Celebrating the start of Food and Agriculture Month, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) staff recently spent some quality time with the 11 new members of the state’s House Agriculture Committee.
During an hour-long presentation the group covered a broad spectrum of topics ranging from Farm Bureau’s history and grass-roots policy process, to the organization’s legislative priorities.
With the exception of Rep. Dan Lauwers, the legislators are new to their House Agriculture Committee role, including chairman Tom Barrett and Reps. Julie Alexander, Gary Howell, Thomas Albert, Julie Calley, Ben Frederick, Brian Elder, John Kivela, Phil Phelps, Terry Sabo and Tim Sneller.
“Each legislator represent districts ranging from urban to rural and everything in between,” said MFB government relations manager Matt Smego. “This underscores the importance of why we are here to provide them a crash course on what’s important to our diverse membership that operate farm businesses of all sizes and produce more than 300 different commodities.”
Staff reviewed policy priorities for the year—all of which are backed by member-developed policy:
Smego responded to questions from new committee members questioning regarding what actions farmers are taking to protect the environment.
“We emphasized our organization’s commitment to the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program’s and it’s proactive, voluntary approach to minimizing potential pollution risks,” Smego said. “And we helped them understand the foundation of the Right to Farm Act and the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices and the checks and balances that are in place to ensure we’re protecting the resources our farmers rely on.”
MFB Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park shared the importance of agriculture literacy, by providing each committee member a copy of the award-winning children’s book, Sleep Tight Farm.
“It’s our hope the legislators will read the book to school-aged children in their home districts to help them make connections between the food they eat and the farmers who raise it,” Park said. “And it just so happens to be National Reading Month too!”
Rep. Roger Victory, chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee also received a copy of the book.
“I like using these books because it facilitates talking about STEM opportunities with students of any age,” Victory said. “It’s not just about covering core elements of curriculum but also a way to reach out to students interested in an agricultural career.”
Park also highlighted the organization’s newly-launched FARM Science Lab, a 40-foot mobile classroom equipped with the latest teaching technologies and STEM-based lessons to increase agricultural awareness.
Note: Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle is the 2017 American Farm Bureau Foundation Book of the Year. The story follows a family’s daily routine as they prepare for winter on their diverse specialty crop farm. Reviewed by teachers and agriculturalists, book of the year recipients must portray an accurate depiction of modern agriculture while telling an engaging story easily partnered with grade-appropriate lessons. Sleep Tight Farm, along with other accurate agriculture books are available by emailing [email protected].