News about the U.S. government shutdown has had some folks wondering whether the shutdown affects the work of MSU Extension. If the shutdown persists for very long, it will certainly affect us, but for now, the impact is minimal. Questions about the shutdown and how it affects our work provide a good opportunity to remind stakeholders that we are a part of Michigan State University. We are not a governmental agency, but rather an academic institution. And that reinforces our mission: bringing information and educational programs to people that help them to improve their lives, their families, their businesses, their farms, their communities.
The federal government is an important partner for our work, providing funding and a supporting infrastructure for the network of Cooperative Extension services at land grant universities across the nation. Federal funding authorized by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provides about 12 percent of the funding for our $71 million annual budget. And we receive additional funding in the form of grants from the federal government for specific projects. If the federal funding were to be terminated, it would have a devastating impact on our ability to serve the state. But if this shutdown is like others that have preceded it, eventually Congress and President Obama will come to an agreement on funding federal programs and we’ll have the funding we need to continue our programs.
At this point, we don’t know how long it will take for the decision makers in Washington to reach agreement. If the shutdown is ended soon, we won’t likely see any impact on our work and our funding. If it extends for a month or more, it will become more tenuous for us to continue some of our work. For example, funding for programs that are funded by federal grants, including our SNAP Education programs, may run out. We will seek guidance from the MSU administration as to how they would want us to manage under those circumstances. In general, MSU’s intent is to continue our work and our programs without interruption.
It is important to note that we work in collaboration with federal employees in the U.S Department of Agriculture and in other federal agencies, and this week is very disruptive for their work. As you have seen in news reports, all federal employees other than those considered essential for public safety and national security have been furloughed. So any projects that might depend on collaborators from federal agencies may need to go on without those collaborators or they may need to be postponed until the collaborators are allowed to return to work. And the uncertainty our colleagues in federal employment are facing must be personally challenging for them. Keep them and their families in your thoughts as you carry out your work.