michigan farm bureau

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

U.S. Sen.Debbie Stabenow of Michigan expects Congress will take up the farm bill this week.

Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee.  She’s been working on passing a farm bill for more than a year.

“This is very complicated,” says Stabenow. “(It) covers everything from bioenergy, production agriculture, trade, conservation, nutrition – all kinds of things. We’re very close.”

There have been numerous disputes holding up the bill. Disagreement over funding for food assistance programs has been the major stumbling block.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An expected congressional vote on a compromise budget bill may have a big effect on another long-stalled piece of federal legislation: the Farm Bill.

Congressional gridlock has prevented an agreement on a federal Farm Bill since 2011. The Farm Bill authorizes a wide range of programs to help farmers in Michigan and elsewhere. The main dispute has been over Republican demands for deep cuts in federal food assistance spending.

Governor-elect Rick Snyder at the Michigan Farm Bureau in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The big, yearly meet up of Michigan farmers is this week in Grand Rapids. The annual Michigan Farm Bureau meeting helps cement policy stances important to agriculture.

There’s dozens of issues up for discussion. Some, like immigration reform and road funding aren’t new issues.

In fact, the poor condition of Michigan’s road was the issue that brought the MFB to fruition back in 1919.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

U.S. House revisits Farm Bill

United States House Republicans passed a farm bill yesterday that excludes food assistance legislation.  Agriculture and food stamps have historically been a part of the same bill for nearly 40 years. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the Michigan Farm Bureau is disappointed with the status of the new legislation. 

State Democrats increase fracking regulation

Democrats in the state House have introduced eight new bills to increase regulations on hydraulic fracturing in Michigan. The bills do not ban fracking or stop the issuing of permits. According to Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher, “the legislation would require natural gas companies to disclose which chemicals they’re using in the fracking process. It would also give local governments more power to restrict the activity.”

Arab-American group sues over bank account closures

Hundreds of Arab-Americans received letters from Huntington Bank notifying them that their accounts have been closed.  Many of these closures came with no explanation. The Arab-American Civil Rights League has filed a $75,000 lawsuit against the bank.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s agribusiness leaders are hoping Congress will restore food assistance programs to the 2013 Farm Bill.

House Republicans approved a Farm Bill on Thursday, without any funding for food stamp programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP.

For decades, Congress has approved massive spending bills to help the nation’s farmers and provide help for the poor to buy food. But conservative House members passed a Farm Bill without the food stamp funding.

Tart cherries, the main cherry crop in Michigan.
Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

The weather may seem perfect to a lot us right now.

But not so perfect for farmers, many of whom have yet to plant their spring crops.

Michigan has been enjoying beautiful sunny skies during the month of May, but the state’s farmers are still waiting for their fields to dry out from April’s heavy showers.

Fields are so soggy that only about 5% of Michigan’s corn crop has been planted.  Compare that with 2012 when 42% of the crop at this time last year.

“I don’t think we’ve got a lot of nervousness right now,” says Ken Nye, with the Michigan Farm Bureau, “It does mean we’re ….going to compress this thing a little bit…and it does mean that we could be a little bit late before everything gets finishes up depending on the weather from here.”

Nye says by contrast Michigan’s fruit crops are doing well this year.  Especially compared with 2012.   More than 90% of Michigan’s tart cherry crop was lost after unusually warm weather in February led the trees to bloom early and more than a dozen freezes between March and May killed it.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

People fighting a proposed wolf hunt in Michigan are celebrating a milestone today.

They delivered a quarter million petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office this morning.   The petition calls for a statewide vote on the law authorizing the wolf hunt.

Jill Fritz is the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign.    She’s optimistic that state officials will validate enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

Credit John Vucetich/Rolf Peterson / Michigan Tech

Tomorrow, Michigan may move a little closer to having a statewide vote on a possible wolf hunt.

Members of the group, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, are expected to deliver nearly a quarter million petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.

The petition drive calls for a referendum on a new state law authorizing a gray wolf hunt.

