Michigan has a diversified economic base and the relationships between one industry and the others can get complex. Perhaps the most commonly reiterated myth about the state economy is that agriculture is the state’s second-largest industry.

That myth was recently repeated by Michigan Radio, which did a series that looked at the people providing migrant labor.

While agriculture is important for the people who depend on it for their livelihoods, it's a relatively small part of the state economy. The state gross domestic product generated directly by farms, fishing and forestry accounts for just 1 percent of the state's total production.

The "second largest" claim comes from a report by Michigan State University professors that counts the direct, indirect, and ancillary relationship between agriculture industries. This expansive definition means that even waiters are considered agricultural employees since they work with food.

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But because of this expansive definition, it is impossible to compare these findings to other industries.

All industries are connected and some are more connected than others and it's difficult to imagine Michigan without farming. This does not mean, however, that its contributions to the state's economic environment are the second largest.


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Ted Nelson is a retired Michigan State Police officer who trained police departments throughout the state on civil asset forfeiture. He believes the practice has been misused and needs to change.

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