Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) State Policy Development Committee met in Lansing Oct. 23 and 24, reviewing hundreds of policy recommendations from 65 county Farm Bureaus. It was the committee’s final meeting ahead of the 99th Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, where policies will be considered by the nearly 500 voting delegates, setting the organization’s course for 2019.
A few policies receiving attention will be:
New language for delegate consideration calls for a livestock animal health and welfare board to provide guidance on matters affecting the industry.
“The concept was generated by several of the MFB advisory committees and also submitted by several county Farm Bureaus, that a board should be put in place to oversee housing and animal care standards in the state,” said Ernie Birchmeier, MFB livestock specialist.
“Our members’ thought process is that those actually caring for the animals, along with the veterinary and animal science community, are better equipped to determine the best possible standards to meet the animals’ needs, rather than outside special-interest groups who have ulterior motives. The process will allow for an annual review, providing the ability to meet the most current trends, standards and concepts for animal care, production and management.”
National Dairy Policy
Proposed language calls for a collaborative effort between Farm Bureau and the milk industry to address some of the issues affecting the decline of both milk prices and producers.
“The dairy industry has endured several years of economic challenges,” said Birchmeier. “When posed with the question of what should be done, many were unsure. Then came the notion that those most impacted by the problem usually come up with the solution. So, it was suggested to pull leaders together from across the country to talk about the situation – oversupply, economic downturn for the industry, international trade challenges – we’ve got too much milk and not enough processing in some instances, and consumption seems to be a problem.”
Environmental Protection & Authority
Proposed policy amendments emphasize that livestock farms should continue to have the ability to buy, sell and move animal nutrients for land application.
“Responsible land application helps ensure farm fields stay within nutrient recommendations and some activist groups oppose it because they mistakenly believe there is no accountability for manure that is transferred, or manifested, from livestock farms to other farms,” said Laura Campbell, MFB’s Ag Ecology Department manager. “To the contrary, because permitted livestock farmers are already required to keep transfer records. Additionally, this practice is necessary to ensure manure is applied to enough acres of farmland to keep nutrient application rates within agronomic and environmentally protective university and state recommendations.”
Within the same policy, resolutions from several counties and advisory committees were added to the proposed policy, asking for more promotion and marketing of the MAEAP program to the non-farming public as the standard for environmentally sustainable farming.
“These changes would better acknowledge the work farmers put into MAEAP verification, and to add value to the process,” said Campbell. “Additionally, MAEAP verification can become a way for the public to understand and identify farms in Michigan as proactively protecting water quality and soil health.
Water Use in the Great Lakes Basin
“The proposed resolutions in this policy acknowledge the legislative victory farmers achieved by amending the state’s water use law to allow for data submission by hydrologists and a streamlined analysis of stream impacts as an alternative to DEQ’s review of proposed withdrawals,” Campbell explained.
Farmers in several regions around the state also supported language regarding education and training for this new alternative.
Within the same policy, proposed language seeks to help farmers involved in disputes over water use, primarily from residential well owners.
“Though there is a dispute resolution process administered by MDARD, the process needs improvement and the resolutions proposed in this policy offer solutions, such as certification of well drillers to verify complaints through onsite inspection, the assumption of innocence on the part of the large capacity well owner until responsibility can be verified, and a statute of limitations on complaint issues,” said Campbell.
MFB Vice President Andy Hagenow of Rockford chairs the state PD committee and is pleased with the work of the members of the committee.
“We’ve had a great committee this year, collaborating and challenging each other on a number of things,” said Hagenow. “There have been a lot of new issues. That's the great thing about being a grassroots organization. It's not always what you expect it would be but there's some new ideas. There's not one big overarching issue this year but there's a lot of tweaks to current policy that will get looked at.”
The 2018 delegate session will start with recommended amendments to American Farm Bureau (AFBF) policies, then state policies, and finishing with Farm Bureau policies.
The following list of policies received significant input from county Farm Bureaus. To help plan for discussion on these issues, the policies are scheduled at the identified delegate session time and will be presented in the order listed here:
Tuesday Afternoon (1:15 – 5 p.m.)
238 National Dairy Policy
340 Food Quality & Safety
*followed by national recommendations to AFBF policies, then state policies if time permits.
Wednesday Afternoon (1:45 – 3 p.m.)
03 Animal Care
04 Animal Health
Thursday Morning Delegate Session
9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Consideration of Proposed MFB Bylaws #6-8
76 Environmental Protection & Authority
84 Nonpoint Source Pollution & Watershed Management
88 Water Use in the Great Lakes Basin
Any listed policy not covered in the suggested time slot will be covered during the next scheduled session.
You can access 2018 policies of the Michigan Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation online.