GRAND RAPIDS – Farmers serving as voting delegates at this week’s 99th annual meeting of the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) had robust delegate discussions over the three-day event, as they sifted through 110 different policy recommendations, generated and consolidated from more than 800 county-level recommendations.
According to Kent County farmer Andrew Hagenow, who serves as chairman of the 20-member statewide MFB Policy Development Committee, the grassroots process was alive and well during this year’s delegate discussions.
“It's exactly the time-honored process that was originally intended nearly a 100 years ago when the organization was founded,” Hagenow said, referring to the high level of engaged discussion on the delegate floor. “It speaks to the credibility of our organization – any legislator that happens to pick up our policy book knows that our policy truly comes from the members.”
National dairy policy and cell-cultured protein labeling recommendations were just two of the numerous relevant national-level policy recommendations that will advance to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) policy development process for consideration.
“MFB members approved policy that cell-cultured protein should be labeled and sold as such,” Hagenow said. “That same policy also recommended that only meat products from a live animal be allowed to be labeled as meat.”
Following three straight years of unprofitable operating margins, national dairy policy was also addressed, according to Gratiot County Farm Bureau member Mark Daniels, who served on the MFB Policy Development Committee. Members approved policy calling for a national dairy summit held in conjunction with AFBF and the National Milk Producers Federation to address balancing excess production capacity with consumer demand.
“Members all recognized and agreed that we currently have an oversupply of milk in this country’s dairy industry,” Daniels said. “It's very difficult to figure out how to adjust that supply to meet the right amount of demand while still keeping all of our producers in business and profitable.”
At the state-level, MFB members approved policy calling for the formation an animal care standards board consisting of representatives from the livestock industry, Michigan State University, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
According to Hagenow the board would operate in similar fashion to Michigan’s Right to Farm Act, with scientifically-based Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices (GAAMPs) created, reviewed and revised regularly.
“It would enable Michigan’s livestock industry and veterinarians to be in charge of animal housing and animal care standards, rather than ballot initiatives or the whims of the legislature,” Hagenow said, referring to numerous animal care ballot initiatives in California.
According to Daniels, MFB members also tackled inconsistent electrical rates charged by utility companies in the state’s Upper Peninsula.
“We have members in the Upper Peninsula that pay nearly twice as much per kilowatt hour of electricity than what we have in the Lower Peninsula, which can have a big economic impact on individual farm operations,” he explained.
Newly-approved policy encourages MFB to take a leadership role in facilitating a discussion with state legislators and the Michigan Public Service Commission, to address providing equitable utility rates across both peninsulas.
MFB President Carl Bednarski stressed that although the policy development process might be complete, MFB members have a much bigger job ahead of them – sharing that newly-minted policy with a large crop of new state legislators, following the recent midterm elections.
“Farm Bureau policy discussions do not end here with the drop of the gavel,” Bednarski said. “These policies represent the ag industry’s priorities for the year. Members will convey that with their respective legislators and with Governor-elect, Gretchen Whitmer, as we begin to implement those policies.”