Downtown hosts statewide farming conference


The Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting includes the convening of nearly 500 delegates who adopt the nonprofit’s policy agenda. Photo via

More than 1,500 farmers from around Michigan will gather in Grand Rapids this week for a three-day conference.

The 96th annual Michigan Farm Bureau, or MFB, meeting is being held at DeVos Place and the Amway Grand Plaza this Tuesday through Thursday.

The annual meeting celebrates the nonprofit’s prior-year accomplishments and sets the policy agenda for the coming year.

Conference highlights

Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to attend the MFB president’s luncheon on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., where he will address attendees.

MFB President Carl Bednarsk will give the inaugural address during the luncheon.

The three-day conference will also include policy talks with nearly 500 delegates, who will be discussing, editing and adopting the Michigan Farm Bureau policy agenda for the coming year.

Delegates will consider more than 120 proposed resolutions, which have been consolidated by MFB's state-level policy development committee from more than 800 recommendations.

Infrastructure issues such as access to reliable and affordable energy and broadband availability, drones and data security and many issues surrounding water such as agriculture drainage, wetlands and continued regulatory pressure are all expected to generate substantial discussion on the delegate floor.

“The organization exists to serve its members, and this is where those members plot the direction and establish the organization’s core priorities for the year to come,” said Deb Schmucker, meeting coordinator and director of MFB’s Center for Education and Leadership Development.

New MFB board members will be elected as well.

An agricultural education outreach program is also scheduled at North Godwin Elementary School on Tuesday morning, where a farm education trailer will arrive for students to learn about the farming.

Young farmers

There will also be contests to recognize young farmers between the ages of 18-35.

Throughout the day Wednesday, a field of 38 young farmers will be narrowed to a quartet of finalists through four rounds of a discussion meet — a public speaking contest, challenging contestants' knowledge of agricultural issues, as well as the demeanor, tact and civility of their delivery.

Another group of young farmers face off in four leadership competitions that weigh their agricultural skills and achievements:

The Young Agriculture Employee contest recognizes nominees' involvement in agriculture and their contributions to the success of the operations and businesses that employ them.

Excellence in Agriculture honors those who do not derive most of their income from their farm, but who actively contribute to and grow through their involvement in agriculture.

Young Agriculture Leader recognizes successful young farmers for outstanding leadership in agriculture and their local communities.

Young Farmer Achievement honors outstanding achievement in the business of farming and leadership in the agricultural community, based on farm management and involvement in agricultural organizations. 

Winners of the discussion meet and leadership contests advance to a national competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation's 97th Annual Meeting from Jan. 9-13 in Orlando, Fla.

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