Twenty three farmers representing Michigan and Indiana state Farm Bureaus are set to depart for an 11-day study tour of Germany and Belgium Aug. 31 through Sept. 11, showcasing the innovation and distinctive policy attributes of north-central Europe.
An already-apparent focal point of the trip is the EU's Common Agriculture Policy (comparable to our nation's farm bill) and the controversial phase-out of the industry's milk quotas over the past seven years; the change in anticipation of increased demand from China and developing countries. With the quotas officially expired as of April, and increased demand yet to be seen, milk surpluses and plummeting milk prices have ignited farmer-led protests at the EU's headquarters in Brussels.
The Michigan and Indiana delegation will arrive at the EU headquarters in Brussels the same day a group of agriculture officials will convene to discuss the crisis and a potential price intervention to counter the estimated 19 percent decrease in milk prices from the previous year.
"Michigan dairy farmers can empathize with EU dairy farmers and the need for increased processing capacity," said Stephanie Schafer, MFB director at-large and study tour participant. "It will be interesting to hear German and Belgian dairy farmers' take on what actions are necessary to recover prices and find production balance."
Along a packed agenda, participants will meet with farmers, government officials and agribusiness leaders to discuss additional issues affecting both the U.S. and EU including trade, biotechnology, renewable energy, and environmental issues.
While the U.S. and Germany have an almost identical percentage of land in agricultural use, the two countries are drastically different in terms of number of farms, farm size, employment, exports and top commodities.
You can follow the trip via MFB's social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. Read participant bios, see the tour itinerary and other information available on the Michigan Farm Bureau website.
Sponsoring the study tour is the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, Michigan Farm Bureau and Indiana Farm Bureau.