourage everyone to join with their community and celebrate the liberty we hold dear.”

Kowall also stressed the importance of safety during Fourth of July celebrations.

“Whether you are celebrating at a picnic or parade, on a river or a lake, or enjoying a big fireworks display or your own fireworks, safety should be your first priority,” Kowall said. “If you are out in the summer sun and heat, make sure to apply sunscreen — especially on children — and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.”

The lawmaker said if you are using your own fireworks, you should obey all local laws regarding their use.

“Always use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles,” he said. “Keep a bucket of water nearby, and do not experiment with homemade fireworks.”

These tips and others can be found at FireworksSafety.org.

More than 200 veterans attend Vietnam era pinning celebration

Originally published in the News Herald

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 9283 in Southgate hosted a pinning ceremony for Vietnam-era veterans and their families Aug. 13. More than 200 families showed up for the service.

The event, was officially called “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families,” was sponsored by state Senate Majority leader Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).

“It was humbling to have the distinct honor to  recognize and thank the Vietnam veterans and their families on behalf of our nation,” Kowall said.  “The post commander, auxiliary members, and the veterans present were very gracious and welcoming.  I enjoyed seeing Mayor Joseph Kuspa pay tribute to the Vietnam veterans in his community”.

Kowal has been hosting similar events across the state in recent months.

“It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.

VFW Post 9283 Commander Bill Ainsworth was also happy to be honoring so many veterans .

“As I looked across the crowd and saw 200 veterans waiting to get recognition after 50 years, it made me feel proud to be an American.   The veterans who attended were not only there for themselves, but for the 58,000 who never came home and the thousands buried across the nation who didn’t live to see the day”.

The U.S. involvement in Vietnam stretched from November 1955 to April 1975.

Kowell said the event will be geared toward giving veterans from that era “long-overdue” recognition for their service to the country.

The commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense and launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Vietnam vets honored in ceremony marking 50th anniversary of war

From Fox2 News

There are more than seven million Americans Vietnam veterans still among us today. They made sacrifices and fought in an unpopular war but are just now getting the recognition they deserve.

During a special ceremony on Monday, soldiers who bravely served the United States go the ‘thank you’ they should have gotten years ago. It was part of a pinning ceremony in South Lyon held by state Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake).

“It’s nice to be recognized. Little late but nice anyway,” Vietnam veteran Charles Harmon said.

On Monday Kowall held a pinning ceremony in South Lyon to honor Vietnam vets during the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

“They were so poorly treated when they came home. I know it’s late but at least they get acknowledged for what they did, service and above all thank you and welcome home,” Kowall said.

Chuck Harmon did three tours of duty in the Navy during the Vietnam War. The conflict put the communist regime of North Vietnam against South Vietnam and its main ally the United States.

For many in the U.S., the war was unpopular and some vets say when they returned home they did not feel appreciated.

“It was a very bad coming home,” Harmon said. “People who I went to high school with, went to college and didn’t understand what we went through. So that was pretty hard.”

Harmon wasn’t at the ceremony alone. His family was there as well, wearing t-shirt designed specially for the ceremony.

“All the trials and tribulations that he’s gone through since he’s been home we try to support him any way we can,” his wife Niki Workman, said.

The ceremony for the veterans comes as President Barak Obama drops an arms embargo on Vietnam

“I understand what the President is trying to do as far as increasing relations but I’m leery about opening arms treaty with Vietnam considering what’s going on in China and China Sea,” Kowall said.

Harmon says the physical and emotional pain of Vietnam still lingers and that’s why this thank you pin means so much, so many years later

“(I) hope people recognize that we are still here, still having problems, and it’s nice to be recognized finally,” Harmon said.

Commerce Walmart donates to Open Door backpack program

From Spinal Column Online

Thanks to a generous donation of backpacks and various school supplies, approximately 75 children will receive the supplies they need for a positive school year this summer.

Lee Crawford, store manager for Commerce Township Walmart store #2618, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall presented dozens of backpacks containing various school supplies to the Open Door Outreach Center on Friday, April 22.

“It really brings such joy to the heart to be able to know that you are part of helping the community, and that’s why I love Walmart because they give me that opportunity,” Crawford said.

The backpacks will be used to support Open Door’s back to school program, which last year distributed backpacks stuffed with age-appropriate school supplies to 50 of their client’s children. In addition to supplies, the backpacks include vouchers to shop for clothes at the center’s resale clothing store and a local retailer. The program kicks off the second week of August.

“Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Lee Crawford from Walmart Store #2618 are community builders,” said Karen Myers, director of Open Door. “These backpacks help create a successful school experience building a strong future for our children. This is how you build our community.”

Spinal Column: Michigan’s crumbling roads are unacceptable; we must act now

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

If you were to crisscross the great state of Michigan, visiting every town and village, travelling along every city street and back road and every state and interstate highway, you would end up driving on more than 120,000 miles of paved roadway—enough road to span the distance from Lansing to California and back more than 25 times.

We all know that this great network of roads can take us anywhere we want to go in the state. But we also know that our roads and bridges are in terrible shape—and that sometimes the trip just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

I have yet to meet a Michigan driver who is satisfied with the condition of the roads. If you are like the average Michigander, you now pay $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to your vehicle due to damage caused by these roads. Perhaps you pay more.

But that’s not all. In addition to higher repair bills, our crumbling infrastructure contributes to injuries and lost economic growth.

Simply put, the economic, financial, and physical cost of our decaying roads is unacceptable.

This rapidly deteriorating infrastructure in Michigan is due to a serious lack of investment. Recent bills have brought this complex yet urgent issue of infrastructure funding to the forefront in the state Legislature.

Part of the complexity involved in finding a funding solution is that today’s vehicles have much better fuel economy than vehicles of the past. This results in lower revenues collected at the pump from the fixed fuel tax. At the same time, the costs of materials and labor continue to rise.

This leaves us with two options: invest now to fix the problems that have built up over the last decade, or continue to allow inaction by kicking the can down the road to future legislators.

The second option would result in an increasingly dilapidated infrastructure with repair costs that would continue to rise until the price tag is out of reach for those who would be stuck with the bill—our children and grandchildren.

So the answer is to invest now. I recently supported a common-sense plan that adopts the invest-now approach in a responsible manner. The plan eliminates the state’s current 19-cents-per-gallon gas tax and 15-cents-per-gallon diesel tax in favor of a percentage wholesale tax on fuel, which is a more viable long-term funding approach.

Under the proposal sent to the House of Representatives for consideration, the wholesale tax would begin at 9 percent on April 1, 2015, and gradually increase to 15.5 percent on Jan. 1, 2018. This plan also takes important steps to increase fines for overweight trucks.

The plan the Senate passed will stop the deterioration of Michigan’s roads and bridges and put us back on the path to rebuilding and improving them. A modern, well-maintained infrastructure is essential to Michigan’s economy and quality of life. Further neglect will only cost taxpayers more in the long run and deter economic investment across the state. We cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our roads.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Spinal Column: On Veterans Day, let us thank America’s patriots

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Next Tuesday we will celebrate one of the great American holidays: Veterans Day. On Nov. 11 every year, we honor our fellow Americans who have served in our armed forces.

Veterans Day is about more than parades—although certainly a military parade is fitting recognition for our veterans.

Veterans Day is a time when we reflect on the many blessings we enjoy as Americans. One of our greatest blessings is freedom: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of the press, and freedom to pursue happiness as we see fit.

Today our freedoms are under attack, from without and within. Some don’t like our way of life, and they want to destroy it. Others don’t seem to understand that our freedoms are precious gifts that need to be protected. The saying is true: “Freedom isn’t free.”

Our veterans understand that truth better than anyone. They make sacrifices every day, whether they are in combat situations or not. Some, of course, do see combat, and some make the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom.

That is why I consider our veterans America’s greatest heroes. They are prepared to put their lives on the line for us every day. They work to strengthen and preserve peace not only here, but across the world. The rights we enjoy under our Constitution are safe today because brave men and women stand ready to fight for them.

We must not take this freedom for granted. Veterans Day helps ensure that we won’t.

If you know any veterans, take some time on Veterans Day to remember them. Attend a Veterans Day parade. Thank the veterans you know for their service. Invite them to dinner or take them to lunch.

If you don’t know any veterans, you can contact the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 517-481-8083. They will gladly put you in touch with veterans who may need assistance.

As long as we have patriots who are willing to risk all they have to serve their country, we will be able to live up to the words of President Abraham Lincoln: “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”

We owe our freedoms to these patriots, to the men and women in uniform who put their nation before themselves. May we be ever grateful for all that our veterans have done for us.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.