The Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Farm Bill Task Force held its first meeting to begin shaping how the organization will influence development of the 2018 Farm Bill.
The diverse nine-member group includes:
American Farm Bureau Federation’s Senior Director for Congressional Relations, Mary Kay Thatcher, delivered a comprehensive presentation covering the political landscape of the farm bill, how food assistance programs impact the production agriculture sections of the law, and what issues she expects to be most contentious or susceptible to change.
“The 2014 Farm Bill was the seventh-most lobbied piece of legislation with 370 organizations filing as a lobbyists on the farm bill,” Thatcher said. “The only bills receiving more attention were appropriations and immigration and border security.”
Additionally, she outlined how the food and agriculture industry will face an uphill battle helping legislators understand farmers’ needs; one point of debate being 2014 farm bill projected versus actual spending.
“The good news is I can go into a legislator’s office and tell them we spent $81 billion less than expected in the 2014 farm bill,” Thatcher said. “The bad news is, I’ll have $81 billion less to work with in the 2018 Farm Bill.”
Continuing to build their knowledge base, the group heard from Dr. David Schweikhardt, Michigan State University’s expert on agricultural policy, trade policy and law. He brought to the group’s attention that the majority of Michigan’s Congressional delegation is relatively inexperienced with farm bill negotiations based on length of service.
“With an unstable, unpredictable political environment it’s important to know our priorities and to be able to move fast when opportunities present themselves,” Schweikhardt said. “Protecting the best interests of agriculture in America.”
He also challenged the group to consider unconventional allies and think about how to explain the farm bill to non-farm friends, “You’ll get further appealing to someone’s self-interest than you will trying to educate them to see your view.”
Before the group adjourned they identified three priority areas of focus:
Look for more updates as the task force continues its work and identifies ways county Farm Bureaus can influence the 2018 farm bill.