As farmers, we’re constantly balancing our home life and work. Throw in volunteering and being an active Farm Bureau member, and you can become a crazed chicken running from home and farm to Lansing and Washington D.C. However, the value of my Farm Bureau membership solidified 10-fold earlier this year.
I'm honored to sit as Washtenaw County Vice-President for a second term. My husband Ken and I, along with our children, own Hill Top Greenhouse & Farms, just outside of Dexter. It encompasses beef cattle, chickens, goats, general farming and our greenhouse. Thirteen years ago, we established our farm in Washtenaw County and never looked back.
My heart sank in January when I learned that the Michigan Department of Treasury was reinterpreting the sales and use tax exemption for agriculture. It was already auditing greenhouses on the west side of Michigan.
I started adding up all the possible financial implications to our family’s farm and the greenhouse. I reached out to Michigan Farm Bureau and connected to the Public Policy staff that works for members in Lansing. It was an amazing experience.
By being a member, I was able to speak directly to staff and give input on how a change in House Bills 4561 and 4564, dealing with agriculture sales and use tax exemptions, would dramatically affect our farm and others in our community and state.
Through emails and conversations, it was clear this issue would not be resolved easily. Finally, word came that the Senate Agriculture Committee would take testimony.
Being asked to testify about the financial implications of the ag tax exemption revocation was a privilege.
"I am your farmer," I said as I looked into the eyes of committee members. “There's a real chance that our first-generation farm will be no more if we’re audited four years back, having to pay penalties and fines. What would future expansion look like for us or our children? Our whole plan of additional improvements on the farm and energy efficiencies for the greenhouse are now on hold," I told the Committee.
The bills were in limbo for weeks. Finally, word came there was movement and passage of clean and clear legislation for farmers across Michigan.
Needless to say, there was a big sigh of relief on our farm when the bills were signed into law on April 25, 2018. Improvements are moving forward for 2018, thankfully.
Being a Michigan Farm Bureau member definitely has its benefits. Benefits beyond the yearly dues. Involvement matters.
YOU and YOUR voice matter to farming and Michigan. MFB gives all of us the ability to be heard and seen by our state and federal legislators.
Next time you’re asked to go to Lansing or Washington D.C., consider crossing the line and go! Our legislators need to see farmers in person and hear our voices.