By Nicole Sevrey
Dozens of bills relevant to the agriculture industry and Farm Bureau policy are progressing in the House and Senate as the Michigan Legislature continues its lame-duck session.
Any bills not making it completely through the process before adjournment will become null and void as the new administration and 100th session of the Legislature begins after the New Year.
Following is a sampling of bills being advocated for and monitored by Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) that moved through progress or were introduced last week:
Animal Industry Act
Legislation making comprehensive updates to the Animal Industry Act passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate. MFB supports the 11-bill package that, if implemented, would accomplish several items outlined directly in, or supported by, MFB policy.
MFB supports the newly-introduced House Bill 6601 that would create a new equine fund and commission for promotion, education and research benefitting the state’s equine industry. Funds will be generated by a $3 assessment collected from equine veterinarians for each Coggins test administered and a $5 assessment collected on each ton of formulated equine feed from the manufacturer. The bill awaits consideration by the House Agriculture Committee.
Ag Processing Renaissance Zones
Legislation passed by the House Agriculture Committee would allow 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. MFB supports Senate Bill 1130, which awaits a vote by the full House.
Commercial Truck Traffic
MFB supports House Bill 5945, legislation to exclude vehicles used in agriculture from local ordinances prohibiting commercial truck traffic. The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.
Sugar Beet Moisture Level
House Bill 6122 would increase 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. MFB supports the bill that passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.
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
Legislation to reestablish the Water Use Advisory Council passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate. MFB supports House Bill 6123 that would charge the council with making recommendations to DEQ, MDARD, DNR and the Legislature on the implementation of the state’s water withdrawal statute.
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?
Minimum wage will increase to $12.05 by 2030, with no Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases once it reaches $12.05. The amended paid sick leave law will exclude piece-rate pay in calculation of paid sick time and exempt seasonal employees (employed 25 weeks or less). The bill also removed requirements that employers track earned and paid sick time in less than hourly increments, adjusted the rate at which paid sick leave is accrued from 1 hour for every 30 worked to 1 hour for every 35, and decreased total number of mandated paid sick hours from 72 to 40 annually.
Qualified Forest Property
Senate Bill 1034 would increase 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 supports the concept of the legislation that passed the House Agriculture Committee and awaits a vote by the full House.
Timber Equipment on Roadways
Legislation creating a unified standard for timber vehicles and equipment passed the Senate and awaits consideration by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Supported in concept by MFB, Senate Bill 396 would exempt timber vehicles and special equipment from frost law restrictions on unpaved roads if the individual agrees to a bond or provide cash credit of not more than $5,000 per mile. The bill would also allow operation of pneumatic-tired or special equipment used in silvicultural operations without a permit, for up to 20 miles on a public highway.
Drain Code Updates
Legislation making updates to the Michigan Drain Code passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate Local Government Committee. House Bill 6151 would create new web-based notification standards and require landowners be notified of the specific dollar amount to be assessed.
MFB supports House Bill 6595, legislation to impose additional rules and restrictions on petition gathering for constitutional amendments, initiatives, and referendums. Specifically, it requires:
The bill passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate Election and Government Reform committee.
House Bill 4205 limits the state government's ability to adopt a rule that is more stringent than the federal government's regulations. MFB supports the bill that awaits enrollment in the House prior to being sent to Gov. Snyder for approval.
Ballast Water Discharge
House Bill 6465 adopts federal standards for ballast water discharge. MFB supports the bill that passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.
Grade A Milk Law
House Bills 6393-6394 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. MFB supports the bills that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.