County News Archive


Got-Tires_2020
Pictured is Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive.

AUSTIN, Texas – A tire here, a tire there.

Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive, identified a need in her community, one that involved collecting and disposing of 100-pound tires while mitigating the spread of mosquitos and rats living there.

Over two days in March 2019, Saginaw County and Genesee County Farm Bureaus collected more than 860 tires. In doing this, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) presented the Farm Bureaus with County Activities of Excellence Awards, which honor the top county Farm Bureau activities in the nation.

“Farmers have leftover tires they'd like to get rid of, so we started working on finding a place that would accept them,” Weiss told Michigan Farm News in Austin, Texas, during AFBF’s Annual Convention and Trade Show, Jan. 17-22. The Farm Bureaus selected Linwood Tire Recycling of Detroit.

“We were very concerned about being able to control mosquitoes, rats on farms, weed infestations and just in general … that the farm looks better.”

According to Weiss, the Farm Bureaus received about $8,000 through various grants and four trailers to haul the tires. Initially, Linwood Tire suggested farmers could probably only collect 100 tires in each of the 53-foot trailers.

But then about 55 to 56 farms contributed to the donation.

“We managed to get about 250 tires into each of the trailers,” Weiss said. “We say we had about 100 volunteers because each and every time that a farm brought their tires they were told to … be a volunteer for 15 minutes. They had to help us unload their tires and put them in the box.”

It’s efforts from communities like Saginaw and Genesee that show Farm Bureau members’ passion for recycling tires and plastics, said Tess Van Gorder, associate policy and regulatory specialist for Michigan Farm Bureau.

“We’ve seen that opportunities for recycling across the state are inconsistent,” Van Gorder said. “This leads to innovative thinking and program creation by members to help serve the needs of their communities.”

Even though Michigan suspended tire grant funding for 2020, Weiss said she’d like to do the drive again in 2020.

“We'll have to think of ways to get the grant money or how much can we charge a farmer to get rid of them,” she said. “Another response we got when people brought their tires: ‘You need to be looking for a way for me to get rid of my pesticides that I can't use on my farms.’ So, that's a new need that we've identified.

“Both of these needs are member-service driven, and … a big part of Farm Bureau is what can we do for our members.”

To learn more about the drive or to become a sponsor, contact Weiss at [email protected] or the Saginaw County Farm Bureau. Look for the video interview with Weiss in the coming days.

Joanmarie Weiss, a Saginaw County Farm Bureau member and project chair of a recent farm tire recycling drive.

Michigan Farm Bureau is bringing a bit of D.C. to Lansing for members attending the organization’s Feb. 25 Lansing Legislative Seminar. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to hear from a special guest within the Trump administration. Members interested in participating should contact their county Farm Bureau as soon as possible, before the fast-approaching Feb. 7 registration deadline.

The grassroots lobbying event promises an exciting day for members passionate about advocating for agriculture and Farm Bureau policy and learning about state legislative and regulatory issues.

Registration will be open throughout the morning with the main program beginning promptly at 11:30 a.m. at the Lansing Center. All attendees should plan to arrive by 11 a.m. Members looking to arrive even earlier to the capital city have options for starting their day.

State Capitol Building Tours 

If you’ve never been inside Michigan’s historic capitol building — or it’s just been a while — a visit won’t disappoint! Lansing Legislative Seminar attendees can take a free guided tour of the landmark.

Tours depart the Lansing Center at 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.; pre-registration is not required. It’s a quarter-mile walk to the capitol, so dress for the weather.

AgriPac Fundraiser 

MFB’s political action committee, AgriPac, will host a fundraiser starting at 10:15 a.m. Feb. 25.

“This is a good opportunity for members to impact the 2020 election,” said Matt Kapp, MFB’s government relations specialist. “Donating to AgriPac helps MFB get the right ag voice to represent Michigan commodities.”

A minimum $50 donation is required to attend the talk by political speaker and journalist Patrick Haggerty, who will share his insight into the 2020 election. A 30-year veteran of political journalism, Haggerty will detail his analysis of the election process, assess political candidates and tout the impact of grassroots advocacy.

Voters will face a full ballot in November, including the presidency, a U.S. Senate seat, all of Michigan’s 14 U.S. House districts, all 110 state house districts, and county and township offices.

Informed by MFB’s grassroots candidate evaluation committees, AgriPac’s Friend of Agriculture endorsements represent Michigan farmers’ collective will in the political arena.

Fundraiser attendees can make a $50 donation via check or credit card; cash contributions will not be accepted. Register here. Personal checks should be made out to AgriPac; business checks to FarmPac.

Luncheon Program 

Lansing Legislative’s hallmark lunch program will begin promptly at 11:30 a.m. in the Lansing Center ballrooms, starting with opening remarks from MFB President Carl Bednarski.

The organization will host the state’s four most influential legislative leaders for a panel discussion: House Speaker Lee Chatfield (confirmed), Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (confirmed), House Minority Leader Christine Greig (invited) and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (confirmed).

Following the panel, the special guest from the Trump administration will take the stage to address the group.

Finally, one ambitious county Farm Bureau will also be recognized with MFB’s annual Excellence in Grassroots Lobbying Award. The recipient will receive a $500 grant and recognition plaque for outstanding efforts to inform and influence elected officials.

Issue Sessions & Networking Break 

That afternoon, members will choose breakout sessions to attend before and after a networking break, featuring everyone’s favorite snack, ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store!

