What is CARET? It is the Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET) and its members are advocates for land-grant agricultural programs in research, extension and teaching. They represent Michigan State University (MSU) with county officials and state legislators, and advocate for us on a federal level. Our three CARET representatives are Glenn Preston, Char Wenham and Doug Lewis.
Glenn is a dairy farmer, Char is a business development consultant, and Doug is an attorney and the director of Student Legal Services at the University of Michigan. What do they all have in common? MSU Extension has been an active and meaningful part of their lives. They want to carry their message to our leaders and decision makers at the local, state and federal levels.
Last week, I attended the CARET Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. with our CARET representatives and had the chance to meet with our Congressional offices. Dr. George Smith, associate director of AgBioResearch, and Dr. Mike Kovacic, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources director of stakeholder relations, were the other members of our group. The highlight of our time in Washington, D.C. was visiting our congressional representatives and sharing about the work that is going on at MSU. We also had a chance to spend time with Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters. These visits provide an opportunity to remind them of the work that we do, and learn from them about concerns and opportunities that we may be poised to address.
Meeting with Senator Stabenow at Good Morning Michigan, March 8. From left to right: Jeff Dwyer, Mike Kovacic, Char Wenham, Senator Stabenow, Doug Lewis, George Smith and Glenn Preston. Photo courtesy of Senator Stabenow.
As if the governor’s budget message wasn’t enough, we’ve had several other favorable developments in the past two weeks. The U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill on Tuesday, Feb. 4, after the House passed it the previous week. The Farm Bill has many elements, but among them is the authorization for the work we do in Michigan State University Extension and the federal funding that supports it. I shared details of the Farm Bill in Monday’s MSU Extension Update Webinar (http://connect.msu.edu/p7qm9h3muxx/).
Even better, President Obama has announced not only that he plans to sign the legislation this week but also that he is coming to MSU for the signing ceremony. His stop in East Lansing will be brief and will not include any public gatherings. But he will learn about some innovative agricultural research at MSU and will sign the Farm Bill at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center. I don’t think it’s an accident that he will be signing this landmark legislation at the alma mater of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. Her leadership was critical to the success of this legislation. And her alma mater happens to be a hotbed of agriculture, food and natural resource research and extension, which ties in well with the investments the Farm Bill will be making in research and translation for these important industries.
The Farm Bill completion follows a positive outcome of the federal appropriations process for the current fiscal year. In January, Congress and the president approved budgets for all federal programs, including the funding for research and extension, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nation’s land-grant university system. Funding for the budget lines that affect our programs were increased over the 2013 budgets. This reversed the reductions our funding experienced under the sequestration process.
There’s a lot of other good news to share, but I’ll save some of that for next week. It’s good to have good news, and it’s even better to have a bunch of it. We wouldn’t have these results if it weren’t for the hard work of everyone who is a part of MSU Extension and AgBioResearch. I appreciate having a group of colleagues who are committed to our mission, who are willing to work hard in order to fulfill it and who have a high tolerance for uncertainty. And that’s the best news I can share. Gordon was right, it IS a great day to be in Extension!
On Aug. 21, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow held a discussion on the new Farm Bill at the Michigan State University Extension Kent County office in Grand Rapids. This was the last of five sessions she held around the state. A number of MSUE colleagues have attended these, including the one that MSUE hosted this week. Because we hosted the Grand Rapids meeting, Betty Blase, district coordinator for MSUE District 7, provided the introduction of Sen. Stabenow. About 70 local agricultural producers and agribusiness leaders attended the meeting in Grand Rapids.
The Farm Bill comes up for renewal every five years and among its elements is the authorization for federal funding of Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station partnerships with land-grant universities. It also sets broad policy direction for the nation on food, food production, food safety, food security, rural development, conservation, development and production of bio-energy and bio-materials, and risk management for agricultural production. The current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, 2012. The U.S. Senate has approved a revision of the Farm Bill and is waiting on the House of Representatives to approve their version so the two chambers can reach compromises on the language through the conference committee process. The House Agriculture Committee approved a revision of the Farm Bill, but House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio has not allowed it to come to a vote on the floor of the House.
You can find more about the revision of the Farm Bill that passed the Senate at http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill.