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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.

County News


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.

State News

Michigan Farm Bureau
More than 400 delegates concluded deliberations Dec. 5 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, establishing policy direction for priority state and national issues.

MFB District 7 Director Michael DeRuiter, an Oceana County fruit grower and member to the state policy development committee, said the delegate sessions were textbook examples of the organization’s grassroots policy development process.

"Policy development is the center point of this organization, so setting policy is vitally important — it’s the lifeblood of our organization," DeRuiter said. “This is where the delegates get to say their piece and set the course for Michigan Farm Bureau."

Debate on bovine tuberculosis (TB) and wildlife management both saw robust debate.

"The resolution proposed by the state PD committee took a pretty aggressive approach to enforce the baiting and feeding ban,” DeRuiter said. “After considerable discussion, delegates decided to add language that supports baiting to encourage reducing the deer population, while retaining support for the feeding ban."

Delegates also approved policy asking the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to consider a new memorandum of understanding with USDA on the issue in the TB Zone that allows for baiting, which encourages aggressive deer herd reduction.

Additional language requiring the eradication of white-tailed deer in any 10-mile radius, high-risk zone established after TB-positive deer or cattle are found, along with strengthening fines and penalties for illegal wildlife feeding, similar to those for poaching, was also approved.

Delegates approved international trade policy affecting Michigan specialty crop growers, calling for changes to the process of seeking relief in cases anti-dumping and countervailing duties challenges, while also calling for additional border and custom inspectors.

National policy recommendations will be forwarded for consideration at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in January. 

“We’re going to advocate for Michigan specialty crops and try to include that language, which will make it easier for specialty crops that were adversely affected by trade to get quicker relief,” DeRuiter said.

Industrial hemp, authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, also saw considerable discussion.

“Growers are in the learning curve with this commodity, and we're all trying to figure out how to make sure growers can be profitable growing industrial hemp while complying with the regulatory aspects,” DeRuiter said.

Delegates approved state policy supporting an adjustment to the existing 0.3% THC threshold to 1.0%, to provide more harvesting flexibility. The policy now also supports alternative uses and/or disposal methods for the destruction of an industrial hemp crop that exceeds regulatory THC levels.

Delegates also approved a national recommendation calling for USDA to develop a crop insurance policy specifically for industrial hemp production.

According to DeRuiter, while there was a healthy debate on many issues, with differing views, the end result is policy that best meets the needs of production agriculture.

“It's very encouraging when you can have tough conversations with each other, but there's always a mutual respect,” DeRuiter said. “At the end of the day, our members iron out their differences so that we can move forward as one to advocate on behalf of Michigan Farm Bureau members to get the best ultimate outcomes found for all these issues.”

More than 400 delegates concluded deliberations Dec. 5 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, establishing policy direction for priority state and national issues.
Michigan Farm Bureau


Involvement opportunities abound within the comfy confines of your own county Farm Bureau, and this is a good time of year to weigh your options among the organization’s traditional program areas. Counties are encouraged to have their standard committee appointments for 2020 finalized by late January in these program areas:

  • County Nominating
  • Candidate Evaluation
  • Membership Committee
  • Policy Development
  • Promotion & Education
  • Policy Implementation Team
  • Young Farmer Committee

With 2020 being an election year (have you heard?), it’s particularly important that county Farm Bureaus appoint strong candidate evaluation committees for vetting local office-seekers and better informing MFB’s AgriPac Committee for state- and national-level endorsements.

In Barry County, Rick Lawrence has been involved in candidate evaluation for 15 years. 

“I get a more personal connection with candidates, and a better idea as to what their level of involvement with agriculture is,” Lawrence said. “That connection with a winning candidate benefits all of agriculture by being able to better communicate at their level.”

Leroy Schafer has been a candidate evaluation fixture in Clinton County for the past four election cycles. He sees the program as “a great opportunity to get to know them better and have a say in who Farm Bureau endorses to help elect pro-ag candidates.

“It gives me inside information I can use to help inform others about candidates and their positions. Also it’s just a great opportunity to meet them on a personal level,” Schafer said. “When the candidates know you personally, you become the one they call when they seek knowledge on how to vote on agricultural issues.”

