Members of Michigan Farm Bureau’s State Policy Development (PD) Committee recently completed their review and consideration of more than 680 policy recommendations (up from last year’s 510) submitted by 64 county Farm Bureaus, 12 advisory committees and two topic-based task forces. Next, more than 400 county Farm Bureau voting delegates at MFB’s State Annual Meeting will further refine and approve the policies and positions that will guide much of the organization’s policy work in 2024.
“I was happy to see the significant increase in the number of policy recommendations coming from our county Farm Bureaus — it’s tremendously useful to our work and I think healthy for the organization,” said State PD Committee Chair and MFB Vice President Mike DeRuiter. “Seeing multiple resolutions on any topic helps our committee members gauge how widespread and significant an issue is and how they think Farm Bureau policy should be amended to address challenges or take advantage of new opportunities.”
The delegate resolutions book containing all proposed policy amendments will be published for voting delegates in late October.
In addition to the highlights below, the State PD Committee incorporated several recommendations from the MFB Rural Communities Task Force into their proposed amendments. A separate summary is available on those recommendations related to food insecurity, land use and local government engagement.
Craft Beverage Industry
With several county Farm Bureau resolutions submitted on the topic, the Committee is recommending a new Craft Beverage Industry policy to replace the existing MFB Policy #20 Hops.
With statements of support for expansion of the industry and the specialty crops used in craft beverage production, the policy asks for commodity-related incentives, increased agritourism marketing funding, research and development, and creation of a microbrewery license. The proposed policy also indicates opposition to unfair taxation on craft beverage products and local governments enacting craft beverage industry regulations that are more restrictive than state and federal regulations.
At last year’s state annual meeting, delegates requested an ad hoc cannabis task force be appointed to, “develop policy recommendations and potential action for consideration by MFB leadership and members.”
Appointed in April, the task force worked throughout the summer on recommendations the Committee has incorporated into MFB Policy #8 Cannabis Production. The proposed amendments cover recommendations related to:
Expansion and funding of cannabis research,
Local governance of cannabis production,
Industry best practices,
Tax and commodity classification,
Insurance, and more.
Further, the amendments include a section on industrial hemp regulation and oversight, research, and grower education.
Septic System Standards
Proposed amendments to MFB Policy #84 Nonpoint Source Pollution and Watershed Management would shift the organization’s stance to oppose mandatory inspections of private septic systems.
“Several counties submitted resolutions regarding septic policy supporting a variety of positions including wanting regulation at the state level, the local level, or to be the responsibility of the landowner,” said Laura Campbell, MFB senior conservation and regulatory relations specialist. “With most counties submitting resolutions wanting to remove state and local regulations on septic maintenance, the Committee recommended that language.”
The policy will receive a dedicated discussion time slot during the state annual meeting delegate session so members can share their county Farm Bureaus' perspectives and arrive at a final recommendation.
“At stake is the uncertainty of how septic maintenance regulations might create burdens for rural homeowners versus water quality concerns that are caused by failing or improperly constructed septic systems,” Campbell added.
Delegates will also consider two substantial additions to MFB Policy #63 Elections. The first, stating the organization’s support for nominating Secretary of State and Attorney General candidates on the primary election ballot instead of at party conventions. The second, calling for constitutional amendments to allow for gubernatorial appointment of trustees and regents at Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and University of Michigan.
Michigan State University
The State PD Committee is also recommending several additions to MFB Policy #43 Michigan State University. Covering several topics, the first proposed addition would add language to read, “We support: expanded utilization of current farmland assets on campus at MSU with the goal of no net loss of farmland/farm and ag education facilities.”
Other proposed amendments to the policy support the reestablishment of an MSU College of Veterinary Medicine stakeholder advisory committee, filling the MSU equine extension position, and urging MSU to strengthen their efforts to recruit students from FFA chapters, 4-H programs, and Michigan agricultural businesses.
Finally, within the University and Industry Collaboration subsection the Committee is encouraging partnership to:
Create a committee to develop recommendations for alternatives to funding university agriculture faculty start-up packages, as well as developing training programs to address the labor and training needs of current and future farm employees.
As additional information for voting delegates becomes available ahead of the Nov. 28-30 State Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids, be sure to visit the event web page for updates.