LANSING — Despite several major challenges in 2020, headlined by fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski, a Tuscola County farmer, urged Farm Bureau members to recognize the economic turnaround in major commodity markets, setting the stage for a better 2021.
Delivering his annual address virtually on Nov. 4, during the opening session of the organization’s virtual 101st state annual meeting — themed “Building for the Future,” Bednarski commended members for their ingenuity and creativity as county Farm Bureau leaders and as farmers.
“Our lives changed; the world changed,” Bednarski said regarding COVID-19. “There was panic, and people were scared. But agriculture knew we needed to continue what we do best — produce food.”
Bednarski focused on several wins for agriculture amid the challenges of COVID-19, noting the organization’s focus and success in reversing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order issued in early April, effectively shutting down greenhouses, nurseries, and landscapers.
“The timing could not have been worse,” Bednarski said. “With product ready to be shipped to consumers, why didn’t (Gov. Whitmer) at least give growers the option to show they could abide by the rules?”
Bednarski said more than 56,000 responses were generated from an MFB-issued Action Alert to members, adding the response was 33 times bigger than any previous alerts issued by the organization.
“We were able to call out the flaws in the EO and make accommodations for producers to sell their products and get back to work in the fields,” Bednarski said. “I was extremely proud of our members for how they handled this issue. It showed the strength and unity in agriculture and the role Farm Bureau played.”
Bednarski said the organization was called upon to assist members and their employees in their legal challenge to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services mandated testing requirement of farmworkers, citing civil rights and discrimination concerns.
“Even though farmers and farmworkers knew they faced an uphill battle, and ultimately lost their case, they knew this organization stood behind them in their efforts,” Bednarski said. “It’s another great example of how your organization is constantly working for you and for Michigan agriculture.”
MFB also assisted members in June to take legal action challenging the new National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy that, according to Bednarski, “largely ignores livestock industry recommendations and the most basic agronomic standards.”
“The potential implications of EGLE’s unrealistic permit requirements is just the first step toward more overly-burdensome regulations impacting all of Michigan agriculture — livestock and crop operations alike,” Bednarski said. “Regardless of farm size and regardless of whether we’re talking manure or commercial fertilizers, the threat is real.”
On the economic front, Bednarski acknowledged the “tough spot” farmers were put in due to retaliatory tariffs during intense trade negotiations with China and the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, but commended the Trump administration’s support of agriculture throughout process.
“It was a breath of fresh air to hear President Trump make agriculture a priority during trade negotiations with China, Japan, Canada, Mexico and now the European Union,” Bednarksi said. “Those of us in agriculture recognized the game that was being played — we had seen it before.”
As a result of those tough negotiations and the new Phase-1 trade deal signed last January, Bednarski predicted better days ahead for producers, with China making record purchases of U.S. corn and soybeans, which are reflected in the markets during fall-harvest.
With his annual address coming just a day after arguably one of the most contentious and controversial elections in recent memory, Bednarski commended the work of County Candidate Evaluation Committees for recommending “Friends of Agriculture” endorsements to MFB’s AgriPac.
“Yesterday’s results at polls reflect on successes and change,” Bednarski said. “Amid a volatile election cycle, many of Michigan Farm Bureau’s AgriPac-endorsed Friends of Agriculture proved victorious in their general election races — including several hard-fought and highly contested races.
“Unfortunately, it appears we’ll have to wait a few more days before we know if President Trump will continue to be there for our farmers, as he has been throughout the last four years,” he added.
Calling it a memorable election for agriculture, Bednarksi thanked members for their efforts to meet with candidates on their farms to understand the needs of farmers and rural communities, noting their efforts will need to continue.
“As final official election results are determined, Michigan agriculture will face additional challenges and opportunities to assist those newly elected officials to understand agriculture’s concerns and the impact of their future policy decisions,” Bednarski said.
In addition to assisting farmer members navigate the challenges of a pandemic, he said the Farm Bureau Family of Companies staff, insurance agents and members stepped up to help those in need in a big way, including the “We’re in This Together” initiative to support local restaurants, and the “Million Meals Challenge.”
“Together, in a one-week campaign, Farm Bureau agents, members, insureds and staff raised more than $183,000 for families in need,” Bednarski said. “Those dollars helped the organization surpass their goal, raising enough for 1.1 million meals for Michigan children and families affected by the pandemic.”
Watch President Bednarski’s annual address here.
— Michigan Farm Bureau
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