Three county Farm Bureau members recently spent time in our nation’s capital, communicating the organization’s must-haves for the 2023 Farm Bill. Now Michigan Farm Bureau asks you to deliver the same messages, locally.
Comprised of MFB Board At-large Director Doug Darling (Monroe), Peter Maxwell (Gladwin) and Isaiah Wunsch (Northwest Michigan), the trio made use of every moment in the less than 36 hours available to them in Washington, D.C. Their meetings included time with House and Senate Agriculture Committee majority and minority staff teams, American Farm Bureau Federation issue experts, and several members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation including Reps. Jack Bergman, Lisa McClain, John Moolenaar, Elissa Slotkin, and Tim Walberg.
As the state’s representatives to the AFBF Advocacy Fly-In, the group heard exclusive remarks from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-Pennsylvania) and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Arkansas). House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott (D-Georgia) sent a video message.
An eye-opener for many, the group learned there are 260 Congressional members (just shy of 50%) that have never voted on a farm bill — underscoring the importance of farmers telling their story.
“You’re going to the Hill is absolutely critical because people really don’t know what we are talking about,” Stabenow said emphatically. “We’re talking about, first of all, national security because food security is national security.
“We're talking about jobs.
“We're talking about the largest investment to protect our land and water.
“We’re talking about a safety net for the toughest job in the world.”
To bring the legislative newcomers up to speed on farm bill basics and why nutrition and agriculture programs matter, Stabenow urged farmers to, “tell your story and talk about your day.”
“Talk about the things that you worry about…and the costs coming at you. Give people a sense of what it is when you are juggling to create the safest, most abundant, most affordable food supply in the world.”
Maxwell, a Gladwin County sugarbeet grower applauded the ag committee chairs and ranking members saying, it was refreshing to see bipartisanship.
“We hear about all the negativity and D.C. and to see them have personal relationships and tell stories about one another's doing is really rewarding,” Maxwell said.
“They seem want the best for their constituents and the nation.”
Crop insurance, commodity prices: The top priorities
The need to have continued conversations on improving and expanding crop insurance and updating commodity reference prices was evident as Stabenow discussed funding availability — or lack thereof.
“I'm very concerned, really hoping we can find ways to even strengthen what we are doing there (for crop insurance) because there's been so much ad-hoc assistance that we've had to do, that if there’s ways we can strengthen crop insurance, we need to do that,” Stabenow said. “All of us have asked our budget committees for additional resources, and unfortunately it went in the opposite direction with the (government default) agreement.
“I'm glad we avoided default but there were dollars in there that I had hoped we were going to be able to use to do some strengthening of our farm programs that are not available to us now.”
Darling, who’s advocated on seven farm bills since 1985, urged county Farm Bureau members to continue the conversation locally to lobby for appropriate funding levels.
It’s your turn: Make the ask. Tell your story.
“What we need from our Farm Bureau members and fellow farmers, is to contact their congressional offices and talk about what are the challenges on our farm,” Darling said. “Talk about what inflation has done to the cost of insurance, the cost of fertilizer, the cost of fuel, the cost of other inputs and the challenges we've had.
“Convey to them how important it is to have a viable safety net for all farm sectors.”
Congress is fast approaching their summer recesses scheduled for June 24 - July 10, July 21 - July 24, and July 29 - September 11. These in-district work periods are valuable opportunities for county Farm Bureaus to spend time with U.S. House and Senate members.
During this time MFB is encouraging members to continue the conversation on the organization’s 2023 Farm Bill priorities that include:
Maintaining a bipartisan farm bill which includes nutrition programs and farm programs together.
Increasing baseline funding commitments to farm programs as they have not kept up with inflation.
Prioritizing funding for federal crop insurance and commodity programs.
Maintaining funding for voluntary, working lands conservation programs.
Ensuring adequate USDA staffing capacity and technical assistance.
Supporting trade promotion programs.
Ensuring funding for agricultural research and education.
Another message easily threaded into conversations with Congressional members and their staff is the importance of having reliable farm bill programs that new and beginning farmers can also lean on, as they’re growing their families and businesses and may not have as much financial security as more established farmers.
Wunsch, a cherry producer expanding his own orchard’s footprint, spoke to this, saying, “I think it's important for young farmers to engage with advocacy here in Washington, D.C. and Lansing and even in your own local communities because what moves the needle for us on important policy issues is telling our story.
“I've noticed over the course of the last 10 years of advocacy is that the stories of beginning farmers are some of the most compelling to legislators, who might have three or four generations of distance away from any farm connections.”
Need help preparing for a conversation? Reach out to John Kran, MFB’s national legislative counsel at [email protected] or (517) 679-5336.