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Top Story

Katie Eisenberger

In the good ol’ days, after a long day’s work one would secure his or her horse to a hitching post outside a local establishment or a neighbor’s house before heading inside to catch up on the latest issues of the world.

We may have traded in our original horsepower for one with four wheels — and we can now communicate with one another without being in the same space — but one thing never goes out of style: learning something new. And we’ve got something new to share!

Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere. They will look at current situations within the topic area, what related policy or programs MFB provides, and what next steps may look like.

Encourage someone you know to register if they’re interested in:

  • Gaining more awareness of current agriculture issues
  • Better understanding grassroots policy development
  • Getting perspective straight from the horse’s mouth!

To watch the Hitching Post, register for each monthly event separately. Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions to the group. If you’re unable to join, but still interested in the content, all events will be recorded and posted to the MFB YouTube Channel.

Here’s the schedule of Hitching Post conversations, who’s moderating each discussion, and a link for participating:

I’m helping coordinate these discussions alongside my awesome coworker, Emily Reinart, the grassroots policy outreach specialist in MFB’s public policy division.

“This will be an opportunity for members to join a circle of peers for a short time commitment and invest in learning about current topics in the industry, how Michigan agriculture is impacted and how they can be involved in a solution,” Emily said.

All Hitching Post conversations will take place online via Cisco Webex, a convenient and easy-to-use online meeting platform that works on almost any desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a decent internet connection. Farm Bureau members can download it by clicking here.

MFB staff contacts: Katie Eisenberger (517-679-5444) and Emily Reinhart (517-679-5337

 


Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere.

County News

Katie Eisenberger

In the good ol’ days, after a long day’s work one would secure his or her horse to a hitching post outside a local establishment or a neighbor’s house before heading inside to catch up on the latest issues of the world.

We may have traded in our original horsepower for one with four wheels — and we can now communicate with one another without being in the same space — but one thing never goes out of style: learning something new. And we’ve got something new to share!

Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere. They will look at current situations within the topic area, what related policy or programs MFB provides, and what next steps may look like.

Encourage someone you know to register if they’re interested in:

  • Gaining more awareness of current agriculture issues
  • Better understanding grassroots policy development
  • Getting perspective straight from the horse’s mouth!

To watch the Hitching Post, register for each monthly event separately. Attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions to the group. If you’re unable to join, but still interested in the content, all events will be recorded and posted to the MFB YouTube Channel.

Here’s the schedule of Hitching Post conversations, who’s moderating each discussion, and a link for participating:

I’m helping coordinate these discussions alongside my awesome coworker, Emily Reinart, the grassroots policy outreach specialist in MFB’s public policy division.

“This will be an opportunity for members to join a circle of peers for a short time commitment and invest in learning about current topics in the industry, how Michigan agriculture is impacted and how they can be involved in a solution,” Emily said.

All Hitching Post conversations will take place online via Cisco Webex, a convenient and easy-to-use online meeting platform that works on almost any desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone with a decent internet connection. Farm Bureau members can download it by clicking here.

MFB staff contacts: Katie Eisenberger (517-679-5444) and Emily Reinhart (517-679-5337

 


Over the next six months, members will have the opportunity to listen in as a group of Michigan Farm Bureau public policy specialists and industry professionals discuss critical agricultural topics through a virtual, laid-back atmosphere.

Three MSU students honored with Michigan Farm Bureau scholarships

February 19, 2019

Three exemplary Michigan State University (MSU) students were honored Saturday, Feb.16, at Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) Growing Together Conference in Grand Rapids.

Amanda Forraht of Berrien County, Elizabeth Ritchie of Van Buren County and Samantha Wagner of Jackson County were recipients of the MFB Marge Karker Scholarship.

Each received a $1,000 award to help fund her MSU education.

Amanda Forraht

Amanda is majoring in animal science in MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Raised on her family’s farm, she learned the value of caring for animals and the land influencing her decision to pursue a career in the equine industry. Upon graduation, Amanda hopes to work in equine physical therapy or rehabilitation to keep performance horses in top condition for their sport.

