Michigan Farm Bureau’s state policy development (PD) committee recently spent two days deliberating more than 500 policy recommendations submitted by 56 county Farm Bureaus and 12 advisory committees. The result of their work is a carefully crafted slate of resolutions that 400-plus delegates to MFB’s 103rd annual meeting will debate and approve, setting the organization’s course for 2023.
In his first year as state PD committee chair, MFB Vice President Mike DeRuiter expressed his appreciation for the unique grassroots process used to review 103 state policies and numerous national policies.
“We all come from different backgrounds, and the beauty of getting together as a committee is that we have different aspects of agriculture represented, we’ve got different areas of the state represented, and we all have different opinions on the topics,” DeRuiter said. “This is what makes our grassroots process so special — it can come from any single member across the state.”
Naturally, many changes to the state policy book deal with general agriculture issues brought forward by county Farm Bureaus or state-level advisory committees. Proposed changes include adding language within the following:
- Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development #26 to designate the agency’s director or their designee as the lead authority in the Bodies of Dead Animal Act as well as creating a study group comprised of industry stakeholders to identify and recommend updates to the law.
- Michigan Meat Processing Industry #27 to make meat processed at licensed custom-exempt facilities to be eligible for licensed retail sales.
- Agricultural Commodity Commissions #1 to add language supporting the extension of commodity referendums for up to 10 years.
- Right to Farm #31 requesting the creation of a Greenhouse GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices).
Among the committee’s body of work is a new state resolution on cannabis production.
With cultivation and processing of the crop expanding, and member questions and discussions on the rise, the committee proposes the appointment of a cannabis task force. Consisting of members, cannabis producers, and landowners who have rented their land for cannabis production, the task force would be tasked with developing further policy recommendations.
Delegates will also deliberate a national recommendation to strike, “We oppose the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana” from AFBF Narcotics and Substance Abuse #158. National recommendations advance to the American Farm Bureau Convention in January 2023 for further consideration.
As an organization that recognizes the importance of preparing students for careers in agriculture, food and natural resources, the committee spent significant time reviewing county recommendations and those from the state Promotion & Education committee who gained a seat at the state PD committee table in 2018.
“In the last few years, we’ve focused on paying attention to policy and building it into our goals,” said Julie Stephenson, who’s serving her first year as P&E representative on the state PD committee. “We’re creating curriculum … and the policy directly affects how we create that curriculum and follow through with our programming.”
As such, within Educational Reforms #40 the delegates will consider deleting language opposing Common Core — academic standards that have been in place for more than a decade. The state Promotion & Education committee supports striking the language, stating, “While we don’t believe that organizationally we would support Common Core, it does appear that the national standards are here to stay and curriculum to teach the standards present a greater opportunity to affect change.”
Additionally, delegates will review a new section within Michigan State University #42 on collaboration. The language (paraphrased) identifies ways to strengthen relationships with the land-grant university including partnering to recruit for the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, increase meeting/event participation between county Farm Bureaus and MSU staff, strengthen agriculture/farmer representation on university advisory groups, and support Collegiate Farm Bureau activities and community college programming.
Natural resources and environment
With increased research and understanding of emerging contaminant chemicals, like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), members of the MFB Natural and Environmental Resources Advisory Committee submitted a recommendation adopted by the state PD committee to add language to Nonpoint Source Pollution and Watershed Management #83 stating MFB supports,
“The acting agency be held liable for current and future losses and expenses; including but not limited to, loss of value of commodities, loss of land, loss of business, etc. and for complete indemnification of everything a farm loses when the state decides a farm's soil, water, crops, or livestock is contaminated, when the contamination is not the landowner’s fault.”
Delegates will also consider additions to Wildlife Management #91 to allow the sale of wild game meat, increase financial incentives to harvest more problem species, and support mail, online or phone reporting within 30 days of harvest.
Energy and technology
A new section in Renewable and Biomass Products #44 on anaerobic digesters is being proposed to support changes to state law and regulation to allow:
- Comingling of product from different farms without additional permitting requirements.
- Utilization of food waste with manure, without additional regulation.
- Changes to gas purity standards that allow for digester gas to be added while still protecting the current infrastructure.
- Electricity generated from digesters to be eligible for Renewable Identification Numbers.
- Increased usage of renewable natural gas as a transportation fuel.
- The use of life cycle and combustion methodologies in the analysis of renewable natural gas.
Proposed amendments to Land Use #81 states MFB supports “encouraging farmers and county Farm Bureaus to work with local governments to establish zoning standards for commercial solar operations.”
Delegates will consider language within the following employment related policies:
- Wages and Compensation #55 to support exempting agriculture from paid-sick leave requirements.
- Labor Housing Zoning #52 to support creating an agricultural housing policy that preempts local authority, legislation allowing farmers to share labor housing, and developing state tax assessing guidelines that support agricultural labor housing.
State Annual Meeting updates
Watch member publications for state annual meeting updates, including publishing of the delegate book containing the complete lineup of policy resolutions. Additional resources include: