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...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Wom…

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More
Smart Herb Garden

March 2, 2015

Smartpot Uses Sensors And Cartridges To Ensure Success …

Click & Grow helps make it simple for consumers to grow their own herbs and spices at home, even if they have little experience with plants.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Student Flash Mob At TPIE Has Roots In Floriculture

The local FFA students who entertained TPIE attendees in 2014 and 2015 received industry donations of plants and a greenhouse structure to help expand their horticultural program.

Read More

February 12, 2015

GROW Perspective: What Is It You Do Again?

The industry is very good at talking about what we do and how we do it, but has almost completely lost touch with talking about why this work is important. As an industry, we need to promote our professions as vital to healthier living.

Read More
bee photo

February 11, 2015

26 Ways Growers Improve The Green Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW Initiative’s five pillars: How are you driving consumer success, cultivating new customers, demanding quality, investing in the industry and sharpening business management? Through your candid responses, we learned about some of the ideas you’ve implemented and steps you’re taking for 2015. Here are just a few.

Read More
Noble Foundation

February 3, 2015

Lloyd Noble Scholars Program Application Period Now Ope…

The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is offering college students an opportunity to work side-by-side with the Noble Foundation’s renowned agricultural consultants and researchers through the Lloyd Noble Scholars in Agriculture program, a summer internship that provides students the opportunity to enhance their in-class education with real-world application and experiences.

Read More

January 7, 2015

GROW Summit 2014 Homes In On The Issues That Keep You U…

During Greenhouse Grower’s third annual GROW Summit in December a number of ideas, questions and calls-to-action transpired. Here are a few of the highlights.

Read More
GROW Logo

January 6, 2015

Growers Resolve To Educate Public About Their Operation…

See what growers plan to work on for their 2015 business resolutions.

Read More

December 22, 2014

National Garden Bureau Launches Therapeutic Garden Prog…

National Garden Bureau has chosen the Growing Solutions Farm in Chicago as the first beneficiary of its annual fundraising effort "Growing For Futures."

Read More

December 19, 2014

Hydroponic Food Production Course Serves Up Life Lesson…

Students in the new HORT 331X Hydroponic Food Crop Production course at Iowa State University are producing more food than they can eat, so they began donating the vegetables they produce to a local food pantry and free meal program.

Read More
GROW Logo

December 8, 2014

“The Cheapest Generation” Will Be Tomorrow&…

Members of the Millennial generation aren’t buying cars and houses the way their parents did, and according to a recent article from The Atlantic titled “The Cheapest Generation,” it might be more than an effect of a bad economy. So what does this mean for horticulture? Industry members weigh in.

Read More
Katie Nickolaus

November 25, 2014

Proven Winners Names 2014 Scholarship Winners

Looking to promote industry leaders of the future, Proven Winners has established a $15,000 scholarship program that awards students in three distinct areas - breeding, marketing and growing.

Read More

November 24, 2014

GROW Perspective: We Need To Think Bigger

Garry Grueber of Cultivaris and Global Breadfruit says the horticulture industry must evolve to help solve the problems of world hunger and food insecurity.

Read More

November 13, 2014

NY SunWorks’ Greenhouse Project Aims To Build 100 Labs …

NY SunWork's Greenhouse Project aims to build 100 labs by 2020. With 15 greenhouse project labs built and 11 more in development, it’s on its way to reaching that goal.

Read More

November 4, 2014

Millennials Rank Gardening Among Top 5 Leisure Activiti…

United Kingdom consumers, aged 25 to 35, have rated gardening as a top five favorite leisure activity.

Read More
Ken Altman

October 27, 2014

GROW Perspective: Why I Give Back To The Industry

Ken Altman of Altman Plants knows a thing or two about the green industry, including the importance of contributing to the industry he loves.

Read More

October 21, 2014

Plants, Gardens Of The Future Will Be Radically Differe…

Over the next 20 to 30 years, Garry Grueber of Cultivaris and Global Breadfruit says the horticulture industry will need to address such issues as population growth, feeding a hungry world, less availability of water and land resources, rampant climate change and increased focus on the environment and sustainability.

Read More

October 13, 2014

Costa Farms Celebrates Indoor Plant Week With A College…

Cost Farms kicks off 2014 Indoor Plant Week by sharing plants with college students amid song and dance.

Read More