Farm Bureau policy issues progressing in House, Senate | Michigan Farm News

Farm Bureau policy issues progressing in House, Senate

Category: Politics

by Nicole Sevrey, Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Capitol Building and Moon

Dozens of bills relevant to the agriculture industry and Farm Bureau policy are quickly progressing through the Michigan House and Senate this week. The Legislature may continue its lame-duck session through Dec. 20.

Any bills not making it completely through the process before adjournment will become null and void as the new administration and 100th session of the Legislature begins after the New Year.

The following bills are being advocated for or monitored by Michigan Farm Bureau:

Animal Industry Act

Legislation making comprehensive updates to the state’s Animal Industry Act passed the House and awaits committee referral in the Senate. MFB supports the initiative and worked with the bill sponsors, industry stakeholders and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) on the proposal.

If implemented, the bills would accomplish numerous items outlined directly in, or generally supported by, MFB policy, including:

  • Codifying a definition for animal welfare.
  • Granting the state veterinarian authority to stop animal movement for up to 72 hours in the event of a major animal disease outbreak; after 72 hours permission would be needed from the impacted animal industries.
  • Updating MDARD’s ability to seize or destroy animals based on new biosecurity practices.
  • Requiring the state veterinarian serve as the authority for animal welfare oversight on livestock-related issues.
  • Requiring the state veterinarian develop and enforce laws and rules that pertain to the health and welfare of animals.
  • Adding required information when exporting animals from Michigan and exclude the Department of Natural Resources from importation requirements of potentially diseased species.
  • Basing indemnification upon 100 percent of the fair market value on the appraisal date and marketability for the purpose for which the livestock was intended.
  • Allowing the MDARD director to require biosecurity and wildlife risk mitigation measures for future indemnification.

Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Time

Senate Bills 1171 and 1175, legislation amending the state’s minimum wage and paid sick leave law, awaits Governor Snyder’s final approval. MFB supports both bills.

The state’s minimum wage will increase to $12.05 by 2030. There will be no Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases once it reaches $12.05. Had the Legislature not acted, the ballot initiative passed in November would have raised it to $12.00 by 2022 with subsequent CPI increases. Tipped wage will increase to 38 percent of the minimum wage.

The state’s paid sick leave law will exclude piece-rate pay in calculation of paid sick time and exempt seasonal employees (employed 25 weeks or less). It also removed requirements that employers track earned and paid sick time in less than hourly increments, adjusted the rate at which paid sick leave is accrued from 1 hour for every 30 worked to 1 hour for every 35, and decreased total number of mandated paid sick hours from 72 to 40 annually.

Wetlands Reforms

Senate Bill 1211 makes improvements to the state’s wetlands laws and is supported by MFB policy. The legislation passed the Senate 23-14 and was referred to the House Competitiveness Committee for consideration. Significant amendments include:

  • Modify notification requirements for violations.
  • Modify the definition of “inland lake” to be greater than 5 acres or a Water of the United States.
  • Modify the definition of “stream” to be limited to evidence of continuous flow and meets the definition of a Water of the U.S.
  • Modify the definition of “contiguous to” to include a continuous surface water connection to regulated water bodies.
  • Define “hydric soil” based on saturation, flooding or ponding conditions during the growing season long enough to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part.
  • Modify the definition of “wetland” to include Waters of the United States and any wetlands that are contiguous to the Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair, an inland lake or stream or greater than 5 acres in size.
  • Require the DEQ to consider costs, existing technology and logistics when evaluating alternatives for farm and forest road construction.
  • Awards legal fees to the prevailing party, other than the state, in a civil action.

Commercial Truck Traffic

House Bill 5945 excludes vehicles used in agriculture from local ordinances prohibiting commercial truck traffic. MFB supports the bill that passed the House 106-3 and awaits committee referral in the Senate.

Water Use Advisory Council

House Bill 6123 reestablishes the Water Use Advisory Council and is supported by MFB. The bill passed the House unanimously and was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

The council's charge would be to make recommendations to the DEQ, MDARD, DNR and the legislature on the implementation of the state’s water withdrawal statute. It would also study and make recommendations as needed or requested by the legislature regarding the development and refinement of the water withdrawal assessment process.

Tree Removal

Senate Bills 1188-1194 is intended to prevent local governments from adopting, maintaining or enforcing regulations that restrict or require mitigation for the trimming or removal of any vegetation other than a heritage tree located on private property. MFB supports the concept of the bills. The legislation passed the Senate 23-15 and awaits consideration by the House Local Government Committee.

Industrial Hemp

House Bill 6330 creates an Industrial Hemp Advisory Board and require the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to establish an industrial hemp licensing program with application guidelines and fees. Farm Bureau policy supports growing industrial hemp pending federal approval of hemp production. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.

Sugar Beet Moisture Level

House Bill 6122 increases the allowable moisture level of soil removed from sugar beets from 35 percent to 55 percent, allowing its continued exclusion from the definition of solid waste. The update is needed due to new technology being used that removes more dirt from the sugar beet than before but puts more moisture into the soil that is being removed. Increasing the moisture level allowance ensures better use of the removed soil rather than placing it landfills as unusable.

MFB supports the bill. It passed the House unanimously and has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Grade A Milk Law

House Bills 6393-6394 update the state’s Grade A Milk law to comply with national pasteurized milk ordinance laws. These amendments are required periodically for Michigan’s dairy producers to ship milk out of state. Farm Bureau supports the bills that passed the House unanimously and await committee referral in the Senate.

Rulemaking Limitations

House Bill 4205 limits the state government's ability to adopt a rule that is more stringent than the federal government's regulations.

MFB supports the bill that passed the Senate 24-13 and awaits a concurrence vote in the House prior to being enrolled and sent to Governor Snyder for approval.

Ballast Water Discharge

House Bill 6465 adopts federal standards for ballast water discharge. MFB supports the legislation as the organization’s policy states, "Michigan should not establish ballast water discharge standards that are more restrictive than neighboring Great Lakes States or Canadian Provinces. Michigan’s standards should reflect the federal standards which are enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard."

The bill passed the House 80-28 and awaits committee referral in the Senate.