At MSU, Amanda participates in the Rodeo Club and Dairy Evaluation Judging Team. Outside of the university, she’s been involved in the Ranch Horse Association of Michigan, Mid-America Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team and 4-H.

Amanda is the daughter of Douglas and Suzanne Forraht of Sodus.

Elizabeth Ritchie

Elizabeth is a second-year student in MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. After helping nurse an ill calf back to health as a child, Elizabeth developed a passion for the health and welfare of livestock. Through internships during her vet school tenure, she’s found a niche in veterinary pharmaceutical development. Whether working in private practice or for a veterinary pharmaceutical company, Elizabeth hopes to use her advanced degree to further improve the health of livestock.

Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Valley State University. She is actively involved in many student organizations within the College of Veterinary Medicine, including serving as the secretary of the Food Animal Club. Elizabeth credits 4-H for her exposure to multiple livestock species.

Elizabeth is the daughter of Tim and Stacy Ritchie of Decatur.

Samantha Wagner

Samantha is a senior majoring in Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Education in MSU’s CANR. As a member of the Springport FFA Chapter, Samantha gained exposure to agricultural education in high school influencing her decision to pursue a career as an agricultural educator. At MSU, Samantha has been a Glassen Scholar working on behalf of MSU with the Department of Natural Resources’ Legislative and Legal Affairs Office.

Samantha is an active member of student organizations on campus including the Sigma Alpha Sorority, Block and Bridle, and Agriculture Future of America.

She is the daughter of Dale and Lou Wagner of Springport.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s Marge Karker Scholarship was established in the 1960s to honor the former coordinator of Farm Bureau women’s programs which included activities involving citizenship, health, education, legislation, public relations, safety and community projects. Through her tenure from 1922-1964, Marge Karker helped to lay the foundation for the current Promotion and Education and Young Farmer programming. The scholarship is open to any MSU student of sophomore standing or higher who is studying in the CANR, College of Veterinary Medicine or Institute of Agricultural Technology.

The next round of applications will be due Oct. 1, 2019.

 

MSU Students

Legislators to hear from members at Lansing Legislative Seminar

February 19, 2019

Members attending this year’s Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Lansing Legislative Seminar on Feb. 26 will help celebrate the organization’s centennial anniversary, reflecting on 100 years of grass-roots policy implementation and growth of the agriculture sector through legislative and regulatory initiatives. At the same time, nearly 400 attendees will hear from a variety of speakers, setting the tone for the year as MFB acclimates and builds relationships with the Whitmer administration and new leaders in the Legislature and regulatory agencies.  

“We’re fortunate to welcome to the event Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Deputy Director Dr. James Averill, Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger and Department of Environmental Quality Deputy Director Aaron Keatley,” said MFB Communications Specialist Nicole Sevrey, the event’s coordinator. “Through a town hall-style format, the panel of three will field questions from the audience — not only will the discussion help members learn more about the departments’ respective priorities, but also help the department leaders understand our members’ expectations and areas of potential growth or concern.”

The program will also recognize Ogemaw County Farm Bureau will receive the with the Excellence in Grass-roots Lobbying Award for their efforts to protect the integrity of the Right to Farm (RTF) Act. In 2018, the Edwards Township Planning Commission attempted to thwart a livestock operation from expansion.

“Ogemaw County Farm Bureau President Brent Illig, who is also a trustee on the commission, recruited  70 farmers to attend the commission meeting in support of the Right to Farm,” said MFB Government Relations Specialist Matt Kapp. “As a result of the local Farm Bureau’s work, the commission unanimously defeated the proposal.”

Guests will also hear from Silver Plow Award recipients including former Sen. Tom Casperson, Sen. Dan Lauwers and Rep. Aaron Miller. The trio played a critical role in three initiatives impacting all aspects of Michigan agriculture: creating three Department of Environmental Quality oversight boards; amendments to agriculture’s sales and use tax exemptions; and improvements to the state’s large-quantity water-withdrawal program. The Silver Plow is MFB’s top recognition for a member of the Legislature or Congress, signifying farmers’ appreciation for leadership and support consistent with the organization’s member-developed policy.

