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Top Story

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

County News

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

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.”

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.
Michigan Farm Bureau


Involvement opportunities abound within the comfy confines of your own county Farm Bureau, and this is a good time of year to weigh your options among the organization’s traditional program areas. Counties are encouraged to have their standard committee appointments for 2020 finalized by late January in these program areas:

  • County Nominating
  • Candidate Evaluation
  • Membership Committee
  • Policy Development
  • Promotion & Education
  • Policy Implementation Team
  • Young Farmer Committee

With 2020 being an election year (have you heard?), it’s particularly important that county Farm Bureaus appoint strong candidate evaluation committees for vetting local office-seekers and better informing MFB’s AgriPac Committee for state- and national-level endorsements.

In Barry County, Rick Lawrence has been involved in candidate evaluation for 15 years. 

“I get a more personal connection with candidates, and a better idea as to what their level of involvement with agriculture is,” Lawrence said. “That connection with a winning candidate benefits all of agriculture by being able to better communicate at their level.”

Leroy Schafer has been a candidate evaluation fixture in Clinton County for the past four election cycles. He sees the program as “a great opportunity to get to know them better and have a say in who Farm Bureau endorses to help elect pro-ag candidates.

“It gives me inside information I can use to help inform others about candidates and their positions. Also it’s just a great opportunity to meet them on a personal level,” Schafer said. “When the candidates know you personally, you become the one they call when they seek knowledge on how to vote on agricultural issues.”

Savvy leaders will note Local History Teams are missing from the program menu, as their centennial-year mandate and supporting grant program have come to a close with the end of 2019. Even so, county Farm Bureaus interested in maintaining their Local History Teams are welcome to do so; history happens every day and many county Farm Bureaus are planning their own individual centennial celebrations in the years to come.

County Farm Bureaus are strongly encouraged to welcome newcomers onto standing committees. New perspectives, directions and opinions will only strengthen your local organization — benefits that seep up through the grassroots to the regional, state and national levels. Aiming to turn over at least a quarter of committee members annually, and carefully surveying your membership roster — especially new members — is a smart approach for finding prospective new volunteers.

Via Farm Gate and direct communications, members and county Farm Bureau leaders will receive more notices and reminders over the coming weeks. Contact your county Farm Bureau office or MFB regional representative for more information about involvement opportunities.

With committee appointment season upon us, it’s a great time to look for new avenues of involvement in your county Farm Bureau!

Upbound on the St. Clair River, the American Spirit passes under the Blue Water Bridge between Port Huron and Sarnia, Ontario.
The new year brings a fresh venue for MFB’s Voice of Agriculture Conference, and with it a fresh new landscape of conference tours. Attendees can choose from two different excursions on Feb. 5, day one of the two-day conference hosted by the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron.

Lambs, Libations and Landscaping

One tour agenda includes sites in western St. Clair and northern Macomb counties, beginning with Lauwers Sheep Farm, where more than 600 ewes live indoors. Shepherd Cameron Lauwers will explain how he staggers his lambing schedule to provide a consistent supply of animals year-round.

Just down the road, attendees will “spring forward” at Theisen’s Greenhouse. This third-generation wholesale operation raises annuals, bedding plants and potted plants year-round for retailers across metro Detroit. The early-February time frame will showcase the earliest bloomers bound for spring flower sales.

This tour wraps up with a holistic look at the agritourism program at Blake’s Orchard. From school tours and family u-pick to hard cider processing and tasting, participants will hear how this farm provides non-farm families with a fun and informative experience. Following a tour of the orchard and cider brewery, dinner and cider tastings will take place in Blake’s event barn.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

One of Michigan’s biggest trading partners is right across the river: Canada. Exports to our neighboring Canucks totaled $902 million in 2018 alone, and they’re a strong import partner to boot.

This tour starts with a look at how agricultural imports from Canada are safely transported into the United States at the Port of Port Huron. U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff will explain their role ensuring biosecurity through inspections at the Blue Water Bridge and those crossing the international border by train, boat or plane.

After a short presentation, attendees will tour the inspection facilities on the Blue Water Bridge deck, then head to the USDA livestock inspection facility a short drive away.

Next participants will visit Michigan’s first lighthouse at Fort Gratiot, where Lake Huron empties into the St. Clair River. Port Huron Museum docents will lead a guided tour and share the facility’s history. Weather permitting, participants may climb the 82-foot tower.

From there this group will split in two, each half headed to separate dinner locations in opposite directions. One bus heads north to the Cadillac House, an historic inn and tavern just a block from Lake Huron in Lexington. The other bus heads south to Marine City Fish Company on the St. Clair River, specializing in locally caught fish in addition to some terrestrial options.

NOTE: Participants on this tour are subject to a background check by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in order to enter their facilities; names, addresses and birth dates (from MFB’s membership database) will be provided to the agency in advance. Registering for this tour equates to consent to the background check. No substitutions or latecomers will be allowed after the Jan. 6 cancellation deadline.

Details, details…
Both tours will depart from the Blue Water Convention Center promptly at 1 p.m.

Participants staying at the Holiday Inn Express may park their vehicles at the hotel and take MFB’s shuttle to the convention center prior to departure. Shuttles will transport participants back to the hotel following the tour or evening social at the convention center.

No children under 18 are permitted to participate in the tours and all participants must ride the buses.

The full conference agenda and tour information is available online.

Contact your county Farm Bureau to register, Dec. 9-20.

 

Coming Events

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January2020
Wednesday
29
2020 Council of Presidents Conference
111 W Main St
Midland,
Open to all county Farm Bureau presidents
February2020
Wednesday
5
2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference
800 Harker Street
Port Huron, MI
Learn new tools for connecting with consumers via social media, direct outreach, school-based events or news media at the Voice of Agriculture Conference. Hear from keynote speakers who understand the challenges of working in agriculture. Meet Farm Bureau members from across the state to share ideas for county programming. Tour agricultural businesses and farms in Michigan’s Thumb region
February2020
Friday
21
2020 Young Farmer Leaders Conference
100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd
Acme,
The Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer Leaders Conference is for young members between the ages of 18 and 35. This two-and-a-half-day conference unites 350 young agriculture leaders and industry experts, centers on these members’ professional and personal growth and addresses issues relevant to this generation, including leadership training, management skills and business/family relationships.
February2020
Tuesday
25
2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity to learn from expert speakers on policy issues impacting agriculture, help legislative and regulatory leaders understand Farm Bureau policy, and share ideas and talk about local issues with fellow members.