By Jeremy C. Nagel
Commodity specialists and analysts from across the country are coming to Michigan next week for the National Commodity Conference in Grand Rapids. Attendees will see an aggressive agenda of informative breakout sessions, tours showcasing the region’s farming diversity, and opportunities to confer with agricultural peers, staff, and regulators.
The home team will consist of eight members of Michigan Farm Bureau’s commodity and issue advisory committees, including Jon White, Monte Bordner and Scott Maust from the livestock and poultry committee; Aaron Somers, feed grains; Paul Knoerr, dry beans and sugar beets; and Brian Acmoody representing the fruit and vegetable sector.
Service on a MFB advisory committees offers members a unique opportunity for deep dives into current issues affecting these key components of Michigan agriculture. In addition to those already named, other groups include aquaculture and commercial fishing, dairy, equine and forestry. Three issue-specific committees focus on direct marketing; labor; and natural and environmental resources.
Also attending next week’s conference will be Ithaca-based greenhouse grower Mark Daniels, representing the nursery and greenhouse committee.
“In my sector is we have tremendous trade organizations representing us at the state and national level,” Daniels said, “but the amazing thing about Michigan Farm Bureau is it can give us the weight we need in Lansing and Washington to talk about important issues—with the regulators and legislators who can really affect change when necessary.”
Advisory committees dig into current issues with input from commodity specialists, academic researchers, industry stakeholders and governmental regulators.
“Tying that all together, you just can’t get that anywhere else,” Daniels said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for members—for everyone—to get together at one table.”
The advisory component takes the form of recommendations to Farm Bureau management, the board of directors, and/or the policy development process. Policy proposals rooted in advisory committees are taken up by the state policy development body just like recommendations from county Farm Bureaus.
Because of their narrow, concentrated focus, advisory committees normally meet just a few times annually.
“It’s pretty focused time—not overwhelmingly time consuming,” Daniels said. “And you don’t have to come in all riled up about something. You can have a lot of impact through policy recommendations and then you can get back to farming.”
Branch County dairyman Brian Preston serves on the dairy advisory committee and will also be at next week’s national commodity conference.
“Advisory committees provide an important opportunity for farmers of a particular commodity to come together and address common issues,” he said. “Across the state and across our industry, we benefit from identifying and solving common issues.”
More so than many other involvement opportunities across the Farm Bureau organization, Daniels says advisory committee duty is particularly rewarding.
“The benefits are multifaceted. The Farm Bureau organization and the State of Michigan need to have industry feedback from real farmers who are living with these issues every day,” he said. “It’s a fascinating process on the inside track, getting to know the players throughout the industry—trade groups, MDARD, etc.—and from a social, networking standpoint, it’s something you can’t hardly replicate.
“Plus, there’s usually donuts.”