2020 Clinton County Farm Bureau Proposed Resolutions

                                          

Local Policy

 

Clinton County Agriscience, Food and Natural Resources Technical, Vocational and Career Education Program

 

We the farmers, agri- businesses, food processors, Veterinarians, farm marketers and/or other related individuals of Clinton County Farm Bureau strongly support the establishment of a full time Clinton County Agriscience, Food and Natural Resources (AFNR) Technical, Vocational and Career Education Program at the beginning of 2021-2022 School Year.   We encourage a collaboration between Clinton County RESA and/or a local high school in either Fowler or St. Johns, to locate the four-year Technical,  Vocational and Career Education Program where an instructor can build consistency with facilities that are sufficient for a strong AFNR program. 

We believe the following to be key reasons why we respectfully request this to please be granted and acted upon in a timely manner.

  1. Agriculture is one of the leading industries in Clinton County and growing every day.  We are home to many agribusinesses, farms, food businesses and processing facilities, including the $550 Million Glanbia/MWC and Proliant Food Processing facility which is the state’s largest new food processing development, according to the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development. 
  2. We have researched the numbers of students who participate in the Clinton County 4-H Fair and believe the students to operate a full-time program not only exist but easily could be expanded in the future, with proper leadership and support. This quality, full-time program could offer students a multitude of opportunities for further educational advancement, technical training and/or employment in the agriculture, food technology and natural resources industry.
  1. Clinton County 4-H Program Coordinator stated that: “Currently County-wide we have 467 members enrolled at this time. We do have youth in our County 4-H Program that go to Laingsburg, Ovid-Elsie, Fulton and Ionia Career Center that have the opportunity to join the local FFA Chapter, after being on a waiting-list. St. Johns Schools has 229 4-H members currently. Fowler School has 12 members currently. P-W Schools has 10 Members Currently. Thus, there’s 251 4-H members in Clinton County just in these 3 school districts that currently do not have an Ag Program.”

  1. Demand for qualified employees in the AFNR industry is at all-time highs with these jobs being well paying jobs that contribute greatly to the Michigan and Clinton County economy.
  2. We believe a strong AFNR program along with a FFA chapter to develop strong agricultural, food processing and natural resources leaders not only benefits our diverse industry but our community as a whole.  Several past FFA members have been or are currently members of: Schools Boards, County Boards of Commissioners, Township, City and Village Boards, the State Legislature and Governor of Michigan.   
  3. We believe in the 3-circle model for AFNR education.  This includes a classroom education component that is overlapped into a hands-on practical experience component (SAE) and a strong leadership skills training component (FFA).
  4. Clinton County voters have already approved a vocational education millage of 1.0 mills which funds many vocational, career and technical education programs in Clinton County RESA and aids area high schools.
  5. Michigan State University is now training and producing many high quality AFNR instructors every year which will be available to lead this program in the future. Our community is also eager to have a program like this in Clinton County that a strong, diverse advisory committee will certainly be available to aid the new instructor.

 

Next, we encourage the following key steps to be taken for a successful program in Clinton County:

  • School support is essential from the beginning, so getting the CTE staff and local Superintendent(s) on board with our plan is vital as well as informing local School Board Members.

  • Contact MSU and Michigan Department of Education FFA and Career, Technical and Vocational staff early on to learn important timelines and program requirements.

  • Create an advisory committee of community members to help maintain that community’s support for your program and to ensure its priorities are incorporated.

  • Coordinating with the school district’s financial staff, draft a budget to cover classroom needs, FFA project supplies and event expenses.

  • Begin fund raising- be resourceful and reach out to supporters as well as explore state and federal grant opportunities to establish a strong AFNR program and FFA Chapter.

  • In coordination with your school district’s curriculum officials, develop class structures and lesson plans, always keeping in mind your students’ needs and interests.

  • Develop an outreach plan to keep your community informed about and local high school students to be convinced of — the value of an AFNR program with a FFA Chapter.

    In conclusion we support the hiring of a full- time instructor at the beginning of 2021-2022 School Year and encourage a collaboration between Clinton County RESA and/or a local high school in either Fowler or St. Johns, to locate the four-year Technical,  Vocational and Career Education Program where an instructor can build consistency with facilities that are sufficient for a strong AFNR program. 

    For questions or additional information, contact:

    Bob Craig
    224-8278
    [email protected]

    Eric Voisinet
    517-331-3932
    [email protected]

 

 

 


 

Local County Roads

Clinton County has nearly 750 miles of local gravel roadways that serve all areas of the county.  Together with the financial support of many townships, the county is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these roads.  Specifically, the county is responsible for snow removal on and grading these roadways. 

