The Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is concerned that state budget cuts approved Tuesday for several Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) programs and services threaten to undermine the investment taking place in agriculture, one of the few growth sectors in Michigan's otherwise bleak economy.

“Farming here is a $71.3 billion industry employing more than 1 million Michigan residents, making it the state's second largest industry,” says Wayne H. Wood, president of MFB. “At a time when other sectors of Michigan's economy have been struggling, Michigan agriculture has been growing and holding its own. We cannot continue to disinvest in the infrastructure that makes Michigan strong. With the state's approach today, the state truly is biting the hand which feeds it.”

Under Gov. Jennifer Granholm's executive order approved by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, MDA is on the line for budget cuts totaling $6.8 million. This includes a nearly 11 percent reduction to the department's general fund.

Among the programs in jeopardy is Right-to-Farm, which has been a backbone for investment in agriculture in Michigan since 1981 and one of the strongest Right-to-Farm laws in the nation. The program assures farmers and agricultural processors legal protections vital to their ability to do business in this state and benefits the public in several ways, including providing incentives for livestock farmers to adhere to scientifically based standards to site new and expanding livestock facilities.

“The latest round of budget cuts erodes Right to Farm program funding, effectively eliminating the ability of MDA staff to continue the on-farm inspections essential to the program. The Michigan Farm Bureau finds this unacceptable and will work to restore this funding in some shape or form,” said Wood.

Wood says MFB is also disturbed by actions to gut funding for another valuable environmental stewardship program of MDA, the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP is a nationally recognized program that is critical to advancing voluntary proactive environmental stewardship practices on farms and minimizing the potential for pollution. Wood said Farm Bureau will also work to keep dollars for MAEAP intact.

MFB acknowledges that the state's choice to use federal stimulus money to help balance this year's budget deficit helped soften the blow for state departments, but worries where the dollars will come from down the road.

“It begs the question of how the state intends to balance the books long-term when federal stimulus money is no longer on the table,” says Wood.

Source: Michigan Farm Bureau