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Michigan Farm Bureau members set 2020 policy
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Michigan Farm Bureau
More than 400 delegates concluded deliberations Dec. 5 at Michigan Farm Bureau’s 100th annual meeting, establishing policy direction for priority state and national issues.
MFB District 7 Director Michael DeRuiter, an Oceana County fruit grower and member to the state policy development committee, said the delegate sessions were textbook examples of the organization’s grassroots policy development process.
"Policy development is the center point of this organization, so setting policy is vitally important — it’s the lifeblood of our organization," DeRuiter said. “This is where the delegates get to say their piece and set the course for Michigan Farm Bureau."
Debate on bovine tuberculosis (TB) and wildlife management both saw robust debate.
"The resolution proposed by the state PD committee took a pretty aggressive approach to enforce the baiting and feeding ban,” DeRuiter said. “After considerable discussion, delegates decided to add language that supports baiting to encourage reducing the deer population, while retaining support for the feeding ban."
Delegates also approved policy asking the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to consider a new memorandum of understanding with USDA on the issue in the TB Zone that allows for baiting, which encourages aggressive deer herd reduction.
Additional language requiring the eradication of white-tailed deer in any 10-mile radius, high-risk zone established after TB-positive deer or cattle are found, along with strengthening fines and penalties for illegal wildlife feeding, similar to those for poaching, was also approved.
Delegates approved international trade policy affecting Michigan specialty crop growers, calling for changes to the process of seeking relief in cases anti-dumping and countervailing duties challenges, while also calling for additional border and custom inspectors.
National policy recommendations will be forwarded for consideration at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in January.
“We’re going to advocate for Michigan specialty crops and try to include that language, which will make it easier for specialty crops that were adversely affected by trade to get quicker relief,” DeRuiter said.
Industrial hemp, authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, also saw considerable discussion.
“Growers are in the learning curve with this commodity, and we're all trying to figure out how to make sure growers can be profitable growing industrial hemp while complying with the regulatory aspects,” DeRuiter said.
Delegates approved state policy supporting an adjustment to the existing 0.3% THC threshold to 1.0%, to provide more harvesting flexibility. The policy now also supports alternative uses and/or disposal methods for the destruction of an industrial hemp crop that exceeds regulatory THC levels.
Delegates also approved a national recommendation calling for USDA to develop a crop insurance policy specifically for industrial hemp production.
According to DeRuiter, while there was a healthy debate on many issues, with differing views, the end result is policy that best meets the needs of production agriculture.
“It's very encouraging when you can have tough conversations with each other, but there's always a mutual respect,” DeRuiter said. “At the end of the day, our members iron out their differences so that we can move forward as one to advocate on behalf of Michigan Farm Bureau members to get the best ultimate outcomes found for all these issues.”