MSU Extension Spared In Budget Cuts – For Now

Michigan was on the brink of becoming the first state without an Extension service had its governor decided to completely eliminate funds from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and the Michigan Agriculture Experiment Station (MAES) late last week.

Fortunately, Governor Jennifer Granholm spared MSU Extension by including funds for the program in the state’s new budget signed last Friday. But there’s a catch with the funds: MSU Extension will be restructured to reflect priorities that support and nurture a “green economy,” and the program still faces potential budget cuts of up to 44 percent one year from now when federal surplus funds deplete.

“Could you imagine Michigan without a 4-H or a Master Gardener program? That’s what we’re looking at,” says Mark Elzinga, president of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses. “There are so many things Extension does for us. We have the Extension specialists who quantify research for us to find the best use for products. They’re not for one company or one person. They do all the research and come up with new ideas.”

State funding for MSU Extension had dwindled over the last five to 10 years, Elzinga says. If funding dwindles any more–or the program is eliminated–he believes growers may eventually have to reach into their own pockets to keep the program going.

“I think as greenhouse owners, we may have to have to fund something like this ourselves,” Elzinga says. “Maybe instead of guys traveling to [OFA] Short Course, you’re going to have to give money to MSU Extension to keep it functioning.

“I want Michigan growers to know we have a valuable resource out there, we have to support it and it has to be supported by our politicians.”

Greenhouse Grower columnist Will Carlson, an MSU emeritus professor, has similar concerns about MSU Extension.
 
“[MSU Extension specialists] who have multiple assignments were wondering about their jobs last week,” Carlson says. “We have all these research projects going on, and Extension specialists are one of the major carriers of the information to the growers. We can’t walk away from them.”

Agriculture, behind manufacturing, is Michigan’s second-largest industry. But where’s the support from state government?

“You don’t see people building car factories,” Elzinga says. “We’ve lost all that manufacturing. We have to focus on new productivity in Michigan. We have to focus on new jobs.”

Another concern the industry has about the new budget for MSU Extension is the shift to “green.” Granholm said last week that the services MSU Extension provided have concentrated for almost a century on assisting farmers and the state’s agricultural community. But she envisions MSU Extension transforming into a “21st century organization, one that will broaden its scope and help grow Michigan’s green economy.”

Roberta Osborne, an Extension specialist in Michigan’s Branch County, isn’t entirely sure what the governor means.

“People are asking about this ‘new shape,'” Osborne told The Daily Reporter in Coldwater, Mich. “We’re already pretty green.”

Elzinga & Hoeksema is the classic example of a “green” Michigan greenhouse operation, as it invested in solar-thermal systems, certified organic production and recycling initiatives over the last few years.

“We [invested in “green”] because we thought it was the right thing to do and a new direction to take,” says Elzinga, who’s involved with the Michigan Floriculture Growers Council trying to make growers statewide aware of potential changes.

Another Meister Media Worldwide publication, American Vegetable Grower, posted a story last week about the possible elimination of MSU Extension. The reader comments that appear at the bottom of the story are interesting, and you can check them out at GrowingProduce.com.

For more information on the importance of Extension, read Erik Runkle’s essay “Coming Together” from our December 2008 issue. Runkle is an associate professor and floriculture Extension specialist at MSU, and he shares his vision of Extension’s future in the essay.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “MSU Extension Spared In Budget Cuts – For Now

  1. I love what MSU does. I appreciate what support they give our industry, even to us growers outside the state. I also like matching a percent of my employees retirement and health care funds. I also enjoyed the company of many of the people I needed to lay off. I hope they come back when they are needed again. My task, as a business owner, is to be here when that day happens. Daily, I think about on how not to be so dependent on one or two avenues of revenue, for my business. Government can not spend more than what it collects, not for long periods of time. There are many necessary programs, they all can not be top priority. It unfortunate but it is what is today. I, as a business owner, knowing what is on the horizon, make immediate steps for what minimal monies I know to be received. We then get aggressively innovative to make the rest a reality. Not hoping that Superman will rescue us at the last second of mortality.

  2. I love what MSU does. I appreciate what support they give our industry, even to us growers outside the state. I also like matching a percent of my employees retirement and health care funds. I also enjoyed the company of many of the people I needed to lay off. I hope they come back when they are needed again. My task, as a business owner, is to be here when that day happens. Daily, I think about on how not to be so dependent on one or two avenues of revenue, for my business. Government can not spend more than what it collects, not for long periods of time. There are many necessary programs, they all can not be top priority. It unfortunate but it is what is today. I, as a business owner, knowing what is on the horizon, make immediate steps for what minimal monies I know to be received. We then get aggressively innovative to make the rest a reality. Not hoping that Superman will rescue us at the last second of mortality.

