LANSING, Jan. 5, 2012 - Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) leaders will help develop American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) policy on a host of issues ranging from the farm bill to immigration reform and animal antibiotics when they join delegates from across the nation for the AFBF 93rd Convention and Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Jan. 8-11.
Policy resolutions adopted at the meeting will direct AFBF action in 2012. Members of the MFB board of directors will serve as voting delegates for Michigan at the meeting. (A complete list follows.)
Resolutions are first approved by state Farm Bureaus and then forwarded to AFBF, where a national policy development committee made up of state Farm Bureau presidents consolidates them to present to voting delegates at the annual meeting. Some resolutions propose new policy but most amend or reaffirm existing AFBF policy.
In total, 370 farmer delegates from all 50 states and Puerto Rico will consider more than 170 resolutions. Highlighted here are some of the policy issues that MFB's delegation will monitor closely.
MFB leaders hope to persuade their Farm Bureau counterparts to adopt organizational policy which calls for immigration enforcement to be handled federally rather than state by state.
"The Michigan Farm Bureau believes in states' rights and we agree America's immigration system is broken, but implementing immigration enforcement programs on a state-by-state basis is not the solution," said Ryan Findlay, MFB national legislative counsel.
"The Michigan Farm Bureau is convinced immigration enforcement and border security should be the responsibility of Congress and, in the case of agriculture, must include a simple and effective guest worker program," he said.
Farmers have told MFB that a patchwork of immigration laws, including mandates in some states such as Georgia to use an electronic screening system known as "E-Verify," is negatively impacting Michigan's ability to hire an estimated 45,000 guest workers needed annually to fulfill a variety of agricultural jobs, including helping to harvest perishable fruits and vegetables.
The concern is that known flaws with the E-Verify system discourage seasonal farm workers who are in the United States legally from seeking employment out of fear of being racially profiled.
"Several farmers have told us they believe the simple discussion of E-Verify caused Michigan to have a labor shortage in 2011 even though E-Verify is not currently required here," said Findlay. "In Georgia where it's mandated, the state has lost millions, and vegetables were left to rot because no one would pick them."
Draft policy set to go before AFBF delegates, as influenced by MFB, recommends that AFBF "oppose any mandate on employers to use E-Verify until an acceptable agricultural guest worker program is in place that allows work authorization for workers not authorized currently."
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