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Local Farm Bureau members travel to Washington to talk about agriculture

by Candice Miller on March 25, 2013

Lapeer County Press

METAMORA— More than 130 Michigan farmers, including four from Lapeer County, ventured to the nation’s capitol last week to speak directly with members of congress about a variety of pressing agricultural issues. Representing the interests of Farm Bureau members in more than 60 counties, participants personally lobbied members of congress, their staff and agency leaders about immigration reform, tax reform and continued access to livestock health care tools.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual Washington Legislative Seminar, March 13-15 this year, gave participants an opportunity to work directly with lawmakers and regulators to help them make betterinformed decisions on farm-related policies.

In their discussions with the state’s congressional delegation, Lapeer County farmers Robert and Tamra Hartwig of Metamora and Richard and Deborah Ziehm of Almont, explained in detail the struggles they face securing the seasonal employees needed every year to cultivate, harvest and process the commodities they produce. Participants advocated for federal-level immigration reform as necessary for ensuring an ample supply of legal workers for all types of agriculture.

In meetings with Senate Agriculture Committee staff and at the U.S. Dept. of Labor, MFB members hammered home the point that the current H-2A program falls far short of being a practical tool for farmers in need of seasonal labor.

Farm Bureau members encouraged lawmakers to consider comprehensive tax reform. With most farms in Michigan and nationwide being family-owned and operated, the vast majority of farmers pay taxes as individuals under sole proprietorships or family partnerships.

Capital gains taxes adversely impact farming when the value of farm land increases over time, as has recently been the case. And estate taxes have long been a bane to family farms because most of their assets are land-based. When farm ownership transitions from one generation to the next, that succeeding generation are often forced to sell land, buildings or vital equipment just to pay estate taxes.

WLS participants also spoke with officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about efforts to restrict access to animal antibiotics, and with Department of Labor staff about enforcement procedures.

Farm Bill

Senator Debbie Stabenow Friday morning offered WLS attendees the latest on the status of the next farm bill.

“This would be the biggest jobs bill most legislators would ever vote on,” Stabenow said, reaffirming her commitment to the legislation her Senate Agriculture Committee designed last year, which enjoyed widespread bipartisan support before being iced by House leadership.

That same House, she said, is seeking instead what she called “disturbing cuts” to agriculture funding totally some $200 billion, mostly from nutrition programs but including $50 billion in cuts to crop insurance, the commodity title and conservation programs.

Stabenow pledged to keep fighting for her committee’s bill despite the obstacles it faces in the House, saying she’s hoping to see forward progress in April.

Awards

During their office visits on Capitol Hill Thursday, MFB members also took time to recognize lawmakers whose efforts are consistent with Farm Bureau policy and responsive to the needs of Michigan agriculture. Friend of Farm Bureau Awards went to eight members of the state’s delegation in the House of Representatives:

•Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing)

•Dist. 3 Rep. Justin Amash (R-Kentwood)

•Dist. 1 Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls)

•Dist. 4 Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland)

•Dist. 2 Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland)

•Dist. 10 Rep. Candice Miller (R-Harrison Twp.)

•Dist. 8 Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Brighton)

•Dist. 6 Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph)

http://thecountypress.mihomepaper.com/news/2013-03-20/Marketplace/Local_Farm_Bureau_members_travel_to_Washington_to_.html

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