More From Grow Initiative...
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Paul Ecke, Jr. Scholarship and Altman Family Scholarships

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Basil Planting feature

March 29, 2017

How You Can Embrace Greenhouse Food Production With Confidence

Maintaining balance, learning continuously, and seeking support will help make your transition into producing greenhouse food crops a smooth one.

Read More
If your Wi-Fi is truly secure, your staff can help customers on the sales floor starting today

March 25, 2017

What Marketing Approach Can Attracts the Most Customers to Your Greenhouse?

Inc.com surveyed more than a thousand customers to find out which marketing strategies worked best to entice them to try out a new business

Read More
Latest Stories
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Pau…

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Basil Planting feature

March 29, 2017

How You Can Embrace Greenhouse Food Production With Con…

Maintaining balance, learning continuously, and seeking support will help make your transition into producing greenhouse food crops a smooth one.

Read More
If your Wi-Fi is truly secure, your staff can help customers on the sales floor starting today

March 25, 2017

What Marketing Approach Can Attracts the Most Customers…

Inc.com surveyed more than a thousand customers to find out which marketing strategies worked best to entice them to try out a new business

Read More
Greenhouse Loyal Customer

March 16, 2017

How Brand Enthusiasts Can Be Your Most Loyal Customers

A marketing expert shares three core principles that direct-to-consumer companies can follow to create brand enthusiasts.

Read More

February 17, 2017

How to Keep Customers Coming Back With Top-Notch Servic…

A recent article on Forbes.com outlines seven ways organizations can take their customer service from good to great and beyond.

Read More

January 27, 2017

Why Greenhouse Growers Must Know Their Costs to Stay Co…

Tom Dudek, Senior Educator at Michigan State University Extension, says greenhouse growers should evaluate their production costs to determine if they need to make adjustments to stay competitive.

Read More
Workplace Trends

January 20, 2017

10 Trends Predicted to Impact the Workplace in 2017

Here are 10 workplace trends that Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel predicts for 2017 that may change the way you do business in the future

Read More

January 10, 2017

Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Endowment Fund Accepting …

The deadline for applications is May 26, and 12 scholarships of $1,500 each will be awarded at the SEGreen Conference in August.

Read More
GROW Logo

December 28, 2016

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: A Year In Review

Staying ahead of the competition in today’s world is about remaining in constant motion with innovation. To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provided cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice.

Read More
Grow Summit 2016 group shot

December 20, 2016

Less Talk, More Action At Greenhouse Grower’s GRO…

Investing in technology, developing new marketing solutions, and recruiting young growers were just a few of the issues covered at GROW Summit 2016.

Read More
Dramm-Echter-Pink-Gerbera-Daisies

November 22, 2016

Dramm & Echter Donates Pink Gerbera Daisies During …

“As a local flower farm, we are honored to show our support by sharing symbolic pink flowers with each participant as they reach the midway point on their amazing journey,” says Bob Echter, Owner of Dramm & Echter.

Read More
deming-pdsa-cycle

November 21, 2016

How The PDSA Cycle Can Help You Improve Your Business

No successful business stays stagnant, which means you should constantly be looking for ways to make improvements to your business and your products. Are you looking for a good model to follow? Try the PDSA Cycle.

Read More
afe-fundraising-dinner

November 17, 2016

AFE Fundraising Dinner Celebrates Success, Raises Almos…

The American Floral Endowment’s biggest fundraising event of the year, the 2016 Annual Fundraising Dinner, did more than just honor industry champions. It also raised nearly $20,000 for the future of floriculture programs.

Read More
hoffman-nursery-owners

November 9, 2016

How Hoffman Nursery Invests In The Future Of The Greenh…

Hoffman Nursery believes in the future leaders of horticulture, and the operation invests in several programs to cultivate young people in their careers.

Read More
2015 GROW Summit_discussion shot

October 28, 2016

How We Can Inspire Millennials To Get Involved In Horti…

By uniting our efforts, we can attract new generations of growers and consumers to the horticulture industry, starting when they are young.

Read More
green-plan-it-gardening-outdoor-nature-explore-classroom

October 22, 2016

Here’s A Great Way To Bring Horticulture And Scho…

The Green Plan It Challenge gives school students in the U.K. the opportunity to participate in a 10-week project where they rethink the role of green space and develop solutions to horticulture-related problems.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

October 19, 2016

How Jeffery’s Greenhouse Is Investing In The Indu…

Greenhouse Grower reached out to Albert Grimm, the 2016 Head Grower of the Year and Head Grower of Jeffery’s Greenhouse, to ask what he and his company have done in the last 12 months to invest in the industry. Here is what he had to say.

Read More
Dallas Johnson Greenhouses has significantly reduced the amount of time and labor spent pulling and processing orders, while improving plant quality at retail

October 1, 2016

Political Stalemate On Labor Means Your Opportunity To …

Despite the frustrating nature of our current political climate, now may be the best time for you to address your long-term labor and automation needs.

Read More