There are lots of new faces in the Michigan legislature, including new members of the House Agriculture Committee, who recently received a crash course in all-things Michigan agriculture from MFB staff.
MFB Legislative Counsels Rebecca Park and Ben Tirrell gave lawmakers an in-depth look at the history of the Michigan Farm Bureau, a look at the organization's grassroots policy development process, an overview of the importance of agriculture to Michigan’s economy, and a snapshot of challenges farmers are facing now — and in the future, among other key points.
The presentation sparked interest from the committee on a wide array of topics Park and Tirrell answered follow-up questions on, with multiple representatives indicating they would be reaching out to MFB for further discussions.
After the presentation, members of the House and Senate Ag Committees received a copy of “I LOVE Strawberries” by Shannon Anderson, courtesy of Michigan Farm Bureau. The “Accurate Ag” book follows Jolie and her faithful rabbit, Munchy, as together they find out just how delicious, rewarding and complicated it can be to grow your own food.
It was selected as the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s 16th book of the year. The “Book of the Year” award springs from the Foundation’s effort to identify “Accurate Ag Books,” a collection of nearly 500 books for children, teenagers and adults that accurately cover agricultural topics.
The Accurate Ag Books database is available here.
Park encouraged lawmakers to read the book to students in their districts during March is Reading Month to boost ag literacy, marking the seventh year MFB has distributed books like this one to legislators.
Rep. Reggie Miller, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, said she and her chief of staff have met with farming families — many of whom are Farm Bureau members — and heard their concerns about educating the next generation of students about Michigan agriculture.
“We had frank conversations and we noticed, and it was very obvious, that these farms are disappearing, that kids aren’t going into it, and we need to do something,” Miller said.
“Some of these farms are a 100 years old and have been in families for generations and there’s just not anyone to go on further with that, and that’s a real concern, and we have to address it education-wise. We’ve got to give incentives and promote that farming can be vital and it can be a great career and we have to do our part there.”
As a member of the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, Michigan Farm Bureau is home to the state’s Agriculture in the Classroom programming. Through the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, the program provides agriculture-based lesson materials for teachers and farmer-volunteers to teach across all grade levels.