Delegates from Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) were successful in their efforts to advance several Michigan policy recommendations during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) 2018 Annual Meeting in Nashville this week, including revisions to AFBF dairy and farm program policy.
Approximately 353 state delegates, including 11 MFB board members, concluded national policy debate and voting Tuesday on more than 180 policy recommendations at the AFBF’s 99th business session. Several of those recommendations originated from Michigan’s extensive grassroots policy network of county Farm Bureau annual meetings, district meetings, advisory committees, the farm bill task force, and finally the 2017 MFB annual meeting this past November, according to MFB President Carl Bednarski.
One of those Michigan recommendations, an amendment to AFBF’s policy on Inspection and Grading of Meat, Poultry and Seafood Products, dealing with injured livestock, started at the grassroots level in Kent County and was supported and approved without debate.
“That language would allow physically injured but otherwise healthy livestock to be harvested under Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) oversight,” Bednarski said. “We’re proud of the fact that this local idea that originated from farmers in Kent County Michigan is now in the policy book of the American Farm Bureau.”
One of the areas that garnered the most extensive discussion and debate focused on dairy provisions within AFBF’s National Farm Policy. According to Bednarski, delegates from across the country expressed similar frustrations in regard to outside influences impacting dairy producers – namely trade and processing capacity.
“MFB delegates were a key part of the discussion in developing an AFBF policy framework that can result in a more effective safety net for dairy producers who are struggling right now,” he said.
Delegates urged support for further development and availability of the new Dairy Revenue Protection insurance product and the ability for producers to use it in conjunction with the Dairy Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) program as an improved dairy safety net, giving dairy producers the option to select for either protection against a decline in milk price or milk margin. The new policy also calls for expansion of RMA risk management programs for dairy producers and reclassifying milk as a commodity for the proposed Dairy Revenue Program.
Additionally it clarifies that any gross margin program should include significant safety net enhancements to support dairy farmers, including adjusting the program trigger to function monthly, an increase in Tier 1 coverage from 4 million pounds to 5 million pounds for all dairy producers, an increase in the catastrophic margin level to $5 with the ability to buy up to $8, and making strategic adjustments to the feed formula.”
Farm Program & Conservation Program Eligibility
Michigan approved policy calling for additional language to provide a path to eligibility for conservation program funding for farms that previously had not been in compliance was also approved. Currently, farmers who participate in USDA programs who purchase or inherit farmland not in compliance, or who have land not in compliance with conservation requirements, currently have no clear pathway to become eligible, according to Mike Mulders, MFB board member from Bay County.
“We proposed adding language to support a pathway for this land to come into compliance, so it can then be eligible for farm programs and crop insurance,” Mulders explained. “There are many reasons land may not have been in compliance, based on past ownership practices. So we’re pleased to have the AFBF delegate body see fit to add this language.”
In other conservation policy, Michigan’s delegates also successfully advocated for changes to AFBF policy on the Conservation Reserve Program which now supports landowners being given six months’ notice by FSA before official termination of their contract, with payments being made through the termination date. Additional language calling for drains to be an eligible practice for filter strips in the Conservation Reserve Program - a topic recently called into question by the Farm Service Agency was approved by delegates.
Additional Michigan policy priorities
Delegates also had significant discussion on farm labor policy, addressing seniority pay, Worker Protection Standards, improvements to H2A and H2B programs, and a potential guest worker program like H2C, according to Bednarski.
Language from Michigan dealing with flexibility in duty time commercial truck drivers can operate was added to policy to address compliance concerns with hours of service requirements and electronic logging disclosure, according to MFB National Legislative Counsel John Kran.
According to Kran, policy was passed to prioritize US Army Corps of Engineer funds for updating locks and dams and cleaning of channels in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes water system to accommodate new, larger vessels and navigate low water levels.
Delegates also debated milk labeling and approved policy language, urging changes to the fat percentage labels on bottled milk from “2% Fat” to “98% Fat Free”, “1% Fat” to “99% Fat Free” etc.