Delegates at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 98th State Annual Meeting Nov. 28-30 in Grand Rapids, approved more than 100 policies defining the organization’s to-do list for 2018. Adopted amendments to national policies go on for consideration at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) annual convention next January in Nashville, Tenn.Following are several issues highlighted during the finale of the policy development process.
New policy language encourages more farmer participation in township government—especially zoning boards—following an uptick in rural municipalities attempting to circumvent the state’s Right to Farm law.“There seems to be a rise in townships taking up and adopting ordinances regulating agriculture—even though the amendments to Michigan’s Right to Farm Act clearly transfers that power from local governments to the state,” said Matt Kapp, MFB Government Relations Specialist. “The Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices, administered by the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, establish the official guidelines for farmers interested in preserving their rights—especially when it comes to locating livestock facilities.“It’s a concern to Michigan’s entire farming community that townships are enacting illegal ordinances that are anti-agriculture—particularly anti-livestock,” Kapp said.
Delegates displayed unhappiness with today’s political climate and vetted the pros and cons of a proposed policy regarding Michigan’s full-time legislature. Ultimately, Farm Bureau’s member policy makers voted to oppose the concept of a part-time legislature.
Delegates also spent a considerable amount of time on the organization’s animal care policy. Ernie Birchmeier, manager of MFB’s Center for Commodity, Farm and Industry Relations, indicated that animal welfare decisions continue to be of the utmost importance and concern to Michigan farmers. “There was considerable discussion about how animals are raised in Michigan, the time they are confined, and marketing standards,” Birchmeier said. “At the end of the debate our policy remained identical to the current 2017 version.”In other animal-related issues, delegates passed the bovine tuberculosis policy with amendments that included support for state funds for increased fencing around farms and feed storage. Delegates also added language calling for “dramatic reduction of the deer herd in the four-county TB infected region in northeast Michigan.”
Significant edits were made to the organization’s state energy policy. New language encourages “the utilization of brownfield, public property, MDOT right-of-ways and other marginal lands, as well as industrial, residential and agricultural buildings, to reduce easements across farms for renewable energy projects and to protect prime farmland."The proposal was rooted in the desire to reduce pressure on productive agricultural land often eyed for such installations, including the increasing presence of space-consumptive solar farms.
Delegates also prepared language to be considered at the federal level that will continue to influence 2018 Farm Bill work. Within existing AFBF policy on whole farm revenue insurance, delegates are proposing additions to include premiums based on the amount of risk, use of an Olympic average, an increase of the current $1 million cap and making the program available to beginning farmers using the county average yield. Specific to dairy, delegates are proposing the following federal policy amendments:
“With dairy farmers nationwide challenged by low prices, components of the federal-level dairy safety net are high priorities for the largest single segment of Michigan agriculture,” said John Kran, MFB’s National Legislative Counsel. “Strengthening the existing safety net will help the industry weather low-price cycles and other market volatility.”