Voting delegates attending Michigan Farm Bureau’s 102nd annual meeting Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Grand Rapids completed deliberations and voting on a wide range of current agricultural issues and policy recommendations to guide the organization’s legislative agenda in 2022.
According to retiring MFB Vice President Andy Hagenow, a Kent County farmer who also served as chairman of the MFB statewide policy development committee for the last nine years, voting members were excited to return to Grand Rapids for in-person delegate sessions.
“Policy development and member engagement are top priorities for the organization,” Hagenow said, noting the active policy debates during this year’s delegate sessions. “It’s great to see more members actively involved in the grassroot policy development process — that's really what this organization is all about.”
While the 400-plus voting delegates considered more than 100 state and national policy recommendations, Hagenow said policy regarding bovine tuberculosis and Michigan State University’s focus as a land-grant institution were notable topics.
“Members were clearly looking to add a little more accountability within the state agencies involved in tracking and managing the TB problems in Michigan,” Hagenow said. “And it was obvious that members felt there's been some challenges with the ag industry’s relationship with MSU that need to be addressed and strengthened.”
Delegates also considered a new Carbon Sequestration and Ecosystem Services Markets policy recommendation calling for the use of sound science and public research within ecosystem services markets, such as carbon credits.
Ottawa County farmer Paul Pyle, serving his second year on the MFB state-level policy development committee, said the policy also calls for standardization, transparency and clarity within those markets.
“Carbon markets, carbon sequestration and ecosystem services markets are up-and-coming topics — there are a lot of conversations out in the countryside right now,” Pyle said, noting the newly approved policy stresses a voluntary program focus, based on sound science.
According to Hagenow, members also approved new policy to expand meat processing capacity, including development of a training program to allow state-level employees to serve as inspectors in processing plants.
The policy also calls for an increase in the number of federally inspected facilities in Michigan to grow capacity and meet additional retail demand, and additional funding offsets for processing facility upgrades, expansion and regulatory requirements
Additional policies with significant amendments are summarized below.
Mycobacterium bovis tuberculosis
Delegates approved new language to address concerns with the current memorandum of understanding (MOU) between USDA and the state departments of agriculture and natural resources. Included in the new policy is support for the development of a coordinated plan to meet deer head collection numbers, weekly reporting, and a per-head payment for deer heads. These are being requested until the MOU requirements are met. Finally, members asked for the development of an exit strategy and agency offsets when failing to meet MOU compliance.
Michigan State University
Delegates approved changes to the organization’s long-standing MSU policy, including language encouraging more realistic financial expectations for university farms and revisions to expedite the hiring process for extension educator and research faculty positions.
Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program
Members approved policy that MAEAP remain a voluntary, confidential and statewide program, while also supporting the creation of a voluntary contribution option to the Freshwater Protection Fund that currently collects fertilizer and pesticide fees from producers to pay for MAEAP.
Farm and commercial vehicles
Stemming from access challenges during the pandemic, delegates approved policy allowing individuals and businesses to conduct business and complete transactions with the Secretary of State in an easily accessible manner, including in person, online, or by mail.
Agriscience, Food and Natural Resources Education and the FFA organization
Members approved policy calling for the development of an agricultural credential for high school students to gain employment in agriculture and/or natural resources. The policy also calls for input from agricultural businesses, teachers and educational specialists to ensure the certification represents the skills learned through the program in a way that's meaningful for agricultural employers.