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Michigan Farm Bureau



Top– Delegate floor at AFBF

Bottom – Breakout session in 2019

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will call Texas home Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. In its 101st edition, the AFBF Annual Convention & Trade Show offers farmers and agribusinesses opportunity to learn about industry-wide policies and perspectives. This year, 108 Michigan Farm Bureau members and staff will attend the event in Austin, Texas.

Included in the six-day show are educational workshops, keynote speakers and networking opportunities. Farmers and ag leaders use this show to sharpen skills and help set a policy agenda to deploy in the nation’s capital.

“From the workshops to the trade show, from the guest speakers to the Farm Bureau delegates whose votes will guide our work, every aspect of the 2020 AFBF Annual Convention and Trade Show is designed to bring the future of American agriculture into clear focus,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We come together each year to learn and grow as agricultural leaders. Our annual convention is also a time to renew friendships, share our challenges and celebrate our successes.”

A full agenda can be found here  Highlights include:

National Policies 

Once in Austin, Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors will advocate for the national-level policies Michigan members finalized at the recent state annual meeting in Grand Rapids, including industrial hemp production and dairy issues.

As the opportunity to grow and market industrial hemp continues to evolve, members have been providing input on what opportunities and regulations are necessary to support the growing industry. MFB’s recommendations call for more help from federal agencies regarding guidance, rules research and tools like crop insurance.

Acting on a recommendation from MFB delegates in 2018, an AFBF task force last summer examined the Federal Milk Marketing Order and other issues impacting the dairy economy. Specific dairy issues on the agenda include price reporting, discovery changes and pricing regulations to expand export opportunities.

Other policies close to Michigan’s heart include research into sugar beet juice as an alternative to road salt, and unfair trade practices that have hurt the state’s specialty crop industries, including tart cherries, asparagus and blueberries.

Young Farmers

A trio of outstanding Young Farmers will represent Michigan on the national stage in Austin.

Young Farmer Achievement Award winner Rich Baker of St. Joseph County; Excellence in Agriculture Winner Joe Ankley of Lapeer County; and Mecosta County’s Cora Okkema, winner of the state discussion meet, all received expense-paid trips to compete in this year’s AFBF national contests.

Top 10 in the Young Farmer Achievement and Excellence contests will be announced Saturday and Sunday evening, respectively.  

Also… 

Texas Farm Bureau is offering several agricultural tours (Saturday and Tuesday) during the 2020 AFBF Annual Convention in Austin, Texas. Most tours have sold out, but contact Experient (800-424-5249) with questions.

MFB President Carl Bednarski and staff will share an update on membership, Young Farmer contestants and other organizational activities at a special Michigan dinner Jan. 19 at Trinity Hall.

Also on Sunday, former AFBF President Bob Stallman (Texas) and AFBF Young Farmer and Rancher Chair Paul Molesky (New York) will host a noontime fireside chat at the Convention Center.

Download the AFBF convention app for more information, and follow the event online via the hashtag #AFBF2020.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will call Texas home Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. In its 101st edition, the AFBF Annual Convention & Trade Show offers farmers and agribusinesses opportunity to learn about industry-wide policies and perspectives.

County News

Michigan Farm Bureau



Top– Delegate floor at AFBF

Bottom – Breakout session in 2019

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will call Texas home Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. In its 101st edition, the AFBF Annual Convention & Trade Show offers farmers and agribusinesses opportunity to learn about industry-wide policies and perspectives. This year, 108 Michigan Farm Bureau members and staff will attend the event in Austin, Texas.

Included in the six-day show are educational workshops, keynote speakers and networking opportunities. Farmers and ag leaders use this show to sharpen skills and help set a policy agenda to deploy in the nation’s capital.

“From the workshops to the trade show, from the guest speakers to the Farm Bureau delegates whose votes will guide our work, every aspect of the 2020 AFBF Annual Convention and Trade Show is designed to bring the future of American agriculture into clear focus,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We come together each year to learn and grow as agricultural leaders. Our annual convention is also a time to renew friendships, share our challenges and celebrate our successes.”

A full agenda can be found here  Highlights include:

National Policies 

Once in Austin, Michigan Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors will advocate for the national-level policies Michigan members finalized at the recent state annual meeting in Grand Rapids, including industrial hemp production and dairy issues.

