GRAND RAPIDS, NOV. 28, 2018 — Three state lawmakers whose efforts helped ensure the prosperity of Michigan agriculture were honored this week with Michigan Farm Bureau's Silver Plow Award at the organization’s 99th Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids.
The Silver Plow is Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) top recognition for a member of the Michigan Legislature or U.S. Congress, signifying farmers’ appreciation for leadership and support consistent with the organization’s member-developed policy and beneficial to the state’s farm and food sector.
Silver Plows this year recognize the efforts of Dist. 38 Sen. Tom Casperson, Dist. 81 Rep. Dan Lauwers, and Dist. 59 Rep. Aaron Miller.
According to MFB Government Relations Manager Matt Smego, the trio of elected officials played a critical role in three initiatives impacting all aspects of Michigan agriculture: creating three Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) oversight boards; amendments to agriculture’s sales and use tax exemptions; and improvements to the state’s large-quantity water-withdrawal program.
“Getting cooperation among the legislature—as well as the governor’s support for these initiatives—was very impressive,” Smego said. “And to get all three of them done in just a few months really is amazing.”
Senator Tom Casperson
Serving his second term representing Michigan's 38th Senate District (Alger, Baraga, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon and Schoolcraft counties), Sen. Tom Casperson earned his Silver Plow by leading a bill package aimed at increasing transparency and accountability within the DEQ:
- Senate Bill 652, creating an environmental rules committee to review and provide recommendations for DEQ rule promulgation.
- Senate Bill 653, developing an appeals board that, upon request, would hear an appeal of a DEQ permit.
- Senate Bill 654, reestablishing an Environmental Science Advisory Board to hear scientific evidence and provide recommendation to the Governor.
“The legislation creates a better structure for a focus on cooperative solutions to maintain environmental protection without creating undue regulatory burdens,” Smego added. “Senator Casperson’s thoughtful and skillful leadership ensured the broad stakeholder group involved were supportive of the bills.”
Representative Dan Lauwers
Representing Michigan’s 81st House District (portions of St. Clair County), Rep. Dan Lauwers is recognized for sponsoring House Bill 4561, designed to protect and defend agriculture’s sales and use tax exemptions.
“We’re extremely grateful for Rep. Lauwers’ leadership while navigating through several committee hearings, amendments to the bills, and four different votes between the House and Senate,” said MFB Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park. “This was an arduous issue, but between the work of Rep. Lauwers and support from our members, it was a smooth process.”
A farmer himself, Lauwers understood the need for a common-sense solution to eliminate confusion and make certain modern agriculture equipment and technology remain exempt from a tax they were never historically charged.
“With a potential $293 million additional tax burden at stake for farm families, the passage of this legislation was paramount,” Lauwers said. “In the current farm economy, profit margins can be quite slim. And with input costs rising and fluctuating market conditions, farmers need to have the ability to reinvest with confidence in their land, buildings and equipment rather than pay additional taxes.”
Representative Aaron Miller
Rep. Aaron Miller, representing Michigan’s 59th House District (St. Joseph County and most of Cass County), earned his Silver Plow by sponsoring HB 5638, legislation making science-based improvements to the state’s large-quantity water-withdrawal program. The updated law is expected to make withdrawal registrations less expensive and time consuming for farmers by providing an alternative to the traditional site-specific review process.
“His leadership on this bill was tremendous,” said MFB board member Larry Walton. “His passion was very clear and very focused. He was working for the producers of his district, as well as those in neighboring districts.”
“He wanted to be clear and concise with those committee members and realized that it was very much about the environment that we all have to work in as producers.”
Michigan Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm organization, serving to represent, protect and enhance the business, economic, social and educational interest of our more than 42,000 members. Learn more about our programs at www.michfb.com. In 2019 MFB will turn 100 and celebrate its Bold History and Bright Future throughout the year; learn more about our centennial at mfb100.com.