SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Farmers and ranchers at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention approved numerous farm bill policy recommendations, including several from Michigan focused on maintaining and expanding risk-management provisions for row crop and specialty crops in the upcoming 2023 farm bill debate.
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, Farm Bureau presidents, USDA leaders, and national economists called the package critical to American agriculture and urged its completion.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack even asked the crowd what they wanted in the bill, before suggesting, “We want to create a vibrant and resilient rural economy.”
“We want to create the opportunity for farmers not just to depend on a commodity market that can change on a whim, but to be able to have three, four, five, or six different profit centers operating out of their farm. It’s so that you all are in a position to do what you want to do most of all, which is to continue to farm and to be able to say to the next generation … that they too can have the same opportunity.”
Michigan farm bill policy adopted by AFBF delegates included enhancements to Whole Farm Revenue Protection insurance, which provides an appropriate level of affordable coverage and safety net for diversified farming systems along with reducing the amount of paperwork required.
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Also included was a rolling three-year average for milk production to be utilized in risk management and Dairy Margin Coverage. (Read more about dairy proposals approved by AFBF delegates.)
“When we look at the new farm bill coming up, there was lot of great discussion here — a lot of input on how we're going to move forward with the farm bill and what we want to put in there,” said Carl Bednarski, president of Michigan Farm Bureau. “The urgency to get it done is very important and prevalent here.”
The projected price tag of the 2023 Farm Bill exceeds $1 trillion. While considered a financial safety net for agriculture, the five-year package earmarks 82% of that funding for nutrition programs, including additional SNAP benefits.
“There’s a lot of work to do in 2023 as Congress drafts the next farm bill, and the policies set forth today will guide AFBF as we work to ensure farmers and ranchers can continue to meet the growing needs of families in America and around the world,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said.
Farmer delegates this week also voted to modernize the farm bill by expanding baseline funding, develop more flexible disaster relief programs and extend protection to more specialty crops.
“I've said this before to Farm Bureau groups, (and) I'm going to say it again: The reality is everybody in the United States of America owe those farmers and ranchers and producers an extraordinary debt … of gratitude,” Vilsack said.
“Think about what you do for the rest of us. Every day we wake up to an economy that's the strongest in the world. Why is it the strongest? Because it's extraordinarily diverse. Why is it diverse? Because we're a food-secure nation.”
Sustainability and climate provisions
Delegates also discussed sustainability and climate provisions this week, including conservation spending.
According to Doug Darling, a row-crop farmer from Monroe County who serves as an MFB director at-large, conservation programs affect water quality, which is critical for Michigan, especially in the Saginaw Bay and Western Lake Erie Basin.
“One of the discussions that took place was regenerative agriculture or regenerative production methods, which is very similar to what we know as a discussion for sustainability, and everybody has different definitions,” Darling said.
“What is sustainable agriculture? For me, personally, it's profitability. But this morning, we had a lot of discussion about what is regenerative agriculture. What it comes down to is we farmers need to define what that is because we have consumers, industries in our country, that are utilizing that as a marketing tool — as a new buzzword.”