As the opportunity to grow and market industrial hemp continues to evolve, members have been providing input on what opportunities and regulations are necessary to support the growing industry. MFB’s recommendations call for more help from federal agencies regarding guidance, rules research and tools like crop insurance.

Acting on a recommendation from MFB delegates in 2018, an AFBF task force last summer examined the Federal Milk Marketing Order and other issues impacting the dairy economy. Specific dairy issues on the agenda include price reporting, discovery changes and pricing regulations to expand export opportunities.

Other policies close to Michigan’s heart include research into sugar beet juice as an alternative to road salt, and unfair trade practices that have hurt the state’s specialty crop industries, including tart cherries, asparagus and blueberries.

Young Farmers

A trio of outstanding Young Farmers will represent Michigan on the national stage in Austin.

Young Farmer Achievement Award winner Rich Baker of St. Joseph County; Excellence in Agriculture Winner Joe Ankley of Lapeer County; and Mecosta County’s Cora Okkema, winner of the state discussion meet, all received expense-paid trips to compete in this year’s AFBF national contests.

Top 10 in the Young Farmer Achievement and Excellence contests will be announced Saturday and Sunday evening, respectively.  

Also… 

Texas Farm Bureau is offering several agricultural tours (Saturday and Tuesday) during the 2020 AFBF Annual Convention in Austin, Texas. Most tours have sold out, but contact Experient (800-424-5249) with questions.

MFB President Carl Bednarski and staff will share an update on membership, Young Farmer contestants and other organizational activities at a special Michigan dinner Jan. 19 at Trinity Hall.

Also on Sunday, former AFBF President Bob Stallman (Texas) and AFBF Young Farmer and Rancher Chair Paul Molesky (New York) will host a noontime fireside chat at the Convention Center.

Download the AFBF convention app for more information, and follow the event online via the hashtag #AFBF2020.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) will call Texas home Jan. 17 to Jan. 22. In its 101st edition, the AFBF Annual Convention & Trade Show offers farmers and agribusinesses opportunity to learn about industry-wide policies and perspectives.
Farm Bureau Insurance

It's once again time to take seasonal inventory to help protect your homes and vehicles throughout another Winter in snowy Michigan. We've updated our annual Winter checklist to help guide you through your annual preparations and keep you standing tall even as temperatures plummet.

Your Auto

Colder weather creates its own requirements for car maintenance. These basic maintenance tips increase safety and decrease chances of a breakdown on a cold, winter road:

  • Charge it: Charge or replace battery as necessary.
  • Coolant: Replace and replenish antifreeze in the cooling systems. As a general rule, this should be done every two years.
  • Make sure heaters, wipers, and defrosters work effectively. Consider using winter wiper blades and cold weather washer fluid.
  • Kick the tires: Do you have enough tread? Are they properly inflated? Consider winter tires that provide more grip on icy roads.
  • Changing the oil: Changing the oil in accordance with your car’s maintenance schedule is one of the simplest ways to maintain and prolong the life of your vehicle.
  • Getting in tune: If your car is due for a tune up, get it done! Simple fixes like pings, hard starts, and sluggish performance can often become magnified problems during the winter months.
  • Get your brakes checked.

Your Home

It’s cold outside so you’re most likely keeping it warm inside! Here are a few things to add to your seasonal home checklist:

Heat

  • Open vents near the floor and close those near the ceiling for better air circulation.
  • Test your furnace and replace the filters.
  • Check the furnace, part II: Let a professional give your heating system a checkup.
  • Use solid fuel safely: Make sure stoves are UL approved and fireplaces are cleaned and maintained.

Attic Ventilation

  • Ensure attic insulation doesn’t cover ventilation vents in the eaves (also called soffits or overhangs). This helps prevent winter ice dams.
  • Make sure vents, eaves, and troughs are free of plants and debris.

Keep it Clean

  • Vacuum under and behind freezer and fridge. This can greatly improve efficiency of unit.
  • Chimney cleaned and checked: Increases ventilation and reduces fire hazard.
  • Trim low-hanging branches. Collected snow and ice could break branches and do damage to your roof, home,

Windows & Doors

  • Storm windows: If you have older, removable wooden storm windows, make arrangements to have them re-installed.
  • Replace or repair any broken window locks or latches.
  • Caulk around frames.
  • Repair any cracked or broken window panes.

Exterior

  • Keep gutters clean at all times.
  • Roof: If there are any signs of a leak or damaged shingles or flashing, have the roof checked. Make sure all culverts and exterior drains are free of debris.
  • Drain and coil all those garden hoses.

