The Michigan Legislature wrapped up its work for the year, putting a bow on the 2017 session. The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene in early January. Several items of interest to the state’s food and agriculture industry saw progress within the past week. Highlights include:
Legislation passed by the House and Senate would expand opportunities for individuals to purchase the agricultural heritage license plate, which supports state agriculture education programs. The bill, supported by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) and sponsored by Rep. Roger Victory, awaits the Governor’s final approval.
“Under current law, fundraising plates can only be issued for personal vehicles and nonbusiness purposes,” said MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch. “House Bill 4907 removes this restriction and allows fundraising plates to be issued for any passenger motor vehicle, motor home, pickup truck or van, without regard to the vehicle’s use or purpose.”
Career and technical education
A five-bill package intended to get more skilled trades graduates into the state’s workforce passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate after the New Year.
Michigan Farm Bureau supports the legislation that would increase career and technical education promotion and accomplish the following:
- Require the Michigan Department of Education to develop a career exploration and job readiness model program, to be incorporated in all grade levels.
- Offer parents an opportunity to receive information from a proprietary school, community college or a professional trade employer through a student directory of contact information.
- Give local school boards the ability to hire licensed professionals to teach in career and technical courses in their field of expertise to address the instructor shortage.
- Allow teachers to use time spent engaging with local employers or technical centers to count toward professional teaching certificate renewal.
A bill to create the Seed Potato Act passed the House Agriculture Committee and awaits a vote by the full chamber.
According to MFB Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park, House Bill 5227 brings Michigan into compliance with the State National Harmonization Program for seed potatoes and is an industry-led effort to control and prevent plant pests and diseases.
“This proposal is supported by our organization and the Potato Growers of Michigan and would require farms more than one acre in size to utilize certified seed only,” Park said. “There’s also a provision for an advisory committee and process to allow, under certain conditions, non-certified seed to be used when it’s not available.”
Legislation passed by the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee would amend state law to transform the Michigan Grape and Wine Council into a new Michigan Craft Beverage Council.
The existing council’s makeup would shift to include representation from various industry members including retailers, restaurants, wine makers, brewers and distillers. Additionally, the group’s research and development efforts would expand beyond wine and wine products to include hops, barely, beer and spirits. Michigan Farm Bureau is neutral on Senate Bills 439-440, which await a vote on the Senate floor.