County News Archive

Andrew Vermeesch, Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022. This is part of a series of articles aimed at informing Farm Bureau members about elected and appointed positions that offer opportunities for representing agriculture in government.

Michigan agriculture relies on a strong transportation system to get products to and from market. Whether by truck, rail, plane or boat, each mode of transportation plays a part keeping Michigan farmers moving forward. But out of all the vital infrastructure agriculture needs, nothing compares to the importance of our local roads. This should come as no surprise because almost all products, whether coming or going, starts or ends on a county road leading to the farm.

Locally driven is the key principle behind managing Michigan’s local road network. Our Road Commission Act of 1909 established county-level boards empowered with local control over roads while also allowing for regional collaboration.

County road commissions are responsible for ensuring safe and efficient transportation for goods and people over local roads and bridges within their jurisdiction. They’re composed of three to five members who are either appointed by the county board of commissioners or elected by voters. Road commissioners are usually paid a per-meeting stipend and serve six-year terms, staggered so not all them are up for election or appointment at the same time.

Farmers are great candidates for road commission service because of their on-farm skills and practical experience in areas such as long-term planning and cost-effective equipment maintenance.

Ogemaw County dairy farmer Klint Marshall milks cows near Lupton and knows firsthand the importance of agriculture’s involvement, being two years into his first term on the Ogemaw Road Commission.

“Agriculture is a small part of the overall population, but in our area farming is very prevalent — primarily dairy. It’s important that the industry is part of the dialogue and that agriculture is represented,” he said. “Revenue generated by farming recirculates four to six times in the community before it leaves, whether that’s through paychecks to farm employees or for parts at the local parts store. Being on the road commission allows me to bring that knowledge to other road commissioners.”

As a dairy farmer, Marshall understands the urgency of certain projects and incorporates agriculture’s unique brand of common sense to road commission decisions.

“For example, grading a road is much like doing field work,” he said. “Just like there’s a right time to do tillage work, there’s a right time to grade a road. Too dry and the grader just creates dust; too wet and the road becomes mud. Having the right moisture in the ground, just like field work, makes a big difference.”

While managing financial operations is a foremost responsibility of road commissions, equally important is maintaining strong relationships with townships and other local communities, especially when it comes to road maintenance and improvements.

“Everything starts at the local level and it’s important to have good working relationships with townships so they can provide input and help in the decision-making process,” Marshall said. “Good relationships help alleviate issues as they come up with other farmers, whether it’s mud and debris coming off farm equipment or drainage issues from a road that impacts a farmer’s field.”

Farmers need local roads. Shouldn’t they be involved in decisions about maintaining and improving local roads and bridges? Serving on your county road commission is your opportunity to do just that.

Michigan Farm Bureau wants to increase the number of farmers serving in government 20% by 2022.

Michigan Farm Bureau asks members and agricultural stakeholders to send a message to Gov. Whitmer, asking her to issue a clarification to Executive Order 2020-21, deeming the retail sale of plants as essential infrastructure. To act, simply text the phrase MIGREEN to the number 52886 or visit https://bit.ly/sayyestoplantsales.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!

Retail garden centers and greenhouses across the state are brimming with nursery stock, flowers and vegetable plants — ready for customers to purchase for their home garden and landscaping needs.

Unfortunately, unlike much of the food and agriculture sector, retail garden centers were not deemed essential to operate under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order 2020-21.

In response to grower concern, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) President Carl Bednarski on April 3 sent a formal request to Whitmer to “ask for a reconsideration of retail garden centers to be included as essential infrastructure workers.”

According to MFB’s horticulture specialist, Audrey Sebolt, the industry with estimated retail value of $580 to $700 million, and 9,000-plus employees, has much at stake.

“For many growers, if they’re not allowed to sell the plants already growing in greenhouses, it will mean a complete loss and an entire year without income for both the owners and their employees,” Sebolt said. “We’re hopeful Governor Whitmer will take the lead from Ohio Governor DeWine who on April 2 designated retail garden centers as essential infrastructure.”

Bednarski’s request to Whitmer also indicates the industry is “willing to comply with increased reasonable restrictions to provide for social distancing, such as curbside delivery,” so they can sell product.

Many studies have shown mental health benefits from being able to plant flowers, curate landscaping or grow vegetables.

“As Michigan residents deal with direct or indirect impacts of Coronavirus on their lives, many like to turn to gardening to cope with stress, no different than those who turn to puzzles, reading or music for similar benefits,” Sebolt added. “Because of Coronavirus, there has been a large increase in sales of vegetable plants to home owners occurring in southern states. and we’re expecting this to occur in Michigan too.

“Our growers simply would like to be able to get their product into the hands of those who need it.”

Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan Farm News are committed to providing its members and readers with the latest news and information on the COVID-19 pandemic. For news, updates and resources, visit https://www.michfb.com/MI/Coronavirus/. The page will be updated daily as more information becomes available.



