The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly known as the Farm Bill, was recently extended by Congress as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.

But what happens now?

That's the question that organizers of the 2013 Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference are hoping to help answer with the last-minute addition of a speaker to the conference agenda. Slated for 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Lansing Center in downtown Lansing, the conference will now feature a presentation by David Schweikhardt, professor in the Michigan State University Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics.

Schweikhardt is MSU's expert on the Farm Bill.

"All farm bills since 1948 have been amendments to the 1948 ‘permanent legislation'," Schweikhardt said. "When a newer bill, or an amendment to the '48 legislation, expires, that means the amendment is no longer in force, and we revert to the '48 bill."

Schweikhardt said that the 1948 legislation was written at a time when price supports were high, but amendments to that legislation have changed it to a policy that is oriented toward direct payments.

Although the 2012 Farm Bill is now in effect, Schweikhardt expects more news and action around the bill this year. And that's what he'll talk about with attendees at the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference.

"We know that farmers and agricultural professionals need this information," said Dale Rozeboom, MSU professor in the Department of Animal Science and MSU Extension specialist, who is organizing the conference. "There's a lot more that growers need to make sure they can feed a growing population and maintain profits – in spite of any changes to the Farm Bill that we may see."

The one-day conference is packed with timely information from MSU Extension educators and nationally known speakers that will help Michigan producers maximize their farms' potential.

"So often we have great speakers at our individual winter commodity meetings. This conference allows people from all agriculture sectors to come together in one setting, hear the very best speakers and get the latest information on a variety of important topics," Rozeboom said.

During the conference, MSU professor and veterinarian Julie Funk will discuss how reemerging food safety issues could affect Michigan agriculture and how improved diagnostics can help producers protect their commodities. A team of MSU specialists will discuss strategic and global perspectives on feed availability, volatile feed costs and price received, variable feed quality, increasing on-farm storage capabilities, exports and a structurally changing global feed industry.

Bernie Erven, of The Ohio State University, will talk about recruiting, hiring and keeping topnotch labor. His presentation will focus on hiring the right candidate to ensure a successful outcome.

Producers can learn how to incorporate and effectively apply precision ag technology to gain efficiencies and increase farm profits during a presentation by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Joe Luck.

Donald Reicosky, soil scientist emeritus at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service will discuss how producers can manage soil to improve infiltration and water-holding capacity. Reicosky's past research involved describing crop response and water use on conventional tillage and no-till systems with and without irrigation. His more current work focuses on tillage and residue management in cropping systems.

A roundtable discussion will cover the morning session topics; a producer panel at the end of the day will discuss lessons learned from the challenging 2012 growing season. Several Michigan farmers will address management practices that they had in place that helped them respond to the variable growing conditions of 2012.

"Producer panels really help to bring the information home to where production takes place," Rozeboom said. "We're planning this year to take time in the conference to evaluate how labor, food safety, efficient use of technology, securing animal feeds, and above- and belowground crop management are included in practical strategies for the future. If we stay aware of what is happening and what may be coming, then we will be able to make wise transitions in our farming business plans."

The conference registration fee of $50 includes lunch. Register online by visiting, or contacting Megghan Honke at or (517) 353-3175, ext. 229.