Appointed by President Carl Bednarski, the six farmer members serving on the Michigan Farm Bureau Rural Communities Task Force had a hefty charge: address and provide recommendations to the MFB Policy Development Committee on issues that impact rural community dynamics including land use decisions, agricultural representation on local boards and commissions, and food insecurity.
Led by MFB District 10 Director Leona Daniels the task force also includes Chris Creguer (Tuscola), Tim Kruithoff (Kent), Pete Kleiman (Menominee), Katelyn Packard (Washtenaw) and Isaiah Wunsch (NW Michigan).
“I’m so proud of this task force — they’re a small but mighty group — and they brought great diversity to the table with a wide range of both farm and personal leadership experience,” Daniels said. “We reviewed hundreds of pages of background resources, heard from nearly a dozen experts, and in less than 24 hours crafted 16 recommendations on how Farm Bureau can best influence and engage on these issues.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how the state-level policy development committee chooses to reflect our recommendations in the form of proposed amendment language that will be deliberated by voting delegates at state annual meeting.”
The task force heard from a heavy-hitting lineup of experts, including Eric Lupher with the Citizen Research Council of Michigan.
Lupher’s data — a sobering compilation of Michigan economic, education and social trends — resonated with the task force.
Washtenaw’s Katelyn Packard said she was surprised to hear how slow Michigan is growing population, ranking 49th in the nation.
“So we are very, very slow on growing population and just some of the things that are causing that, and how everything is really interconnected: K-12 schooling, health outcomes, the economy in general, and how that affects everybody in the state.”
She went on to share a takeaway many of the task force members had in common.
“We've really found that there's all different types of rural communities and what a rural community looks like to me in southeast Michigan is much different than a rural community in the northern Lower Peninsula or even in the upper peninsula,” Packard said. “They’re totally different demographics, how far they are from an urban center, and what's going on around them.”
Other presenters included:
Neil Sheridan, Michigan Townships Association – The Role and Function of Township Government
Ryan Coffey, MSU Extension – Michigan Agriculture and Land Use Decisions
Dr. Kate Bauer and Dr. Jennifer Garner, University of Michigan and Anna Almanza, Food Bank Council of Michigan – Childhood Hunger
Follow Michigan Farm Bureau’s member publications for updates on the task force’s recommendations and results from the Oct. 3-4 MFB Policy Development Committee meeting in Lansing.
Voting delegates will have the opportunity to consider recommendations in the form of proposed policy amendments at the State Annual Meeting, Nov. 28-30 in Grand Rapids.