Urban farming, renewable fuels, hydraulic fracking, food labeling, wildlife management—all will be among the host of topics up for discussion among groups of farmers convening June 28 at several locations around the state. The event will comprise a potent brainstorming session on dozens of agriculture-related issues, and an aggressive launch of Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) 2013 grassroots policy development process.
"We're using some technology this year to make it easier for any farmer to join the discussion and offer their thoughts from wherever they happen to be that morning," said Sarah Black, who directs the organization's public policy division. "They can join from the cab of their tractor, their farm office, via Google Hangout or in person at one of the four event locations in Lansing, Escanaba, Gaylord or Saginaw."
The event will also be streamed live via MFB's new website.
The day's discussions will be used to seed MFB's 2013 policy development process, which will continue with county-level policy deliberations in the late summer and fall, then culminate in the organization's state annual meeting, held in Grand Rapids the week after Thanksgiving.
"We've found this is a great way to kick-start our annual policy process," Black said. "Our members are our grass roots, and Farm Bureau is their organization. That's how we work, and that's how our organizational direction is defined—fresh every year, by our members, for our members, directly reflecting their concerns, priorities and aspirations."
Following a welcome from MFB President Wayne H. Wood, attendees will turn their attention to a long menu of farm-related topics. Beyond those mentioned above, the agenda will include discussion on the use of proprietary information generated from precision agriculture technologies, state ballot initiative reform and ideas surrounding property taxes.
"Since its founding in 1919, Farm Bureau has represented the collective voice of its members—farmers who now raise more than 300 different commodities in every corner of the state, on farms of all shapes and sizes," Black said. "Make no mistake: it can be a juggling act sometimes as a general farm organization, advocating for such a diverse group of members. But for nearly 100 years, this is exactly how we've been able to forge such a strong organizational identity—by giving all our members a voice in Lansing, in Washington D.C., and in the public eye."
Lansing Community College's west campus will host the event, 9:30-11:30 a.m. June 28. For information about how to participate from one of the satellite locations, or pretty much anywhere else, contact your county Farm Bureau office or MFB regional representative.