AgBioResearch, Extension Vital to State’s Economy

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A proposed $32 million state funding cut to Michigan State University’s agricultural research and Extension programs would put a $500 million hit on Michigan and could cost an estimated 1,000 knowledge-economy jobs.

So argue Steve Pueppke, director of the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station director and the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies, and Tom Coon, director of MSU Extension. They testified before the Michigan House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Feb. 23.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed fiscal 2010 budget calls for combining the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station with MSU Extension, and cutting their funding in half to $32 million.

Agriculture is a stabilizing influence on the state’s battered economy, the directors told lawmakers—at $71 billion in annual receipts accounting for a fifth of state economic output. Investments in the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station and Extension leverage $2.33 for every $1 the state invests, Pueppke and Coon said.

The programs also help drive Michigan’s 21st century economy, including support for alternative energy and biofuels research, and food safety and security. Urban issues such as rehabilitation of brownfield sites, public health programs, entrepreneurial consulting and nutrition issues also are key.

Among the services provided to the state through the MAES and MSUE, the two directors cited:

  • Landing a large share of the U.S. Department of Energy’s $135 million, five-year funding for the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, involving 36 key scientists, $900,000 in monthly research expenditures and potential renewal for an additional 10 years.
  • Studies showing new potential for Michigan’s 10,000 acres of polluted brownfield sites, including reuse for wind energy and growing biofuel crops.
  • Research and Extension advisories that helped growers cut the amount of pesticides applied to Michigan apples by almost 6,000 pounds a year.
  • Engineering projects, including one group working with an Ann Arbor technology startup to improve the safety of leafy greens and other fresh foods by validating use of X-rays to kill bacterial pathogens such as E. coli and Salmonella.
  • New techniques for the state’s hard-pressed dairy farmers to increase conception rates in cows, allowing $150 more profit per head annually. That’s $30,000 more per year for an average-sized, 200-head Michigan dairy operation.
  • Entrepreneurial support from the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, which in 2007 alone was responsible for total capital formation of $2.85 million and retaining or creating nearly 140 jobs.

Pueppke and Coon urged lawmakers to continue to support the programs, neither of which is funded with tuition dollars, to the same extent other higher education programs are supported.

Watch the directors’ testimony online.

For more information on MAES, MSUE and other MSU budget issues, visit http://budget.msu.edu/.

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