Over the last several years, it has been observed that less is being done to maintain our local roads in some areas of the county.  In previous years, the Clinton County Road Commission employees would grade the berms from the sides of the gravel roads each spring.  It does not appear that this maintenance is being done any longer.  When the berms are not graded away on a regular basis, the edges of the roads build up and do not allow water to drain off of the roads and into the ditches.  Road grading is done less frequently, leading to very rough roadways.  It is a concern that lack of regular maintenance may lead to more expensive problems that will need to be addressed in the future.  Also, the specific way a road is graded depends upon the grader operator who may or may not have had training.  This leads to a variety of final results across the many gravel roads in the county, including excessive or inadequate crown.

Agriculture is a major industry in Clinton County.  Therefore, it is important that the interest of agriculture and farmers be represented on the Clinton County Road Commission so that the concerns of agriculture and outlying rural areas of the county are heard when decisions are made regarding local road maintenance.

Occasionally, farmers are responsible for significant damage to local roadways during the course of planting, harvesting, and spreading fertilizer on fields.  Many times, the damage is unavoidable.  Clinton County Farm Bureau believes farmers should be held accountable for the damage they cause and that they should be responsible for repairs.  It is also important that the local road commission be fair and consistent when levying charges for these repairs.

Clinton County Farm Bureau supports the following:

  • That the County Board of Commissioners sees to it that at least one representative of the agriculture industry sits on the County Road Commission.

  • Continue building of good relationships between the local agriculture industry, the Road Commission, and the Drain Commissioner.

  • That all local roads are graded and maintained on a regular basis, including grading the berms along the sides of the roads so water drains properly and to avoid washouts and ponding.

  • That Road Commission employees are properly and consistently trained to grade and maintain local roadways to uniform grade standards.

For questions or additional information, contact:

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

Dave Seeger
517-881-1348
[email protected]

 

State Policy

 

Michigan Dam Maintenance Regulations

The dam failures in Midland County and beyond demonstrated the desperate infrastructure shortfalls in our state.  Farm crops, livestock, buildings, and farm homes are in peril due to aging, poorly maintained dams throughout the state.  In addition to farms, other infrastructure such as roads, bridges, businesses, homes, and schools are in danger, not to mention the loss of life and livelihoods. Food chain disruption causes loss of income to farmers and suffering for consumers.  Tax base is also diminished if a dam breaks.

Clinton County Farm Bureau urges the reorganization of inspection and maintenance regulations for dams so that real teeth can be put into enforcement for correcting deficiencies.  Furthermore, we call for improved state and federal cooperation to avoid contradictory recommendations or gaps in authority that allow dam owners to prolong repairs, or to ignore altogether.

This would include and not be limited to: 

1. Owner (s) purchase performance bonds based on worst case scenario of dam failure; 

2. Dam buyers pay in full at time of purchase, so owners will have reason to protect their investment and not leave a second party(s) responsible in case of failure;

3.   A prospective dam buyer must pass an examination showing they know the basics of dam management and safety, along with having knowledge of penalties if they don’t comply with safety regulations;

4. And only after passing such exam be licensed for ownership.

In the future we call for dams that are sold to new investors be in healthy structural condition and that investors be financially sound.  We urge that all dams be held to high standards of safety to protect farms and the public interest.

For questions or additional information, contact:

Johanna Balzer
517-484-3273
[email protected]

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

 

 

 


 

Health

Covid – 19 has caused major upheaval in the lives, income, and practices of farm families.  The Clinton County Farm Bureau commends farmers, agricultural educators, Cooperative Extension, 4 – H leadership and members, farm laborers, agribusiness owners and employees, and farm markets and food retailers for their role in helping stop the spread of COVID – 19.  The virus has caused great sacrifice of time; costs for prevention materials; youth agricultural education, earnings and recreation; farm income; employee compensation; and loss of sales for agribusiness and agri-tourism.

We recognize the difficulty of monitoring the health of farm labor to protect other workers on a daily basis and the shortage of labor due to illness.  Social distancing and mask wearing are inconvenient yet necessary.

Farmers, 4-H members, dairies and other commodity businesses have shown incredible generosity by donating foodstuffs to food pantries and other hunger prevention organizations.  Amazing ingenuity has offered virtual activities for rural youth on-line.

Tens of thousands will miss county fairs and the income they generate for local business and carnival business and employees.  Dropping cattle and dairy prices, along with the reduction in farm laborers due to illness will cause the demise of some farms and heighten mental anguish and a potential increase in suicides and farm violence.

Therefore, Clinton County Farm Bureau calls for leniency and patience to one another involved in the farm economy.  We urge banks to restructure loans, farmer to farmer relations that lend hands and understanding to their neighbor’s plight and be patient with money owed to one another. 