Snow Preparation

  • Shovel-ready: Make sure you have a working snow blower, shovels, and sidewalk salt on hand.
  • ·or pedestrians.
It's once again time to take seasonal inventory to help protect your homes and vehicles throughout another Winter in snowy Michigan. We've updated our annual Winter checklist to help guide you through your annual preparations and keep you standing ta
Michigan Farm Bureau

Macomb County Farm Bureau President Amanda Kutchey has been named Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 2019 Presidential Volunteer of the Year for her volunteer involvement and leadership of local and state-level Farm Bureau activities. 

MFB President Carl Bednarski said the success of the grassroots farm organization, this year celebrating its 100th anniversary, depends on the commitment of dedicated volunteer leaders.

“Amanda epitomizes the volunteers who have built and sustained the state’s largest general farm organization over the last 100 years,” Bednarski said. “She has exhibited a commitment to Michigan agriculture through her volunteer efforts and is instrumental to the success of the Macomb County Farm Bureau, as well as playing a significant volunteer role at the state level.”

In nominating Kutchey for the state-level award, the Macomb County Farm Bureau said she “always finds time to volunteer and make a difference every day as a Farm Bureau member.”

Under Kutchey’s leadership, Macomb County Farm Bureau has seen a continued increase in membership involvement and engagement thanks to her direct and personal connections with members through phone calls, visits, texts and emails.

She’s also assisted in creating a number of new membership events and programming including farm safety and emergency preparedness training, and Project Rural Education Days, a program designed to promote agricultural awareness to the non-farm community.

Growing up in a Farm Bureau family, Kutchey began attending events at an early age with her parents helping work programs and sitting through meetings.

She always knew she wanted to be involved.

“Once I was old enough to get involved on my own, I understood why my parents picked Farm Bureau,” Kutchey said. “Through my volunteer efforts, Farm Bureau helps me reach my urban neighbors by helping them understand where their food comes from. It also helps us create policy to help legislators understand how their policies impact every one of our farms across the state.”

Kutchey recently co-chaired a 13-member statewide study committee tasked with reviewing the organization’s structure, programs and services. Those networking opportunities with volunteer members across the state have been the most rewarding, she said.

“Others may not grow or raise the same products as you, but they understand the trials and frustrations that can happen in any given season,” Kutchey added. “It allows for sharing ideas, successes and failures with each other while continuing to move forward to preserve the agricultural footprint in our state.”  

Kutchey will receive her Volunteer of the Year award at the 100th Michigan Farm Bureau Presidents Luncheon, Dec. 3, at the DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

“I’m truly honored to be selected to receive this award. Michigan Farm Bureau is full of so many deserving volunteers who put their time and energy into this organization,” Kutchey said.

 
Macomb County Farm Bureau President Amanda Kutchey has been named Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) 2019 Presidential Volunteer of the Year for her volunteer involvement and leadership of local and state-level Farm Bureau activities.

State News

Michigan Farm Bureau
Jeremy Winsor was MFB's 2019 Educator of the Year.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.

Suitable nominees include any educator in your county who does an outstanding job incorporating agriculture into their curriculum and strengthening relationships between educators and your county Farm Bureau.

Both agriscience and/or K-12 educators are eligible. Qualified nominees should use innovative teaching techniques to increase their students’ understanding of agriculture.

The winner will be honored at MFB’s 2020 Annual Meeting and will receive a grant for classroom supplies and a scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, June 24-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Nominations must be completed online by Feb. 15.

For more information, contact Amelia Miller, 517-679-5688.

Nominations for MFB’s 2020 Educator of the Year Award are due no later than Feb. 15.
Jeremy C. Nagel



Top photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch at MFB's 2018 Annual Meeting
Middle photo: Her family's name was part of the Holton Township landscape long before Kathy Slater grew up there, the eldest of five daughters on her parent's Muskegon County dairy farm.
Bottom photo: Kathleen Slater-Hirsch and her son Bill flanked by Lisa Fedewa and Tom Nugent representing the MFB Family of Companies 

Even the most senior Farm Bureau veterans don’t likely remember a time when the state annual meeting didn’t smell like a movie theatre lobby from start to finish. That’s because Kent County Farm Bureau member Kathy Slater-Hirsch has been popping corn at the event for the past four decades.

