Public scrutiny of agriculture and increased regulation continues to challenge farmers to improve farm management and protect the environment. We urge all members to voluntarily implement pollution prevention practices.
We support the Michigan Right to Farm Act as the primary vehicle to address environmental issues on farms. We encourage all farms to follow the Act and the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs).
Public Acts 1 and 2, signed by the Governor in March 2011, solidified the future of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). We commend the Legislature and Governor for enacting legislation protecting farms that have completed the MAEAP program. The legislation offers MAEAP-verified farms protection from civil fines, a presumption of meeting obligations for watershed pollutant loading determinations, and recognition that discharges from farm fields caused by rainfall are nonpoint source pollution. Farmers who are MAEAP-verified should be considered in compliance with EPA regulations. We urge all farm operations and landowners managing forests, wetlands and habitat to enroll in the MAEAP program and complete as many recommendations as possible to help ensure the quality of our air, water and soil is preserved. The statutory protection for MAEAP-verified farms in watersheds with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) should apply to all applicable systems that address on-farm risks of introducing the pollutants listed in that watershed’s TMDL. Verification in all systems applicable to the farm should not be required in order to receive statutory protection.
Michigan Farm Bureau should continue to pursue greater incentives for MAEAP participation, such as additional protections from frivolous complaints. We support a review of the MAEAP program, seeking new and/or alternative ways of meeting requirement compliance without compromising the basis of MAEAP verification. We encourage the MAEAP program to make information available about Michigan’s Water Pollution Control Tax Exemption Form which exempts pollution control structures from property tax assessments.
With MAEAP in law, Michigan has set a goal that by the end of 2020 the number of MAEAP verifications will increase to 6,000. As of September 2019, MAEAP reached 5,382 total on-farm verifications. We support changes that were made to strengthen MAEAP and its funding through PA 118 of 2015. Program funds come from Michigan’s general fund and the Freshwater Protection Fund. We support the changes made to the Freshwater Protection Fund which require all users of industrial fertilizer (e.g., farmers, homeowners, golf courses) pay a fee into the fund.
MFB members should lead the conversation on the definition of sustainable agriculture. We must put programs such as MAEAP and the GAAMPs front and center, highlighting how farmers today are producing safe and sustainable food, fuel and fiber.
We support legislation and marketing efforts that would communicate to the general public that MAEAP verified farms are held to the highest standard of environmental stewardship. We urge the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to develop an outstanding and recognizable “Pure Michigan”-style labeling program (such as “Pure Michigan-Verified Farm”) that adds value to products of MAEAP verified farms and allows the MAEAP logo to be used at point of sale.
The Farm Bill provides opportunities for farmers to address conservation programs on farms. We encourage the continued refining of conservation program delivery to ensure that the process is transparent, consistent and simple to participating farmers. We appreciate newly available technical and financial assistance to address on-farm above ground fuel tanks and liquid fertilizer storage. We encourage the development of nutrient management plans for all farms.
To protect the environment and enhance production agriculture, we challenge state departments and federal agencies to work together to produce more user-friendly programs that provide clear direction and consistent regulatory authority on farms. Oversight of farms should be focused on solving problems and not simply on penalizing producers.
Farmers who violate state environmental law or fail to conform to the Right to Farm Act are under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (MDEGLE). While the vast majority of farms are putting forth a considerable effort and are environmentally safe, we recognize the potential for environmental problems.
MDEGLE is delegated by the federal government to implement the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
In addition to providing pollution prevention programs for all farms, MDARD should have an increased role in providing regulatory certainty to Michigan agriculture.
The agricultural community realizes the need to protect the environment; however, when regulations limit agricultural viability, we believe it is time to take a more aggressive approach to protect our industry. Michigan producers and MFB should aggressively work to counter propaganda that depicts production agriculture in Michigan as abusers of the environment. MFB will work with MAEAP partners to develop educational and promotional materials for farm neighbors and the general public regarding the benefits of MAEAP.
We encourage all producers to use MAEAP verification as the base for projecting a positive farm image to the public.
The harassment of farmers who are adhering to the State's pollution prevention program for agriculture shall not be tolerated. We support requiring the MDEGLE to notify local law enforcement and authorities before any actions are taken against farms. Individuals who lodge complaints with the MDEGLE against farms must be required to provide their name for public record and pay for the complaint investigation if more than three unverified complaints are made against a farm within as many years.