The last of this year’s regionalized Lansing Legislative Seminar (LLS) events is now in the books, leaving Michigan Farm Bureau’s leadership and policy wonks evaluating the success of scattering the marquee event closer to the organization’s grass roots.
The last of seven regional LLS events saw almost 50 members from across Districts 8, 10 and 11 coming together March 13 in Ogemaw County. MFB Dist. 8 Director Mike Mulders of Essexville welcomed attendees filling what’s likely the largest conference room in West Branch.
“There’s been a lot of change over past 12 months,” Mulders noted, referring to both statewide redistricting and the new Democratic majority in Lansing. “But what hasn’t changed is the importance of good relations with elected officials whose work impacts life in our communities.”
Picking up where Mulders left off, MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch shared a wide view of the event’s dynamics and purpose.
“Our main objective in Lansing is to promote and advocate for the policy you develop, but the strongest tool we have is you,” he said. “Today we hope you’ll connect with your legislators and share your story — talk about your farm, your experiences, your issues.”
Vermeesch outlined that the organization’s top lobbying priorities this year include providing for an adequate agricultural workforce; supporting practical, innovative ag research; and support for beginning farmers looking to break into the industry.
Regionalizing Lansing Legislative Seminar seemed fitting — at least worth trying — in an era of change throughout Michigan politics.
The 2022 rearrangement of the state’s legislative districts threw long-familiar maps and boundaries into a blender, sending constituents statewide back to new drawing boards illustrating who represents them in Lansing.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised how well these district events are working,” said MFB President Carl Bednarski. “Feedback from legislators is that they’re liking these settings better than meeting all together in Lansing — they say they’re getting more in-depth conversations with their constituents.”
The seven regional events afforded more than 300 county Farm Bureau members a chance to take in key issue updates from government relations staff and interact with dozens of state representatives and senators, many of whom are new to their roles.
Participating members have largely reported enjoying the localized format. One consistent theme throughout their feedback was that the venue — whether a farm, a coffee shop or the Capitol itself — mattered less than having regular contact with elected officials.
“Our members agree that accomplishing Farm Bureau’s policy objectives hinges on their ability to meet directly with lawmakers and drive home both the overall importance of Michigan agriculture and the specific needs of our farmers,” said Rob Anderson, MFB’s government relations manager.
“Our hope is that members use the conversations at these events as a starting point — that they make plans to follow up with their elected officials throughout the year, including those who weren’t able to attend.”