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Local farm leaders take ag issues right to Congressmen

LANSING, MI -- Ag industry leaders from across Michigan gathered in the nation's capitol recently to talk farm issues directly with the state's congressional delegation. Michigan Farm Bureau's (MFB) board of directors and more than 40 county Farm Bureau presidents met with Michigan Senators and Representatives June 10-12 in Washington, D.C.

The organization's inaugural Presidents' Capitol Summit gave the state's local Farm Bureau leaders an opportunity to leverage the organization's influence and take pressing farm issues straight to lawmakers on the national stage. Visiting with members of Congress Thursday afternoon, MFB leaders focused on four key issues impacting Michigan agriculture: international trade, tax reform, biotechnology, and farm labor and immigration reform.

Steve Thelen, president of the Washtenaw County Farm Bureau, appreciated the opportunity to rub elbows with his peers from across the state—and members of Congress.

"This has been great opportunity—and we're taking full advantage of it—to speak with our elected officials about issues affecting Michigan agriculture," Thelen said. "We've laid out our concerns about food labeling, immigration and tax issues. We also met with Senators Peters and Stabenow, who brought her ag policy staff to hear us out."

Clinton County Farm Bureau President Rob West focused his face time with Congressmen on tax issues.

"I spoke with members of the House of Representatives about tax reform," West said. "I asked them to pass the tax extenders soon so we can actually plan for tax season, unlike last year when they were passed in late December."

"It's always great to have our grass-roots leaders in town to take care of a lot of that Hill work, letting the respective members of Congress know exactly where our leaders stand," said Dale Moore, executive director of public policy at the American Farm Bureau Federation. "These kinds of leaders really take a strong message when they go to the Hill."

Other activities included issue briefings from American Farm Bureau Federation staff and visits to prominent D.C. attractions, including Arlington National Cemetery, where several participants honored the memory of Michigan servicemen and women. Participants also toured Mount Vernon and the U.S. Capitol.