Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) members were credited for initiating current reform efforts of national dairy pricing, including a long-due overhaul of the 20-year-old Federal Milk Marketing Order system, at the organization’s 103rd annual meeting in Grand Rapids this week.
In his annual address to members, MFB President Carl Bednarski commended members for their tenacity and persistence in approving policy over the last two years calling on the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) to take action.
That member-driven policy ultimately resulted in the first-ever national Federal Milk Marketing Order Forum this past October, bringing all segments of the dairy industry together to identify needed reforms to dairy pricing.
“You'll have the opportunity to vote on specific dairy policy resulting from that national forum this week,” Bednarski said. “None of this could have been accomplished without your leadership, relentless advocacy and a sincere desire to improve the dairy industry in our state and nation.”
Recognizing the event’s theme — “People. Purpose. Possibilities.” — Bednarski, a Tuscola County crop farmer, also credited members for taking quick action this past year in submitting more than 900 comments to the Environmental Protection Agency opposing the agency’s proposed rules to severely restrict the use of atrazine — a commonly used herbicide.
Turning to ongoing labor challenges in agriculture, Bednarski said the creation of affiliate company Great Lakes Ag Labor Services in 2015 at the request of members is bearing fruit. Designed to provide administrative support services to producers interested in utilizing H-2A seasonal guest workers, the program saw substantial growth in 2022.
“The number of clients increased by 50% just this year alone, placing 2,200 workers,” Bednarski said. “It is now Michigan's largest H-2A contract filer.”
Addressing the land-grant possibilities of Michigan State University, Bednarski said the recent appointments of Dr. Kelly Millenbah as Dean of the College of Ag and Natural Resources and Dr. Teresa Woodruff as the interim MSU President were positive and significant for Michigan agriculture.
“They both clearly understand and support the purpose of the land-grant designation,” Bednarski said, noting MFB endorsed their respective appointments with the MSU Board of Trustees. “The possibilities moving forward are already evident.”
According to Bednarski, their outreach and collaboration efforts through a series of 12 meetings with producers across the state helped to secure a $53 million budget allocation to fund new state-of-the-art greenhouse and dairy teaching and research facilities at the university.
Bednarski acknowledged member and staff contributions in support of the organization’s shared purpose to end childhood hunger in Michigan, noting more than 350 Farm Bureau employees logged more than 1,100 volunteer-hours to help deliver more than a million meals to families in Michigan.
Volunteers also picked just over 24,000 pounds of excess apples, donated by Kent County farmer Josh Morse, for donation to the West Michigan Food Bank and a newly launched pilot project — dubbed the “Agent Fresh Food Hub,” which provided groceries to 30 families in need.
“What we have already learned, is that hunger has no boundaries,” Bednarski said, citing a recent USDA report on food security found more than 13 million U.S. households were "food insecure" in 2021.
“That means more than 10% of U.S. households struggled to provide enough food for their families. Here in Michigan, estimates show nearly 2 million people — including more than half a million children — faced food insecurity in 2020,” he added.
Post-pandemic, Bednarski said the issue of food insecurity continues to grow and is especially prevalent in Michigan's rural communities. “We look forward to partnering with all of you — farmers and the ag industry alike — to join us in this purpose to end childhood hunger.”
Nationally, Bednarski said AFBF continues working with congressional members and federal agencies on several issues, including the need to address supply chain and shipping concerns, fertilizer import tariffs and prices, and fuel costs.
“We've also talked about the upcoming farm bill debate and the need to preserve crop insurance as a vital risk management tool,” Bednarski added.