Local pastors should be informed of farm issues tied to the virus, and ask they be extra sensitive to the need for pastoral care.  Clinton County Farm Bureau suggests pastors and other mental health professionals consider the online training on Farm Stress Management developed by Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) when working with farmers and others in this stressful environment.  The training was developed by MSUE for the Farm Service Agency and is being promoted more widely through American Farm Bureau Federation, the Farm Credit System, and the National Farmers Union.  The program focuses on mental and emotional health and helps those who interface with farmers identify signs of stress in those individuals and provides techniques to get them get the help they may need to manage that stress.

And, we call for the agricultural community to have the fortitude to maintain safe practices, as best as possible, to see this pandemic through until it is under control, and we can return to a less restrictive lifestyle that we know will not be like our old ways.  There have been many learnings during this time of pandemic that may actually work to our advantage in the future.  Let us not give in to frustration, but look forward to a new future.

For questions or additional information, contact:

Johanna Balzer
517-484-3273
[email protected]

Kathryn Reed
517-242-3297
[email protected]

 

Broadband

Add language to existing state policy #42 Broadband:

Access to high speed internet connection is an increasingly important issue for business, agriculture and academic purposes for rural students as the disparity of access has been shown during the first half of 2020 as employees and students have been required to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We support:

  • Tax credits for residents purchasing internet services for k-12 and higher educational purposes.

     

  • Broadband being addressed as an essential “common good” just as access to electricity and phone services were implemented decades ago and ultimately becoming a public utility with universal high speed services being equitable in cost and quality to all.

For questions or additional information, contact:

Kathryn Reed
517-242-3297
[email protected]

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

 

 

Elections

Add language to existing state policy #60 Elections:

Actively support the right of all citizens to vote and condemn voter suppression. 

We encourage members to volunteer as elections inspectors at their local polling locations.

Polling locations not to be changed or closed within 30 days before an election and to be located in easily accessible locations. 

For questions or additional information, contact:

Kathryn Reed
517-242-3297
[email protected]

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

 

Educational Reforms

Add language to existing state policy #39 Education Reforms:

Under “We Support”, edit line 13 – 14 to read:

"Ensuring the per pupil foundation grant follows the student to the public or public charter school of their choice."

Add a bullet point under “We Support” to read:

Promoting continued collaboration between public schools and private and home schools to provide transportation and other services to students with special educational needs as the State Constitution mandates. 

For questions or additional information, contact:

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

 

 

National Policy

 

Soybean Crop Insurance Eligibility Dates

The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) determines, on a cyclical basis, program criteria for crop insurance programs.  Program determinations use a wide range of data to ensure crop insurance programs meet producers’ needs and accurately calculated risk values.  Over time, crop production practices change and sometimes these changes fall outside the criteria established by the RMA.

Recently, a common crop production practice that has evolved is the dates when soybeans are planted.  The recent trend is that soybeans are planted earlier than the earliest planting dates established by RMA.  Acres planted before this date are not eligible for replant coverage.

Clinton County Farm Bureau recommends that the Michigan Farm Bureau MFB Feed Grains, Oilseeds & Wheat Advisory Committee discuss these new practices in relation to current crop insurance programs in order to help formulate state policy  that encourages RMA to take these practices into consideration.

For questions or additional information, contact:

Laura Braun
989-277-5264
[email protected]

Eric Voisinet
517-331-3932
[email protected]

 

 

Reaffirmations

 

State Policy

 

Right To Farm/Agritourism

The agritourism industry in Michigan is varied and diverse. While this is seen generally as a positive attribute from a marketing standpoint, it can be detrimental in terms of liability of operators and application of right to farm rules. It is currently somewhat unclear whether current farm market Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMP) also apply generally to agritourism operations.


Therefore, we suggest the current Michigan Farm Bureau policy which reads, “We will continue to work with the direct farm market industry to improve and strengthen the recently completed farm market Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices” be modified to read:


“We will continue to work with the direct farm market and agritourism industries to improve and strengthen the recently completed farm market Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices.”

 

National Policy

237- National Conservation and Environmental Policy

Farm Bill

National Conservation and environmental policy: NRCS-consistent and accurate information over time/determinations.

Current Policy
1.9.4 Limiting USDA to 30 days to make wetland determinations.

New Policy
1.9.4 Limiting USDA to 30 days to make wetland determinations and appeals to a max of six month long process; if no determination is made then the farmer shall utilize their own determination without penalty.

Background
This issue is dealing primarily with the local USDA service centers and the time it takes to make decisions related to agricultural production, (i.e. tiling, improving land) in the event of a dispute over and appeal of a determination, the appeal process can be very lengthy and costly.

Contact the county office for information about the Policy Development process