Way back in February, the 2020 Voice of Agriculture Conference was the last time members got to enjoy personal contact and tours of Michigan ag facilities — in this case Thiesen Greenhouse in St. Clair County.

In a Dec. 11 message to county Farm Bureau leaders, MFB President Carl Bednarski broke the bad — but not wholly surprising — news that the organization’s winter 2021 core programs will be canceled to safeguard the health and well-being of members and staff alike.

“For months we’ve been holding our breath and hoping for a change in the state’s health situation and restrictions,” Bednarski said. “After soliciting feedback from state committees, county presidents and staff, the MFB board of directors has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 Growing TogetherLansing Legislative Seminar and Presidents Capitol Summit.”

Note that those three named events actually represent five: Growing Together is a combination of the Young Farmer Leaders and Voice of Agriculture conferences. And the Presidents’ Capitol Summit brings together the Council of Presidents’ Conference and Washington Legislative Seminar.

That clears the slate of the organization’s usual wintertime “meeting season,” the normally predictable sequence of events and conferences that gathers a head of steam with county Farm Bureau annual meetings then kicks off after Thanksgiving with the State Annual Meeting.

Clearing the slate of the wintertime “meeting season” rests on a lot of solid reasoning:

  • Meeting-size limitations from both the state(s) and the privately-owned hotels and conference centers would have shrunk any of the core program events to a fraction of their normal size. Limited venue capacities make tours and breakout sessions functionally impossible.
  • State and federal legislators’ offices are closed and most won’t attend large gatherings.
  • Advanced notice is required to avoid cancellation penalties from venues hosting events. Canceling those events early also means more time to plan alternatives.

State-level leaders are conferring with staff and county Farm Bureau presidents to find alternative means of working toward core program objectives through county, district or regional events or programming. Among those goals:

  • Provide resources, training and leadership development for county Membership, Promotion and Education and Young Farmer chairs
  • Offer leadership development for county leaders and boards
  • Enhance member relationship building with state and federal officials
  • Host Young Farmer district discussion meets
  • Conduct Policy Development discussions
  • Promote collaboration amongst counties and districts

Delegates were surveyed at their district meetings in November; their responses will help district directors, county presidents, state committee members and regional managers plan alternative programming for 2021.

County Farm Bureaus contribute to a core program fund according to their membership, partially underwriting the cost of those statewide programs and enabling counties to send an allocated number of attendees to each event.

“These resources will be redirected as determined by district directors, county presidents and state committee members,” Bednarski said.

“We appreciate your grace and patience as we make decisions in the best interest of our members’ and organization’s health and safety. Stay tuned for alternate programming announcements and opportunities in January!”