Join us at this kickoff event to learn about the new Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program!

Kickoff Event Details:

  • Free Event
  • Tuesday, March 31
  • 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Located at AgroLiquid - 3055 M-21 St. Johns, MI 48879
  • Refreshments and lunch provided
  • In addition to information about the certification program, educational and regulatory updates will be included.
  • This event serves as an opportunity to learn about the new program. Training and certification is not completed at this event.

About the Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program:

The Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program is a voluntary training and certification designed for anyone who hauls and applies manure. Kickoff participants will learn about the details of the new certification program which has the following goals:

  • Prevent manure application problems.
  • Increase nutrient management plan implementation.
  • Demonstrate responsible manure application.
  • Increase the base level of manure management knowledge of all employees.


Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/michigan-manure-hauler-certification-program-kickoff-tickets-92944638917?fbclid=IwAR09u31kYJuU6xeHJaen21juNoTXGlTAueQa1mvFIqS_fwYwIIwFNxz1qWs

Kickoff Event Contact:

Tess Van Gorder, Michigan Farm Bureau (517) 323-6711 or [email protected]


Learn more about the new Michigan Manure Hauler Certification Program

Join us at the Hastings Public Library for Family Science Night.  We will be hosting a station on crop science.
Michigan Farm News Media

It’s official. President Trump formally signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Wednesday, marking the final step here in the U.S. on a three-way trade deal he called a “colossal victory” for farmers.

Attention now turns to Canadian lawmakers who are expected to begin the USMCA ratification process as a replacement to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, within the next few months, according to reports.

Mexico’s Senate approved the trade deal in June 2019. Once approved by Canada, the agreement would take effect in 90 days.

Under terms of the new trade deal, U.S. agricultural exports are expected to increase by $2 billion and result in an overall increase of $65 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).

According to Michigan Farm Bureau’s National Legislative Counsel John Kran, USMCA, once ratified by Canada, will be good news for Michigan agriculture, particularly the state’s troubled dairy economy plagued with below cost of production prices over the last five years.

“This agreement will resolve a number of long-standing concerns and trade disputes, including the elimination of Canada’s controversial Class-7 for dairy products that allowed surplus milk from that country being dumped into U.S. markets, far below our domestic cost of production,” Kran said. “It also includes updated provisions for advancements in technology, such as bio-technology standards, for the first-time ever.”

Figures from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development indicate $1.1 billion worth of exports already come from agriculture, with $902 million going to Canada and $174 million to Mexico.

Today’s signing increases “optimism” for all American farmers, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“We’re grateful for the advances, but we’re also realists eager to see results – especially for our dairy and wheat producers,” Duvall said in a statement. “We know it will take time for the new deals to go into effect and translate into increased sales … (but) we’re eager to get back into the full swing supplying safe, high-quality food and agricultural products around the world.”

The formal signing of USMCA comes on the heels of a string of trade successes, including the phase-one agreement with China signed last month and the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement signed last fall.

“Today is a good day for American agriculture,” said U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue.

“Throughout this process, there were many detractors who said it couldn’t be done,” Perdue continued. “But this is further proof that President Trump’s trade negotiation strategy is working. This agreement shows the rest of the world the United States is open for business.”

Perdue said USMCA is critical for America’s farmers, increasing market access to the country’s two closest neighbors. “I am excited to see the economic benefits of this agreement increase the prosperity of all Americans, especially those living in rural America,” he concluded.


President Trump formally signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)

Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) urges members to voice concern with the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to modify the nation’s Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS).

You can help by texting the phrase “MI CORN” to the number “52886,” then following the instructions provided to send a pre-written or customized message to the agency before the comment period closes on Nov. 29.

EPA’s proposal is problematic because they want to use a three-year rolling average of recommended Small Refinery Exemptions instead of the actual average, which is much higher.

Read our related story to understand how the exemptions work:
https://www.michiganfarmnews.com/epa-s-small-refinery-waiver-proposal-a-classic-bait-and-switch-

Comment period closes November 29.

Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) state-level policy development (PD) committee deliberated hundreds of policy recommendations from 62 county Farm Bureaus.

This is MFB’s 100th annual meeting, where policies will be considered by nearly 500 voting delegates to set the organization’s course for 2020.

“After 100 years, the fact that this process is still intact today, and that it creates meaningful ideas, proves how grassroots policy debate is what makes this organization so strong,” said Renee McCauley, a dairy farmer and vice-chair of the committee. “This has been a lengthy process that started months ago with the counties having conversations about policy, and each and every policy submitted by the counties to the state committee was discussed.”

Policy Discussion Schedule 

December 3: Delegate Session 1:30 – 5:00 p.m.

#238 National Dairy Program

#252 International Trade

December 4: Delegate Session 9:15 – 11:45 a.m.

#35 TB – Mycobacterium Bovis Tuberculosis

#89 Wildlife Management

#97 Highways and Funding

December 4: Delegate Session 1:45 – 3:30 p.m.

#44 State Energy Policy

#75 Farmland Protection

December 5: Delegate Session 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

#82 Nonpoint Source Pollution and Watershed Management

#86 Water Use in the Great Lakes Basin

Any listed policy not covered in the suggested time slot will be covered during the next scheduled session.

A small sampling of policies with significant amendments are summarized below. The complete slate of recommendations will be available online in early November.

Environmental Protection and Authority

Three amendments are being proposed within the organization’s Environmental Protection and Authority policy to support:

  1. Continuing work with the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy on developing a general permit specific to slaughterhouses, permitting land application of process wastewater without advance treatment.
  2. Allowing Part 117 licensed septic haulers to also haul food processing wastewater and not require Part 121 industrial waste haulers.
  3. Supporting legislative or administrative changes that would require a formal stakeholder committee be involved in all permit developments and rewrites so input is balanced. Additionally, that all National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) writing/rewrite committees should be chaired by an unbiased third party. 

Non-point Source Pollution and Watershed Management

Mark Daniels, a greenhouse grower representing District 8 on the state PD committee, indicated that delegates will review provisions on emerging contaminants. The new language states that before new regulations are developed, the financial impact and liability to the affected community must be determined.

“We have language we’re asking to be inserted which will require that modern, scientific processes are used both in the investigation and the setting of policy when it comes to contaminants such as PFAS,” Daniels said.

There are two additional proposed amendments on other topics important to agriculture: First, in the existing section that supports the establishment of a statewide septic task force, adding language to call for a “set of standards for mandatory time-of-sale inspections." Second, inclusion of language to support creation of a state-funded cover crop and filter strip cost-share program. 

Water Use in the Great Lakes Basin

Staying in natural resources and environmental topics, the committee is also asking delegates to approve language instructing MFB to establish a member task force on water use. The group would be charged with “examining and evaluating uses of Michigan’s vast freshwater resources and to make recommendations of steps to be taken to facilitate better water policy relative to agricultural, economic growth and population stability.”

Highways and Funding

In the highways policy, delegates will consider language that would further define the organization’s support for user fees by adding the examples of “gas tax, registration or other user fees,” in addition to supporting local options for raising dedicated road funds through user-based fees.

Additional language was also added to show support for research related to warranties for proper construction and longevity of road and bridge construction.

“Our members are passionate about where our tax dollars go and how they’re being used to fund roads and other improvements,” said Rob Haag, a sugar beet, bean and grain farmer representing District 6 on the state PD committee. “Making sure we have representation and we’re being heard at the state level is very important to our membership.”

Bovine Tuberculosis (TB)

“There was a lot of discussion about the lack of traction we’ve gained in the past (on TB) and how we can give that policy more teeth moving forward,” said Nate Clarke, one of three Young Farmer representatives on the committee, in reference to the proposed changes delegates will consider in the TB policy. 

The policy currently lists tactics the organization supports to “expedite the eradication of TB.” Proposed additions to the list include supporting:

  1. A bounty for deer taken in any TB-positive or bordering county.
  2. A late hunt; conducted annually in February or March.
  3. Funding the TB program from the Department of Natural Resource’s budget, as opposed to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development’s.
  4. The year-round harvest of deer by any legal hunter (without a permit) in high-risk areas and TB-positive or bordering counties.
  5. Access to disease control permits for producers with a completed Wildlife Risk Mitigation Plan to reduce deer and elk interaction with livestock feed to prevent disease risk. Additionally, allowing farmers in a TB-infected area to shoot deer at any time within a designated farm perimeter.

Delegates will also vote on including language to further underscore opposition to feeding and baiting. The proposed amendment emphasizes “Strict enforcement of the feeding and baiting ban, including penalties for shooting a deer over a bait pile, be charged and prosecuted the same as poaching throughout the state.” 

International Trade

Delegates will review and potentially move forward select national-level recommendations for consideration at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) annual meeting in January 2020. 

Among them are proposed changes to AFBF International Trade policy to protect American agriculture from scenarios like what Michigan growers experienced this past year when Turkey flooded the U.S. market with highly-subsidized dried tart cherries, or when Mexico and Peru dumped asparagus into American markets.

Language additions include supporting changes to federal Anti-dumping and Countervailing Duty laws to:

  • Change the time frame and data used to determine dumping that recognizes domestic specialty crops and regional seasonal industries' production cycles;
  • Provide a process for regional/seasonal industries to petition for countervailing and antidumping duties.

 



Overview of policy recommendations to be debated at the State Annual in December. Policy discussion schedule included.