Before ending their day at the legislative reception where they’ll visit with state representatives, senators and numerous other government officials, members can participate in four educational sessions: 

  • Farming as a Good Neighbor – Presenters will discuss the Right to Farm Act and its application of science to protect farmers from nuisance claims. Attendees will also hear about the agriculture sector’s focus on water quality by utilizing proactive, voluntary conservation programs. 
  • State Funding Priorities and Economic Outlook – In this session members will gain an understanding of economic forecasts in relation to the state agriculture department and research funding priorities within MSU.
  • Infrastructure: Roads, Bridges, Energy, Broadband and Beyond – Attendees will receive an overview of the current state of Michigan’s infrastructure and potential new policy initiatives. 
  • Legislators Are Consumers Too – This session will provide attendees with information and resources to build and nurture relationships with new legislators by listening, asking questions, identifying common values, and discussing and relating with them on issues.

 

State News

Rebecca Gulliver

Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this together — and we’re always stronger together.

American Farm Bureau Federation’s Virtual Convention concluded this week with that theme: Stronger Together. Over the course of five days convention sessions were held, Young Farmers competed, awards and recognitions were given, and live sessions were facilitated.

One of these sessions, Farm State of Mind – Responding to the Challenges of Rural Mental Health, reminded us to lean on one another for support and check in on our friends, even the strong ones.

This workshop was a farmer panel (pictured above) led by Colorado Farm Bureau member Chad Vorthmann. Each panelist shared their own personal stories about how mental health, stress and suicide touched their lives and communities: Robin Kinney from American Farm Bureau Federation; Randy Roecker of Rolling Acres, LLC; Marshall Sewell, Bayer Crop Science; and Meredith Bernard from This Farm Wife Inc. all helped break down barriers in a real conversation on a tough topic.

A consistent need for adequate mental health care in rural America — and professionals who know how to work with farmers and their unique challenges — was made very clear throughout.

Bernard mentioned how farmers are all big-time gamblers without ever hitting the casino or buying a lottery ticket — and we all know that’s the truth! Between the weather, erratic commodity prices and the constant pressure of maintaining a multi-generational legacy, farmers carry a lot of stress and anxiety with them every day. Add to that the common “go it alone” mentality many have come to work under as the problem solvers and entrepreneurs all farmers are.

Before the panel opened up for questions, each panelist shared some powerful takeaways from their conversation.

Roecker, who overcame a battle with depression following the dairy crash of the 1980s, shared that farmers need to support each other, if only because we all understand the uniqueness of agriculture. It takes proactively checking in with one another regularly, even your strong friends.

Bernard lost a friend by suicide and reminded her virtual audience that none of us are ever really alone: we are worthy, our lives matter, our stories matter, and that no one should suffer in silence. Seek a friend!

Sewell reflected on what he would have said to his dad the last time he saw him alive, prior to taking his own life, and how he would strive to find the good things in the day and the value we all add: the world may be crammed with people, but it still needs YOU.

Kinney stressed the importance of a mental wellness check being part of a normal, physical health check. We check the oil in our tractors and address routine equipment maintenance, so don’t forget to do the same with ourselves.

Not sure where to start? Uncomfortable with the topic of farm stress and mental health? Rural Resilience Training provides a comprehensive understanding and is a great place to start. This program is a partnership with American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union, and facilitated by Michigan State University Extension.

Meredith said it best: “When people feel seen, they get help.” So let’s not be blinded by everything that’s going wrong in our world. Let’s check in with each other — even our strong friends.

Rebecca Gulliver is MFB’s Regional Manager in the Saginaw Valley (District 8) and a member of our Farm Stress & Mental Health team.