Topics will include legislative or regulatory issues impacting farms and agribusinesses, including environmental policy and water use, state budget items pertinent to the farm sector, a 2020 election preview, grassroots advocacy and more.

Legislative Reception 

Starting around 4:30 p.m. state representatives, senators and dozens of other government and regulatory leaders will begin arriving for the legislative reception, where members will visit with elected officials and discuss current agricultural issues and Farm Bureau policy priorities.

Michigan Farm Bureau is bringing a bit of D.C. to Lansing for members attending the organization’s Feb. 25 Lansing Legislative Seminar. Attendees will have a rare opportunity to hear from a special guest within the Trump administration.
Michigan Farm Bureau

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 and 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.
By Megan Sprague

No farmer wants to ring in a New Year still worried about last year’s crop. Unfavorable weather and trade disruptions made 2019 a challenging year for farmers across Michigan, most of whom are hoping for a smoother 2020 after the ball drops in Times Square.

A member of the St. Joseph County Farm Bureau, Rich Baker raises seed corn, soybeans and swine near Sturgis. He said 2019 was his most challenging year to date.

“We fought mud all spring, drought mid-summer and mud all fall,” he said. “Everything took twice as long to do the same task.”

Ashley Messing Kennedy’s troubling year began at the end of 2018. The Huron County dairy farmer started 2019 battling her own postpartum depression and anxiety while grieving over a close friend and farm employee who died of suicide.

At first Kennedy coped by staying busy, fixing farm problems on her own and rarely asking for help. But six months later, she knew something wasn’t right.

“I realized I wasn’t okay,” Kennedy said. “I was sick to my stomach and not wanting to eat. I didn’t feel like being social, preferring to stay home and avoid people.

“For me — an extrovert — that was a big warning sign. I’ve always loved being around others.”

She arrived at that conclusion on her own, even though family members, especially her husband, had gently mentioned that she wasn’t seeming like herself.

“Even if you don’t say the perfect thing, it’s important that you still try to reach out when you see someone struggling.”

According to Michigan State University Extension, signs of stress differ, but some things to look for include:

  • Emotional changes — showing little enthusiasm or energy, anxiety, loss of spirit, depression or loss of humor
  • Changes in attitudes — becoming more critical or agitated over small things, lacking concentration, or having trouble making decisions
  • Behavioral changes — quieter than usual, trouble sleeping, missing social events or important meetings
  • Changes on the farm — increased accidents or declining care given to livestock, machinery, fields or even peers

It’s one thing for farmers to identify stress in themselves and others, but once recognized, action is then vital for managing stress before it’s beyond control.

Find Your Community

Baker manages his on-farm stress through a small community of peers he knows he can call on, even if he just needs to vent.

Some in his network have just been through more seasons than he’s seen, and help by sharing how they’ve weathered similar storms in the past. They offer support and help him identify stress in other farmers, getting his group together to take them out to lunch and work through whatever issues are keeping them up at night.

For Kennedy, having a community that understands you is huge. Just knowing you aren’t in it alone relieves a good deal of stress.

Find Your Joy

“One strategy for anyone struggling with stress is to find something that brings you joy — outside the farm,” Kennedy said.

For her, that’s her Saturday morning running group.

“Running’s been a game-changer for me. It’s so important to interact with people, face-to-face, that you don’t normally engage with. Whatever that is for you, do it — take time to get off the farm and walk away for a while. It will be there tomorrow.”

Let Pros be Pros

Baker’s stress-management tactic of choice is talking with others.

“You can’t just bottle things up,” he said. “If you don’t have a built-in network of farmers, go talk to a professional. In some cases that may be even more beneficial because their opinions may be more impartial.”

For Kennedy, seeing her doctor was crucial to moving forward.

“Even though I’ve always been a huge proponent of mental health, it’s easy to give advice and not take it,” she said. “Talking to my doctor about what was going on was tough — one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — but also one of the best.”

Kennedy said one of the important benefits of working with a professional is they listen and offer strategies without judgement.

“Talking to someone you don’t know well may seem overwhelming, but we often forget professionals have the training to give you the next step,” she said. “Giving them a chance to do their job is really valuable and, while it may not be comfortable, it’s worth it.”

Seek Resources

Providing Young Farmers with stress-management resources was a priority for members of MFB’s State Young Farmer Committee in planning the upcoming 2020 Young Farmers Leaders Conference, Feb. 21-23 near Traverse City.

On site all day Saturday at the event will be Barb Smith — a resource for anyone who wants to talk. Executive director of the Barb Smith Suicide Resource & Response Network, she will also present a breakout session about recognizing the potential warning signs of suicide. (More information about the workshop is available online. Register with your county Farm Bureau before Jan. 17 to attend.)

Kennedy recommends farmers seek out local resources as well.

“Even if you don’t use them yourself, you can share them with someone who might need them,” she said.

“As we move into the New Year, it’s important to resolve to prioritize your health, and direct other farmers who are struggling to people who can help them and recognize this is something everyone will face,” Kennedy said.

“That’s the thing about mental health: so often we just act like everything’s okay, but for most people, it’s not, and we need to embrace that it’s okay to get help.”

More resources are available through MSU Extension’s Managing Farm Stress program.

Megan Sprague is Michigan Farm Bureau’s new Young Farmer Programs Specialist.

No farmer wants to ring in a New Year still worried about last year’s crop. Unfavorable weather and trade disruptions made 2019 a challenging year for farmers across Michigan, most of whom are hoping for a smoother 2020 after the ball drops in Times