Savvy leaders will note Local History Teams are missing from the program menu, as their centennial-year mandate and supporting grant program have come to a close with the end of 2019. Even so, county Farm Bureaus interested in maintaining their Local History Teams are welcome to do so; history happens every day and many county Farm Bureaus are planning their own individual centennial celebrations in the years to come.

County Farm Bureaus are strongly encouraged to welcome newcomers onto standing committees. New perspectives, directions and opinions will only strengthen your local organization — benefits that seep up through the grassroots to the regional, state and national levels. Aiming to turn over at least a quarter of committee members annually, and carefully surveying your membership roster — especially new members — is a smart approach for finding prospective new volunteers.

Via Farm Gate and direct communications, members and county Farm Bureau leaders will receive more notices and reminders over the coming weeks. Contact your county Farm Bureau office or MFB regional representative for more information about involvement opportunities.

With committee appointment season upon us, it’s a great time to look for new avenues of involvement in your county Farm Bureau!

Upbound on the St. Clair River, the American Spirit passes under the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.
The new year brings a fresh venue for MFB’s Voice of Agriculture Conference, and with it a fresh new landscape of conference tours. Attendees can choose from two different excursions on Feb. 5, day one of the two-day conference hosted by the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron.

Lambs, Libations and Landscaping

One tour agenda includes sites in western St. Clair and northern Macomb counties, beginning with Lauwers Sheep Farm, where more than 600 ewes live indoors. Shepherd Cameron Lauwers will explain how he staggers his lambing schedule to provide a consistent supply of animals year-round.

Just down the road, attendees will “spring forward” at Theisen’s Greenhouse. This third-generation wholesale operation raises annuals, bedding plants and potted plants year-round for retailers across metro Detroit. The early-February time frame will showcase the earliest bloomers bound for spring flower sales.

This tour wraps up with a holistic look at the agritourism program at Blake’s Orchard. From school tours and family u-pick to hard cider processing and tasting, participants will hear how this farm provides non-farm families with a fun and informative experience. Following a tour of the orchard and cider brewery, dinner and cider tastings will take place in Blake’s event barn.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

One of Michigan’s biggest trading partners is right across the river: Canada. Exports to our neighboring Canucks totaled $902 million in 2018 alone, and they’re a strong import partner to boot.

This tour starts with a look at how agricultural imports from Canada are safely transported into the United States at the Port of Port Huron. U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff will explain their role ensuring biosecurity through inspections at the Blue Water Bridge and those crossing the international border by train, boat or plane.

After a short presentation, attendees will tour the inspection facilities on the Blue Water Bridge deck, then head to the USDA livestock inspection facility a short drive away.

Next participants will visit Michigan’s first lighthouse at Fort Gratiot, where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River. Port Huron Museum docents will lead a guided tour and share the facility’s history. Weather permitting, participants may climb the 82-foot tower.

From there this group will split in two, each half headed to separate dinner locations in opposite directions. One bus heads north to the Cadillac House, an historic inn and tavern just a block from Lake Huron in Lexington. The other bus heads south to Marine City Fish Company on the St. Clair River, specializing in locally caught fish in addition to some terrestrial options.

NOTE: Participants on this tour are subject to a background check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to enter their facilities; names, addresses and birth dates (from MFB’s membership database) will be provided to the agency in advance. Registering for this tour equates to consent to the background check. No substitutions or latecomers will be allowed after the Jan. 6 cancellation deadline.

Details, details…
Both tours will depart from the Blue Water Convention Center promptly at 1 p.m.

Participants staying at the Holiday Inn Express may park their vehicles at the hotel and take MFB’s shuttle to the convention center prior to departure. Shuttles will transport participants back to the hotel following the tour or evening social at the convention center.

No children under 18 are permitted to participate in the tours and all participants must ride the buses.

The full conference agenda and tour information is available online.

Contact your county Farm Bureau to register, Dec. 9-20.

 

Coming Events

DateEvents
February2020
Tuesday
25
2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity to learn from expert speakers on policy issues impacting agriculture, help legislative and regulatory leaders understand Farm Bureau policy, and share ideas and talk about local issues with fellow members.