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • Avera Health Farm and Rural Stress Hotline: 800-691-4336
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 800-662-HELP
  • Crisis text line: text HOME to 741741
  • FarmStateOfMind.org
Last year was tough and we’re all eager for 2021. Even if the New Year isn’t magical it still gives us a sense of light at the end of the tunnel and a new beginning. With that new beginning, one thing remains the same: We’re still all in this togethe




The 2020 #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge supported by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture recognized the top ten high school FFA chapters and top three Collegiate Farm Bureau members with $7,000 in cash prizes.

This year’s challenge was a twist on the traditional award program, which recognizes FFA chapters and collegiate members for ag-literacy efforts in their communities, sharing a basic understanding of producing food, fuel and fiber. With schools closed last spring, limiting the ability to provide programming in person, #SpeakAgMichigan turned to social media, challenging high school students and Collegiate Farm Bureau members to engage with consumers, develop advocacy skills and earn some funds for their chapter! 

The purpose of the #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge was to develop and implement a four-month social media challenge highlighting designated commodities — the ones focused on in our Fall Teacher FARM Crate subscription boxes: apples (September), pumpkins (October), turkeys (November) and Christmas Trees (December).

From demonstrating a piece of equipment related to the commodity to visiting a farm to offering a recipe or growing tip, our top-10 high school FFA chapter winners and their competitors together laid out a thorough plan to accurately and effectively connect with consumers.

“My students learned a TON through these challenges,” said Ashley FFA Advisor Amber McAllister. “They’re collaborating online to collect information and debating which is best to share with our community, as well as growing leaps and bounds in technology!

“This has been a fantastic learning experience for us.”

Help us congratulate our winners and participants in both divisions by liking their pages and supporting their efforts:

FFA Chapters

Collegiate Farm Bureaus

  • First Place ($500): Madelyn Cary, Gratiot County; MSU Main Campus
  • Second ($300): Michael Ceja, Gratiot County; Delta Collegiate
  • Third ($200): Jewel Lantis, Livingston County; MSU Main Campus Collegiate

In the collegiate division, cash awards were awarded to the top three Collegiate members and their respective Collegiate Farm Bureau chapters.

The Michigan Foundation for Agriculture, is a 501(c)3 governed by Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, positively contributes to the future of Michigan agriculture through leadership and educational programming.

For more information, contact MFB High School and Collegiate Programs Specialist Katie Eisenberger.

 
The 2020 #SpeakAgMichigan Challenge supported by the Michigan Foundation for Agriculture recognized the top ten high school FFA chapters and top three Collegiate Farm Bureau members with $7,000 in cash prizes.
By Jeremy C. Nagel









From top to bottom:
Mike Sell
Mitch Bigelow 
Amanda Sollman
Jeff VanderWerff
Chris Creuger 

Normally the phrase “phoning it in” refers to someone doing the bare minimum to get the job done. But Farm Bureau members taking part in MFB’s Dec. 2 Annual Meeting didn’t get that memo, and didn’t let the challenges of a remote format get in the way of expressing their stances on the 2020-21 policy docket.

One of the big unknowns heading into the event was the toll an all-virtual format might take on the policy deliberations at the heart of the event. With hundreds of members participating remotely — calling in through computers and voting via smartphone — it was easy to imagine some feeling silenced by the distance.

Not to worry.

Neither technology nor the abbreviated time frame hindered a free exchange or kept members from taking an active role in this most sacred of Farm Bureau institutions: delegate-floor policy deliberations.

Steeled for the long game 


Regardless of the meeting format, one of the more daunting delegate feats is introducing, supporting and defending a concept that doesn’t go over as well as you’d hoped.

“We thought it would be a slam dunk but it got tossed out,” said Wayne County Farm Bureau President Mike Sell about a proposal to raise the profile of diversity and inclusion language.

“Let’s just say I could’ve been a little more tactful — I kinda shut myself down,” he added. “Here in Wayne County, we talk about it frankly: Farm Bureau needs to clearly state we need to be inclusive of those people who meet the membership requirements.”

Opponents cited the presence of very similar language already included in the company’s Code of Conduct.

“We view the Code of Conduct as an HR (human resources) tool — it’s about staff, not members,” Sell said. “It’s not the policy book.”

