Oct 23, 2009
Michigan Governor May Kill University Research, Extension This Week

People who value the agricultural work of Michigan State University – in research, Extension and teaching – are being asked to contact the Michigan governor and urge her not to veto funding for its continuing operations.

Agricultural leaders in Michigan – at the university and elsewhere – are concerned about a signal” they saw Oct. 16. When the university received its October payment from the state that day, the payment did not include the appropriation for the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (MAES) or Extension (MSUE).

A year ago, Gov. Jennifer Granholm threatened to eliminate all their funding, but most was saved by an agreement to use stimulus dollars from the federal government. Those dollars paid for 44 percent of what would usually be the full general fund appropriation.

The state’s economy has continued to decline, and with it state revenues. In October, state funding continued under a continuation budget agreement. That agreement ends Nov. 1, when a budget for the new fiscal year must be in place.

While the Legislature passed budget bills in October, not all were sent to the governor, who had threatened to use her line-item veto to force the crafting of a bill more to her liking.

That is what triggered the fear that Extension and research at MSU were in jeopardy.

Michigan, which was the first state to have a land-grant university, could become the only state in the nation not to have a university with comprehensive land-grant programs.

In two pages of “talking points” – unsigned but on Extension and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources letterhead – these points were made:

–If the governor vetoes the line items for MAES and MSUE, Extension programs, meetings and services in 82 counties will end immediately and 17 MAES field stations will close immediately, except for crucial operations such as farm animal care and harvest. Other operations will be considered, pending review of contractual obligations with partners and funders.

–If there is no veto and the higher education budget bill is signed, “our focus will turn to restoring our general fund appropriation that was supplanted this year with stimulus funding.” That action needs to be done by Dec. 31 to avoid a transition plan that includes dramatic staff reductions and closure of university research facilities.

–Overriding a gubernatorial veto would restore funding that already exists in the legislature’s budget plan. It does not require any new dollars or any new taxes to fund these programs.

Agriculture is “the one bright spot in the Michigan economy,” the paper said, and is well-positioned to be a leader in the bio-economy. Michigan will lose in the race to establish a green economy with loss of MAES, MSUE and CANR. “Michigan’s agri-foods sector growth will be stopped in its tracks.”

MAES and MSUE are providing the research for the green economy that is creating new jobs for Michigan, the paper said. These are jobs that our highly skilled workforce can transition into. If there is no MAES and MSUE, there is no pathway for advancements in agriculture and natural resources to be transferred to new opportunities. The cuts to MSU Extension and MAES mean no support to help farmers and food processors with timely information affecting the business of growing food, “thereby halting any progress we’ve made with the state’s only thriving industry,” the paper said. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be crippled and may not exist, since 74 percent of its funding is provided by MAES and MSUE.

Significant annual funding will not come to MSU to support programs: $16.4 million in annual federal allocation connected to land-grant programs – Smith-Lever and Hatch Act funding – would be lost, as well as $21.5 million in county support of MSUE programs

There are 3,032 employees affected by this situation. Within CANR, MAES and MSUE, 305 are tenure and tenure-stream faculty, but 1,746 employees and 981 additional employees who have a temporary status will lose their jobs. Of these, 896 are located out-state and off campus.

In 2008, MAES and MSUE’s $64 million in funds generated a total economic impact for the state of Michigan of $1.062 billion, the paper said. For every $1 provided by the state, MAES and MSUE generate another $2.33 for research and Extension work in Michigan. This income would be lost, with much of it going to other states.

“The reputation of MSU will be damaged, and it will take years to restore the faith of federal and foundation funders, as well as private donors,” the paper said. “World-class scientists can and will leave MSU for institutions with more supportive state funding environments.”

Those wishing to contact the governor can write Gov. Jennifer Granholm, P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909; call 517-373-3400; call constituent services at 517-335-7858; or fax 517-335-6863.

-Dick Lehnert

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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