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Ideas That Work: Cass County's On the Farm & In the Field report

Cass is a top swine-producing county on the national stage.
Date Posted: July 22, 2022

Every five years the USDA releases its Census for Agriculture. It’s touted on their website “for America’s farmers and ranchers, the Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity.”

But raw data is merely a snapshot; statistics can never tell the story of agriculture.

Cass County has more than 1,200 farmers working almost 200,000 acres of land. These men and women harvest 76,640 acres of corn for grain. They house 142,046 hogs & pigs.

But what did it take to get to harvest? How did they become a nationally ranked hog-producing county? More importantly, in a society increasingly hostile toward animal agriculture, how do they stay there?

In December of last year the Cass County Farm Bureau Board of Directors developed On the Farm & In the Field, a monthly report meant to bridge the gap between farmers and legislators.

The first report landed on the desks of elected officials in January 2022.

Throughout the month, board members talk to their neighbors, friends, and those in the ag community to identify important issues of concern. At subsequent board meetings, those issues are compiled into a simple one or two-page report.

To date topics have ranged from inflation and input prices to carbon markets and road conditions. For example, the May report stated, in part:

Fertilizer Prices & Availability: Concern from local farmers has not waned. The Food & Agricultural Policy Research Institute speculated a 10% increase in prices in 2022. The reality shows average increases more than 80% relative to 2021. The greatest impact has been felt by feed grain farms, according to AgWeb. That will have a ripple effect. The International Food Policy Institute says, “Fertilizer price spikes and concerns about availability case a shadow on future harvests, and thus risk keeping food prices high for a longer period.” Food insecurity, already a cause for concern nationwide, will continue to be a growing problem if fertilizer price and availability issues aren’t both remedied.

Fuel Prices: The current average price per gallon for diesel is $5.56, a 76.5% increase from just a year ago. Analysts are calling it the worst fuel crisis since the 1970’s. John Catsimatidis, chairman and CEO of United Refining Group, speculates diesel rationing as early as this summer on the East Coast. These costs are simply not sustainable.

Once written, the report is sent to all officials connected to the county, from U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters to the Cass County Board of Commissioners. Though the program is new, it’s been updated recently to include references to Farm Bureau policy. We hope it will encourage our elected officials to refer to Farm Bureau policy before making decisions or enacting legislation.

The full impact has yet to be felt, but it’s worth noting that five of seven county commissioners are now Cass County Farm Bureau members. Additionally, our legislative breakfast in March was one of the most well-attended meetings ever held in Cass County.

Several legislators confirmed they’ll attend our county annual meeting. Each time we’re able to bring elected officials in front of our members, it’s an opportunity for connections to be made and timely issues to be addressed.

On the Farm & In the Field is just one more way Cass County and Michigan Farm Bureau continue to be a real voice for agriculture. For 100 years and counting its mission remains the same, with thousands of Farm Bureau members combining to create a single, unified voice for Michigan agriculture. Through our grassroots policy process, Farm Bureau members guide the organization’s work on issues of importance to farmers.

Pauline Harris is administrative manager for the Cass County Farm Bureau.