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Karl Guenther Column: It's about the money with research

Some in the Michigan Agriculture community are concerned budget cuts will negatively impact agriculture in Michigan.
Some in the Michigan Agriculture community are concerned budget cuts will negatively impact agriculture in Michigan.

During the time leading up to the sweeping changes at Michigan State University, particularly in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - - and more particularly in Cooperative Extension, some of the old-line, mainstays of Michigan agriculture were asking, “Isn’t there another way to save money?”  There were, indeed, a lot of money questions - - budget concerns in those days.  The response from the administration always was “It’s not about the money!”  From there, we heard about streamlining, doing more with less, and so on.

I’m a man of words, not numbers, so it’s useless to try to explain, or even to demonstrate the differences between budgets of then and now, and the relative purchasing power of those various budgets.  What I do know is the livestock people in this state, and elsewhere, are not happy about the sale of the record-holding, prize purebred Hereford beef herd, and especially the dismissal, or demotion, or whatever happened to a couple of highly regarded people directly involved in the development of that herd and the benefits that would accrue to livestock producers benefiting from the work of that particular facet of MSU Extension.

I was involved for several years as a citizen advisor to Cooperative Extension, first in Kalamazoo County, then later representing the several counties in Southwestern Michigan on the Statewide Advisory Council.  We met, in the Spring, in Lansing when the primary purpose was to visit our “hometown” legislators in their offices, just going one on one carrying water on behalf of Extension, reminding legislators of the importance of Agriculture to the state budget, and of MSU Extension and the Experiment Stations, to Agriculture.  We met other times during the year, and I’m reminded recently of a trip we took one year to survey the workings of the Upper Peninsula Research Center at Chatham, in Alger County.  That, too, was well-known at the time for its history in the world of livestock, livestock nutrition studies, and so on. There were already rumblings of major changes to come at that facility. 

By the way, those several Research Centers are no longer just that - - they are now AgBioResearch research facilities.  I haven’t checked, but I assume that goes across the board, to include the Research operations at   Benton Harbor, Fennville, Clarksville and so on.  As for the most recent developments at Chatham, the Upper Peninsula Research Center is now the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center, and it has a new Administrator.  She is Ashley McFarland, most recently from the University of Idaho, where she served as a county Extension education and area natural resources educator.  She will be the “Center Coordinator” at Chatham, a new position created as the research and Extension facility begins to take shape under a newly implemented long-term plan.  Chatham was extensively reviewed a little over a year ago, and was found to be the most expensive of the 13 AgBioResearch stations to operate.

And it’s not about the money?!!?

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at khguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.

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