The issue’s dismissal, he said, has only energized his membership and steeled them to dig in for the proverbial Long Game.

“You need to keep even, constant pressure on it,” Sell said. “Others will come onboard but it’s going to be a slow process.”

The cause wasn’t without allies; Bay County delegate Mitch Bigelow offered a convincing defense of the proposal.

“I think it’s important having policy not just saying we’re inclusive but actively promoting and searching out diversity,” he said afterwards. “A lack of policy around inclusion is not indicative of how inclusive we are.

“The more times we can put that in the policy book — and not get hung up on where it goes — the better,” Bigelow said. “As a general farm organization, we’re only as strong as how active we are at getting different segments represented and heard in our policy.”

Go to the microphone


The overarching concept of policy as the organization’s enduring definition was also tested by attempts to codify therein some members’ skepticism about the integrity of the 2020 general election.

Saginaw County’s Amanda Sollman wasn’t letting that go without sharing a firm, concise opinion on the matter.

“We already have laws in place,” she said — existing laws guarding against the alleged voter fraud one recommendation alluded to. “Our policy should be timeless.

“I didn’t even phrase it as a motion,” she said afterward, admitting she expected scant support for her position.

“It’s really important for Farm Bureau to speak with a unified voice when we speak with representatives and stakeholders. We’re an organization made of individuals with a wide range of opinions. It’s vital people go to the microphone and make their voice heard — bring those perspectives to the forefront for consideration.

“People have to take into account different angles and different points of view. If they don’t hear them from somebody, they may never hear them,” Sollman said. “It’s hard to go into that group knowing you hold a different perspective. It’s easy to feel alone.”

We're all guilty

Of course she is not alone; Amanda has good company in those members who aren’t the least bit shy about expressing themselves with conviction.

“I struggle a little with what I even said. I’d heard this notion and it hit a nerve with me,” recalls Jeff VanderWerff, the outspoken Ottawa County apple grower who spoke assertively in favor of an ag-labor housing GAAMP.

Beyond the obvious practical benefits, such a move would dramatically elevate the profile of an ongoing, high-priority issue common among specialty crop growers who know providing quality housing for the seasonal workers they rely on is key to attracting those workers in the first place.

But in an arena dominated by highly mechanized row-crop, livestock and dairy farmers, it may sound like pie-in-the-sky fantasy.

“The simple reality is we’re all guilty: We don’t necessarily understand the challenges other producers see every day,” VanderWerff said. “We have to try to keep an open mind and seek to understand the perspective of our fellow growers.

“Michigan is so diverse, not only agriculturally, but culturally as well, with varying political views, cultural views,” VanderWerff said. “And when you have an organization like Farm Bureau that has as big a tent as it does, and which truly wants to represent all sectors, you have to be willing to speak up for your individual commodity and region.”

Death & t*x*s

Sometimes the challenge comes in reminding folks of certain fundamental truths they readily understand but will go to their grave cursing.

“I don’t like paying property taxes any more than anyone else, but Chris had a point,” VanderWerff said about his peer from across the state: Tuscola County Farm Bureau Delegate and Pioneer Seed man Chris Creuger.

“Nobody likes paying taxes, but how will we fund public services we’ve all come to expect?” Creuger said. “Public schools, fire departments, police, road funding, infrastructure… It all has to be paid for somehow. Those things don’t just happen.

“Specifically about taxation, we have to consider policy resolutions holistically.

“Annual meeting is a great place to have an open discussion to present the facts and let the delegates decide for themselves,” Creuger said. “But it’s important to have all  sides represented, and when you see something on the screen that you feel doesn’t meet that criteria, it’s important that you speak up.

“We’re a diverse organization that represents a lot of different commodities and our needs and desires don’t always fall in line, but at the end of day we try and come up with policies that serve everyone.”

Normally the phrase “phoning it in” refers to someone doing the bare minimum to get the job done. But Farm Bureau members taking part in MFB’s Dec. 2 Annual Meeting didn’t get that memo, and didn’t let the challenges of a remote format get in the way

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