How she got to become a fixture at the largest annual gathering of Michigan farmers is a story any of those farmers will appreciate, as it embodies the same kind of grit and determination characteristic of those who make their living from the land.

Kathy Slater grew up the eldest of five daughters on a dairy farm in northeastern Muskegon County, near Holton.

“My dad was a lifetime Farm Bureau member — he loved it — his brothers did, too. A lot of them were farmers,” Kathy said between popcorn rushes at MFB’s 2018 Annual Meeting. “He was quite the inventor and did a lot of things first in Michigan. He was the first to have a pipeline milker, bulk tank… He had all sorts of equipment to help him work because he only had girls — no boys!”

Both her parents in those early years embodied the kind of social hospitality Kathy would, later in life, bring full-circle back to the greater Farm Bureau family.

“I remember when they were first married, my mom would have a luncheon in the house and the members would come from all around,” she remembers, describing the rituals that endure to this day among Farm Bureau Community Groups.

“Dad would get everything all spiffy in the barn for the neighbors,” she said. “It was a social event — a good, social gathering of the neighborhood.”

Kathy would eventually leave the farm, graduate from accounting school, and move to Kansas City where she worked for Gulf Oil through the 1970s. She and her husband eventually returned to Michigan to start their family in Grand Rapids.

In more ways than one, their son Bill Hirsch would go on to complete the story.

By the mid-1980s, the same high interest rates and inflation that was putting so many farms into bankruptcy had the Hirsch family in a similar bind.

“And my father just walked away,” Bill remembers. “He left my mom and us — a 13-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son — under a mountain of debt.”

There were multiple mortgages, massive credit card debt and leins on auto loans. But even under those most dire of circumstances, the dairyman’s daughter from Holton rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

Besides the family and financial disaster her husband left behind, he also walked away from the popcorn wagon they’d bought from a relative a decade earlier — a 1926 Cretors originally designed to be drawn by horses. The antique went straight into storage as a sacred family heirloom, but in the economy of the mid-‘80s, it was forced back into service.

“It needed to help pay for itself,” Bill remembers.

Its first outing was at an antique market in Allegan, a few years before Kathy took on the annual Farm Bureau gig. In addition to popcorning full-tilt at events across multiple states, she had also begun a jewelry business, a carpet-cleaning business and was managing rental units across Grand Rapids.

“My mom can be very, um, strong-willed,” Bill said. “For the war she fought on her own and got through, I love her dearly and I’m just amazed at what she’s accomplished and achieved in her life.

“She never filed for bankruptcy. She never lost the house.

“In my eyes she’s always been very successful, and she did not want to quit or retire ever. She’s said to me countless times, ‘Retiring’s not in my vocabulary.’ She didn’t want to give up.”

But Parkinson’s Disease is also strong-willed, eroding the links between brain and body until Kathy was forced at last onto the sidelines.

MFB’s 2019 Annual Meeting was her last.

In another full-circle twist, Bill is downsizing his own dairy operation to make room for the popcorn wagon that’s been part of his family’s identity since the ‘70s.

“Now I feel like this is a family legacy and it needs to continue. People love it.”

The Allegan antique market is still on the agenda, as is the Farm Bureau annual meeting, but this year it’ll be Bill filling the bags in his mother’s place.

For 40 years of making Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual meeting crunchier, saltier and more buttery than it otherwise would be, Kathy Slater-Hirsch was recently honored with a token of the organization’s appreciation. Earlier this month MFB Human Resources Director Tom Nugent and Lisa Fedewa, Engagement Specialist for Farm Bureau Insurance, delivered flowers, a plaque and other tokens of appreciation to the beloved “Popcorn Lady.”

“She loved the recognition,” Bill said. “She’s an outstanding lady.

“She took care of me now it’s my turn to take care of her.”

From a Muskegon County dairy farm through life’s most daunting crises, the “Popcorn Lady” of MFB’s annual meeting passes her legacy onto the next generation.
Michigan Farm Bureau
Kalamazoo County FB members enjoy a good rapport with U.S. Dist. 5 Congressman Fred Upton, who regularly attends Farm Bureau gatherings to exchange information on ag-related issues.

Close and regular contact with regulators and elected officials is the not-so-secret approach the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau uses to maintain its high profile among decision-makers. Whether it’s a state agriculture commissioner or a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, no public official is beyond approaching from engaged Kalamazoo members advocating on behalf of their neighbors and farmers statewide.

