This is probably one of the most difficult columns I have written so far, as I join fellow farmers across the state and throughout the country, trying our hardest to plant a crop or harvest feed to no avail. This spring, the pain and struggle is encountered by many, but as farmers we truly feel the stress, frustration, and excruciating desperation.
We’re familiar with isolated regional challenges every year, but we have never seen the magnitude of the multi-state planting challenges this year. That frustration and uncertainty isn’t just here in Michigan. Farmers across the Midwest are looking for answers as well.
I often have the opportunity to talk with my state Farm Bureaus counterparts and the conditions have them in a crisis they have never experienced before. People in Illinois and Indiana have never had to use prevent plant coverage and asked me what it is and how it works. They’ve always gotten a crop in the ground.
As of mid-July, the planting decisions are done, one way or another. Hopefully some clarity has been provided in the last few weeks as far as your options moving forward. We have been working with many officials in state and federal government and agencies, including USDA, RMA, and NRCS to share the urgency and impact on so many farmers and related support segments of production agriculture.
As a testament to the value and effectiveness of Farm Bureau members, I’ve never been prouder of this organization with the fastest and largest responses we’ve ever seen to a series of related action requests.
USDA Emergency Provisions: 631 MFB members made contact with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a matter of days seeking revisions to allow planting, harvest and grazing of forage crops/cover crops on prevent plant acreage and CRP ground.
Low Interest Loan Program: 447 members sent nearly 1,000 messages to state representatives and senators in support of a $15 million interest-rate reduction legislative package, translating to more than $300 million in loans to farmers.
Your voice was heard — loud and clear. In a short amount of time:
Following MFB’s request and response from members, and with support from U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, USDA, RMA, and NRCS worked over a weekend to find a solution to modify and clarify prevent plant provisions that allowed cover crops, including corn, to be harvested as emergency forage supplies for livestock producers.
Gov. Whitmer took quick action, sending a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting a disaster designation for the entire state and flexibility with federal crop insurance and disaster programs. The swiftness of her action and the nearly unanimous support of the entire Michigan Congressional delegation did not go unnoticed.
The Michigan House and Senate quickly approved the low-interest ag-loan program which Gov. Whitmer approved in rapid fashion.
Michigan’s NRCS was the first in the country to announce cost-share funding for farmers planting cover-crops on prevent plant acres.
MDARD and MSU created support and a hotline for mental health for those struggling to get through these tough times in ag.
Those things have certainly helped but we all know it’s a long way to the finish line. Someone greater than us knows what’s in between. Whatever happens, I guarantee you that Michigan Farm Bureau will continue working as hard as ever to help our farmers in any way possible.
Even though the planting and harvesting struggles this spring has been front and center in most of our minds and in most of what we have been trying to do for you as an organization, there have been many other issues that continue to evolve. Whether it be housing for H-2A labor or reviewing the new livestock permitting, we’re still very actively engaged on your behalf.
At the national level, the American Farm Bureau Federation continues to work on trade. At the time of this writing, I’m preparing to attend AFBF board meetings and Council of Presidents next. The AFBF board has been actively communicating with the administration on the importance of getting USMCA passed.
Here again, MFB Members have been responsive — 1,500 messages were sent to President Donald Trump and members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation, stressing the tremendous economic impact that agreement has on Michigan agriculture. If you see your legislators, as they attend in-district meetings and events, I’d ask you to continue sharing how important passage of USMCA is to you.
Despite the challenges we have faced this spring, we have so much to be thankful for. Just look around at your family and friends — we’re all still blessed. Mother Nature threw us a curve ball this year that tested our resolve. But farmers are resilient, by nature, and we’ll get through it together.
Stay positive and keep the faith.