Governor’s budget proposal recommends increase for higher education

Governor Rick Snyder released his proposed state government budget for fiscal year 2014 this morning. He has proposed increasing the state investment in higher education an average of 2 percent over last year’s appropriations and specifically proposed increasing funding for MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension by 2 percent. This is a welcome investment in our programs, and reflects an improvement from last year, when the executive budget did not propose any increase in our funding. The 3 percent budget increase that we did receive in the current fiscal year was a result of negotiations in the legislative process. So starting with a 2 percent increase instead of no increase in the first step of the appropriations process would seem to indicate that we stand a good chance of ending up with a budget increase by the end of the process.

One other facet of the governor’s budget presents further opportunities for faculty and staff in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in MSU Extension and MSU AgBioResearch. The wording from the governor’s announcement follows:

The governor recommends $1 million general fund for a new Food and Agriculture Industry Growth Initiative focused on removing barriers and leveraging opportunities identified by food processors, agri-business, and those in agricultural production as critical to business development and growth. A competitive grant process will fund research, education, and technical assistance efforts. An advisory board, consisting of food and agriculture industry representatives, will identify criteria for grant funding. Grant recipients will be required to identify program outcomes and performance metrics. In addition, up to $2 million will be available in the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) budget to support eligible projects that meet the goals and mission of this initiative. MDARD will collaborate with MSF in identifying projects for funding.

This is a follow-up to the governor’s production agriculture summit held in August 2011. At the summit, he proposed four areas of focus that would help to grow Michigan’s food and agriculture-based economy: increasing the overall economic impact of food and agriculture, increasing the number of jobs in this sector, increasing the value of exports in this sector and strengthening the availability of nutritious food to all of Michigan’s residents.

The appropriation process now turns to the Michigan Legislature. In the past two years, the legislature has completed the appropriations process and the governor has signed the appropriations bills by the early part of June. I anticipate a similar schedule this year. I will join Dr. Steve Pueppke next Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittees for the House and the Senate, during which we will have an opportunity to provide an update of our research and extension programs and their impacts. We will also address questions legislators may have at the hearing as well.

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