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.

One longstanding issue that really got Kalamazoo members motivated to take action was the matter of removing zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs (generally accepted agricultural management practices.)

“This idea began here nearly five years ago, when a local township changed its zoning and made agriculture practically illegal — all to stop livestock facilities from being built within a prime farming area,” recalls Kelly Leach, president of the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau.

Ever since, Kalamazoo members have worked relentlessly to be a continual presence at township board and planning commission meetings, fine-tuning policy addressing the issue and lobbying officials to protect agriculture.

“Through this issue we were even able to engage several un-involved members and spark their interest in strengthening the grassroots power of our organization,” Leach said. “This is a perfect example of the importance and effectiveness of strong grassroots lobbying to solve a problem detrimental to our industry.”

Kalamazoo’s regular schedule is a study in public affairs engagement. Upwards of a dozen elected officials or staffers attend the county’s annual policy development meeting, where they get a front-row seat on local issues affecting local farmers.

That theme continues at the county annual, regularly attended by U.S. Dist. 6 Representative Fred Upton and the region’s state reps and senators.

“We host these events each year to engage and involve our local, state and national officials and allow them to interact with our members,” Leach said.

Congressman Upton himself was the focus of a special roundtable last summer regarding the effects of adverse weather on the region’s farms.

“After touring several fields, Congressman Upton spoke with several farmer members from around the county to discuss policy issues impacting them,” Leach said. “Almost a dozen of our members met with him, his staff and several members of the media.”

Kalamazoo last year also co-hosted a farm tour for elected officials, working with the local Conservation District. Stops included a commercial greenhouse, a fruit and vegetable agritourism operation, a large commercial grain operation and a dairy farm.

“We filled a commercial-size bus with 12 elected officials, 15 of our farmer members and 10 staffers who either rode the bus or attended one of the tour stops,” Leach said.

Officials know they’re welcome at Kalamazoo’s monthly board meetings to hear about issues, share how they'll address them and forge stronger bonds with local farmers.

Kalamazoo members take full advantage of resources for maintaining open lines of communication with the officials who represent them in government and the regulatory staff whose decisions affect farmers’ livelihoods.

For urgent issues, every Farm Bureau member knows there’s no substitute for personal, face-to-face interaction. That’s how Kalamazoo members faced last summer’s challenges to the site-selection GAAMPs.

“Several of our members lobbied specific ag commissioners on the need to remove zoning conformance from the site-selection GAAMPs,” Leach said. “There was also a group of our members who traveled to personally attend and testify on this issue at several ag commission meetings over the past few years.”

Kalamazoo members with particularly close relations to officials are comfortable calling them directly on the phone. Others have made full use of MFB’s new ‘Farm Feed’ texting service to make their voices heard on issues including the Clean Water Rule, USDA emergency provisions, low-interest loans and glyphosate regulation.

The award will be presented at the annual Lansing Legislative Seminar, Feb. 25 at the Lansing Center. For its efforts Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau receives a $500 grant for use toward future grassroots lobbying activities.

 

For its full-court press approach to addressing issues and keeping officials aware of Farm Bureau’s stances on them, the Kalamazoo County Farm Bureau has earned MFB’s 2020 Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award.

Coming Events

DateEvents
February2020
Friday
21
2020 Young Farmer Leaders Conference
100 Grand Traverse Village Blvd
Acme,
The Michigan Farm Bureau Young Farmer Leaders Conference is for young members between the ages of 18 and 35. This two-and-a-half-day conference unites 350 young agriculture leaders and industry experts, centers on these members’ professional and personal growth and addresses issues relevant to this generation, including leadership training, management skills and business/family relationships.
February2020
Tuesday
25
2020 Lansing Legislative Seminar
333 E. Michigan Ave.
Lansing, MI
Lansing Legislative Seminar provides an opportunity to learn from expert speakers on policy issues impacting agriculture, help legislative and regulatory leaders understand Farm Bureau policy, and share ideas and talk about local issues with fellow members.
March2020
Monday
9
2020 Washington Legislative Seminar
480 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington DC,
The 2020 Washington Legislative Seminar will update farmers on national issues and provide the opportunity to explore the Nation’s Capital. The seminar will provide opportunities for participants to make personal contact with members of Congress and other government leaders to advocate for legislation and/or regulation using Farm Bureau policy, which impacts Michigan agriculture.