Once endangered, the wolf population has grown in recent years. State wildlife experts believe there are around 700 gray wolves in Michigan.

Craig Camp / flickr

Last year disaster struck Michigan farms throughout the state.

Early heat waves, low rainfall and a scorching summer resulted in non-existent crops and many worried farmers wondering what 2013 would bring.

Now, the Michigan agriculture industry may also face a shortage of migrant workers.  

If the crops come back this year, why wouldn't the labor return as well?

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Craig Anderson, who manages the Agricultural Labor and Safety Services program for the Michigan Farm Bureau.

He was joined by David Smeltzer, the owner of Per Clin Orchards in Bear Lake.

Listen to the full interview above.

Farm in rural Michigan
user acrylicartist / MorgueFile.com

Governor Rick Snyder addressed several hundred farmers at a town hall style meeting Thursday night in Grand Rapids.

At Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual meeting, farmers debate issues that affect one of Michigan’s largest industries. Streamlining state government regulations is one of the 100-plus issues in this year’s policy book.

"The Michigan Department of Agriculture, since we’ve taken office, has eliminated approximately 1/3 of the regulations and rules. They’re gone," Snyder said.

"The Department of Environmental Quality, a group I know you love even more," Snyder grinned, as the crowd laughed, "they’ve eliminated over 100 obsolete rules already."

Snyder says the MDEQ is revising some seventy-five-programs, and he underscored that the effort to streamline rules doesn't conflict with efforts to protect the environment.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Farm Bureau is throwing its support behind Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow in this fall’s U.S. Senate race.

The endorsement is a bit of a surprise.

The Michigan Farm Bureau supported Stabenow’s Republican opponents in her two previous U.S. Senate races.   But not this time.

The endorsement comes as Stabenow works on the 2012 Farm Bill, as chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee.

Many Michigan farmers are spending this May focusing on their insurance needs.

The sporadic spring freezes and frosts that followed the unusually mild winter devastated Michigan’s apple, cherry and peach crops.     Most farmers have access to some form of crop insurance.   But according to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the insurance only covers about 60 to 70 percent of the loss.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 An early season cold snap is threatening to seriously damage Michigan’s corn crop.   Temperatures are expected to slide into the 30’s tonight and into the weekend.  

This year did not start well for Michigan farmers.   A cold, wet Spring delayed planting for nearly two months.   Now, an early season frost could damage corn, soybean and other crops just a few weeks from harvest. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s planting time for many Michigan farmers.  In addition to the weather, farmers are closely watching fuel prices this Spring.   

The price of fuel affects practically every aspect of farming in Michigan, from the cost of the diesel in the tractor to the price of the fertilizer on the fields.  Bob Boehm is the director of the commodities department for the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says fuel costs are between 7% to 15% of the average Michigan farm’s budget, but may be higher this year.  

(USGS)

Large factory farms have lost a major court case in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The case involves farming operations with hundreds, sometimes thousands of animals. They are often called CAFOs, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

The appellate court upheld a lower court ruling that the state could require large confined animal feeding operations to get pollution discharge permits before opening. Farm groups challenged the state rule insisting they should only need a permit after releasing manure causing water pollution.  But today, the three judge panel disagreed:

We conclude that the DEQ was fully authorized to require CAFOs to either (1) seek and obtain an (federal) permit (irrespective of whether they actually discharge pollutants), or (2) satisfactorily demonstrate that they have no potential to discharge.  The circuit court  properly denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary disposition and granted summary disposition in favor of the DEQ.

Ann Wiowode  is the director of the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club. She welcomes this week’s ruling. 

 “That is essential in insuring they’re not allowed to begin operation and potentially pollute the water  without going through proper review.”

But while she welcomes the decision, Wiowode says more work is needed to protect Michigan from water pollution connected to agriculture. 

 “We think the regulations are still too weak.  And based on our experience, the permits themselves have many things that could be improved.”   

The Michigan Farm Bureau expressed disappointment with the decision.