Farm Bureau examines EPA and land-use regulations at annual meeting


The Michigan Farm Bureau has more than 193,000 members across the state. Image via

A strategy to “rein in” the EPA, transportation infrastructure and land-use policies regarding urban agriculture are among the governmental issues on the agenda at the Michigan Farm Bureau state meeting underway in Grand Rapids.

Almost 500 voting MFB delegates are at the meeting at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, which began Tuesday and concludes Friday.

Sarah Black, secretary of MFB’s state-level policy development committee, said there are 143 proposed resolutions that will undergo fine tuning and will ultimately become the organization’s marching orders for 2013.

“Our members were very vocal during our county annual meetings this year, and submitted more than 900 policy recommendations for us to consider," said Black.

Adopted state-level policies will guide the organization's activities through the coming year; national-level policies will be submitted for consideration to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 94th Convention and Annual Meeting in Nashville in January.

A new state-level policy seeks to “rein in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversight,” according to Black, by limiting the definition of “Waters of the United States” to include only navigable waterways. The policy reflects members’ opposition to expanding Clean Water Act provisions to include temporary water bodies; MFB members have stated that Michigan’s regulation of the waters of the state should not be more restrictive than the Clean Water Act.

A policy on the Wetlands Protection Act was amended to reiterate the organization’s desire to keep manmade waterways that only flow as a result of rainfall off the list of wetlands or “Waters of the United States.” In Michigan’s agricultural areas, hundreds of thousands of drainage ditches are at issue here.

Existing policy regarding renewable energy urges increased emphasis on the development of cellulosic ethanol and other advance biofuels, and reaffirms support for the Renewable Fuel Standard. That standard, set by the federal government, has led to vastly increased prices for corn despite many more acres now being devoted to it.

MFB has reworked its transportation infrastructure policy, which calls for increasing registration fees to help fund the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. The policy also expresses opposition to road and bridge funding based on use, traffic volume, property taxes or special assessments.

Land-use policy was amended to support urban agriculture and broaden zoning language to include alternative energy production methods beyond strictly wind power.

Support for urban agriculture has been incorporated into existing policy supporting Michigan’s model Right to Farm Act. Black said the supplement was conditioned, though, with concern about “the exemption of GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agricultural & Management Practices) applicability to municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more.” This policy is referring to the generally accepted agricultural management practices that underpin the Right to Farm Act.

Existing policy on local government was amended to reaffirm support for townships streamlining regulations and allowing secondary (non-agricultural) uses of farm land provided it doesn’t conflict with the farm business.

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