Numerous legislative initiatives relevant to the agriculture sector and Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) policy successfully made it through the state House and Senate during the lame-duck session that concluded this week.
“Our members work hard to foster meaningful relationships with elected officials and craft relevant policy and it continued to pay off this week,” said MFB Government Relations Manager Matt Smego. “We are thankful to have worked with our legislative partners to finalize bills important to Michigan farmers. It’s a great way to end 2018, especially after our successes earlier in the year.”
The following bills were advocated for by MFB and county Farm Bureau members. They have been approved by the Legislature and await Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.
After the New Year, look for more in-depth coverage on how the various bills benefit the state’s food and agriculture industry.
Animal Industry Act
MFB supported an 11-bill package making comprehensive updates to the Animal Industry Act. When implemented, the legislation will accomplish several items outlined directly in, or supported by, MFB policy.
Senate Bill 1211, supported by MFB, provides meaningful reforms to the state’s wetlands program that provide protection, and at the same time, allow for future agriculture industry development. In advance of the bill receiving final passage votes, more than 218 Farm Bureau members sent more than 2,300 emails of support to committee members, representatives and the governor. See significant amendments included.
Horse Racing and Internet Gaming
Several bills were finalized to allow regulated online gaming within Michigan casinos. Under the revenue distribution formula, horse racing receives 5 percent, or up to $3 million annually, for the ag equine development fund which, in part, supports race purse monies.
Additionally, MFB supported House Bill 4611, legislation allowing advanced deposit wagering (ADW). ADW allows wagering on horse racing to occur online and via cell phones – a technology that more than 20 states already allow.
Commercial Truck Traffic
MFB supported House Bill 5945, legislation excluding vehicles used in agriculture from local ordinances prohibiting commercial truck traffic.
House Bill 6330, supported by MFB, creates an Industrial Hemp Advisory Board and requires the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to establish an industrial hemp licensing program with application guidelines and fees.
Ag Processing Renaissance Zones
MFB supported Senate Bill 1130, legislation allowing the renewal of a renaissance zone for an agricultural processing facility that meets certain criteria. This is in addition to the 30 designated renaissance zones for agricultural processing facilities already allowed and includes facilities previously approved as a renewable energy facility.
Sugar Beet Moisture Level
House Bill 6122, supported by MFB, increases the allowable moisture level of soil removed from sugar beets from 35 percent to 55 percent, allowing its continued exclusion from the definition of solid waste.
The update is needed due to new technology being used that removes more dirt from the sugar beet than before but puts more moisture into the soil that is being removed. Increasing the moisture level allowance ensures better use of the removed soil rather than placing it landfills as unusable.
Water Use Advisory Council
MFB supported House Bill 6123 to reestablish the Water Use Advisory Council. The legislation charges the council with making recommendations to DEQ, MDARD, DNR and the Legislature on the implementation of the state’s water withdrawal statute.
Qualified Forest Property
Senate Bill 1034, supported by MFB, increases the state’s cap on qualified forest property from 1.2 million acres to 2.5 million acres beginning in the current fiscal year.
MFB supported House Bill 6595, legislation to impose additional rules and restrictions on petition gathering for constitutional amendments, initiatives, and referendums. Specifically, it requires:
House Bill 4205, supported by MFB, limits the state government's ability to adopt a rule that is more stringent than the federal government's regulations.
Ballast Water Discharge
MFB supported House Bill 6465 that adopts federal standards for ballast water discharge.
Grade A Milk Law
House Bills 6393-6394, supported by MFB, update the state’s Grade A Milk law to comply with national pasteurized milk ordinance laws. These amendments are required periodically for Michigan’s dairy producers to ship milk out of state.
Alternative Energy Systems
MFB supported House Bill 5143 and House Bill 5680, legislation providing personal property tax exemptions for certain alternative energy systems. The bills include requirements for commercial, industrial and residential applications.
Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Time
MFB supported Senate Bills 1171 & 1175, making amendments to the state’s minimum wage and paid sick leave laws. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Snyder as Public Acts 368 & 369. Related: How does scaling back minimum wage increases affect Michigan farmers?