Michigan Farm Bureau members take concerns to Lansing

Michigan Farm Bureau members say they are concerned about the regulatory environment for farms in the state.

Branch County’s Doug Bloom tells Brownfield members don’t feel like many lawmakers are listening to farmers.

“I just think right now the atmosphere in the state is not very friendly to ag and especially animal agriculture,” he shares. “To me, my feeling is that’s driven down to the (agriculture) department from the top down.”

Michigan Farm Bureau Legislative Counsel Ben Tirrell says they are disappointed to see legislators work to eliminate oversight committees for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.

“How can we potentially improve the function of these bodies?” he asks. “Are there things that we can do to enhance them? But to scrap them all together is unfortunate.”

Tirrell says he’s hopeful impending legislation improving the permitting process for anaerobic digesters will speed up delays many projects have faced.

“Some of the challenges we’re seeing now are requirements that would force these processors to separate liquid and solid waste, and that’s just not cost-effective,” he says. “It doesn’t make any sense when that’s going to go out on farm fields for agronomic use anyway.”

A former verifier for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, Tirrell tells Brownfield he’s watching how bringing MAEAP technicians into the state department as proposed by the governor’s budget could impact the health of conservation districts.

“Fundamentally, we have to continue to have the conversation about how this might alter the MAEAP program,” he says. “I’m not sure we’ve had all those conversations yet, but it is very important that third-party technicians were able to go out and help farmers resolve these issues in a confidential way. And I think that’s something we going to have to make sure is assured as the budget goes forward.”

Bloom says potential irrigation use, nutrient management regulations, and farm labor concerns were just some of the top issues discussed at Michigan Farm Bureau’s Lansing Legislative Seminar this week.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Farm Bureau.

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