Dairy policy, risk management, and monopolistic pricing practices were top of mind for more than 400 county Farm Bureau voting delegates during Michigan Farm Bureau’s 103rd annual meeting in Grand Rapids as they considered state and national policy recommendations.
Oceana County fruit farmer Michael DeRuiter, who serves as MFB Vice President and completed his inaugural year as chairman of the MFB Policy Development Committee, said delegates were actively engaged in the organization’s grassroots policy development process.
“I'm always impressed with the committee members and the delegate body where you can actually get farmers, from across the state of Michigan, to work together to come up with common-sense policy that we can all agree on and move forward as an organization,” DeRuiter said.
Approved national recommendations advance to the American Farm Bureau Federation level for consideration and, if included, would be considered during the AFBF Annual Meeting policy resolution session in January.
Delegates approved dairy policy recommendations calling for reform measures to the Federal Milk Marketing Order, as well as revisions to “make allowance” provisions, and calls to revert to the “higher of” Class III or Class IV until USDA develops an improved method to determine the Class I milk mover base price.
According to DeRuiter, most of the dairy policy recommendations originated from Michigan over the previous two years, leading up to the first national Federal Milk Marketing Order Forum this past October.
“We also had a lot of discussion in regard to the national farm policy and the Farm Bill that's coming up, specifically in regard to crop insurance and whole farm revenue policies and trying to make improvements and maintain those for our members in Michigan,” DeRuiter added.
Delegates approved policy recommendations calling for enhancements to Whole Farm Revenue Protection insurance to provide a more appropriate level of affordable coverage and safety net for diversified farming systems along with reducing the amount of paperwork required.
A policy recommendation calling for improvements to Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) was also approved, recommending that a three-year average production history be utilized instead of the current five-year average, and that supplemental DMC history production changes continue in the meantime.
Delegates devoted considerable time debating, refining, and ultimately approving policy recommending the federal government investigate the monopolistic price controls of domestic companies and importers of agricultural input/protection products and other agricultural commodities.
Turning to state-levels issues, delegates approved several recommendations that formally establish MFB’s policy position for the next year.
According to DeRuiter, delegates discussed and approved policy centered around Michigan State University and efforts to reinforce the land-grant mission.
“We've had really good success over the past few years working in conjunction with MSU to secure $53 million in state funding for a new state-of-the-art greenhouse and dairy teaching and research facilities,” DeRuiter said.
“A lot of discussion on the floor focused on policy to maintain and improve that collaboration and doubling down on those efforts going forward,” he added.
Delegates also approved new land-use policy regarding solar farms encouraging farmers and county Farm Bureaus to work with local governments to establish zoning standards for commercial solar operations to also produce agricultural goods.
New policy regarding agricultural draining was also approved, according to DeRuiter, seeking to provide county drain commissioners additional tools for drainage projects that benefit agricultural production.
Policy calling for additional drain code amendments, including the concept of watershed management plan development with collaboration between drain/water resources commissioners, township and municipal officials, landowners, and conservation districts, and/or NRCS, and Army Corps of Engineers that improves county drain function.
The approved 2023 set of MFB policies will be published online in late December.