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.