Farm Bureau Sets Policies
While Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) stance on the deer herd
was grabbing headlines, MFB members at last week's 83rd
MFB Annual Meeting were developing policy on a host of other
issues that are as equally important to the agriculture
industry, Michigan residents, and the state as a whole.
of the top issues considered beyond wildlife management
are summarized below. Policies adopted on state issues
determine the direction MFB takes over the course of 2003,
while approved resolutions dealing with national and international
concerns are forwarded to the American Farm Bureau Federation
for consideration at the national annual meeting, Jan.
19-22 in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Use in the Great Lakes Basin
response to demands for Great Lakes water from other states
and nations with water concerns or potential shortages,
MFB delegates adopted policy opposing the diversion of
water "in its natural state" from the Great Lakes Basin.
Policy-makers, however, agreed that agricultural use of
water is not a diversion. The approved policy states that
"water used in agricultural production and/or products
is an intrinsic and essential use of water and is not
supported "efforts which will provide a high priority
status to agriculture for water use" and the development
of a study of agricultural water use and the associated
ecological benefits, including the benefit of healthy
plants to the environment, the benefit of increased quality
and quantity of agricultural products to the food chain,
and the importance of agricultural lands to groundwater
members also opposed water use permits and recommended
"the enactment of legislation that," among other things,
"strengthens Michigan's ability to protect and preserve
the waters of the Great Lakes Basin."
Department of Agriculture
state budget cuts carving deeply into the Michigan Department
of Agriculture (MDA), MFB delegates strongly supported
"the restoration of adequate funding" to MDA so it can
"allow more than one-for-four employee replacement." Delegates
also voted to oppose "any attempt to dilute the effectiveness
of the MDA by merging it with any government agency or
adopted policy also supports state and/or federal funding
for all required testing for diseases such as bovine tuberculosis
(TB) and split-state TB status.
Pollution Prevention Methods and Authority
farmer unity on pollution prevention methods, delegates
quickly passed a resolution to "support the agreement
reached between the state of Michigan and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) regarding general permitting under
the Clean Water Act."
this year, under pressure from environmental groups that
had sued several Michigan farms for alleged pollution
discharges, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
(DEQ) agreed to issue a general permit for all concentrated
animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that have had a DEQ-verified
discharge in the past two years.
Bureau, meanwhile, worked with state agencies to help
develop and implement the Michigan Agriculture Environmental
Assurance Program (MAEAP) to allow CAFO operators who
had not polluted and other farmers to be voluntarily verified
as sound environmental stewards.
the delegate floor, MFB policy-makers moved for continued
support of Michigan's Right-to-Farm program, MAEAP, the
DEQ's authority to enforce the state's present zero-discharge
law, and Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP)
development, which is required for both the general permit
and MAEAP verification. Delegates opposed issuance of
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System individual
permits that are being pushed by environmental groups
as well as EPA's attempt to revoke Michigan's delegated
authority to enforce the Clean Water Act.
Center for Population and Animal Health
delegates threw their support behind the Diagnostic Center
for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University
by stating the need for "full funding for the operation
of the lab." The new state-of-the-art facility is nearly
complete but lacks funding to cover increased operating
expenses estimated at $3 million annually.
that agricultural property in Michigan is taxed at nearly
twice the national average, delegates approved policy
supporting development of legislation that voluntarily
allows landowners to enroll in a program that assesses
farm buildings at half their current taxable value and
farm property taxes at $5 per acre in exchange for temporary
preservation of farmland for 20 years. Adopted policy
calls for reduced State Equalized Value or tax exempt
status for land designated for restricted use. Delegates
also approved language that supports tax credits to create
jobs and tax equity for the agricultural economy; use
of tax abatements and Renaissance Zones; exemption of
PA 116 land from all special assessments that do not benefit
the farm; and sales tax exemption status for all inputs
directly related to agricultural production.
the farm bill as a public investment in the nation's food,
environmental and economic security, the policy passed
by delegates with little debate includes provisions that
strive to reduce complexity in national farm policy while
"allowing producers increased flexibility to plant in
response to market demand." Delegates also supported funding
within the farm bill for competitive research grants that
increase economic opportunities in farming and rural communities;
expand locally owned value-added processing; reduce economic
and health risks; and develop new crops, new crop uses
and new agricultural applications of biotechnology.
opposed payment limitations, mandatory idling of land
or set-asides, government production controls, and a means
test for payment eligibility.
noted that the American asparagus industry has been severely
damaged by import competition and the loss of export markets,
primarily due to unfair trade agreements. They acknowledged
that asparagus is a long-term perennial crop requiring
a large initial investment to establish acreage, making
rapid change in total production capacity very difficult.
Thus, they passed policy supporting Market Loss Assistance
payments; an asparagus acreage removal program; and expansion
of U.S. Department of Agriculture asparagus purchases
for domestic feeding programs.