Gov. Granholm's fiscal 2010 executive budget recommendation states: "[T]he Governor combines the Agriculture Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service and funds them at $32 million."
All three of the Center's state budget studies have recommended eliminating these Michigan State University programs. The experiment station conducts agricultural research at 15 branch offices throughout the state. Some of the work represents a reasonable government function in that it addresses problems associated with true public goods, such as dealing with the ash borer insect that has decimated the state's ash trees. However, programs like this could be easily accomplished by the state Department of Agriculture (which in fact has received appropriations for this very function).
But much of the MSU programs' spending is little more than a subsidy for the state's agricultural business sector. Other prominent Michigan industries, including automobiles, furniture and chemicals, are responsible for conducting their own research. That the same is not true for agriculture is an outmoded historical relic Michigan can no longer afford.
In addition, taxpayer funding has produced work that was not obviously necessary. For example, one project had MSU researchers working to grow "the perfect Poinsettia."
Similar arguments apply to the Cooperative Extension Service, which provides classes to Michigan residents on such topics such as sewing, gardening and pottery. This program is a luxury that Michigan can no longer afford. Its classes may be nice for those who take advantage of them, but like horse racing and state fair subsidies, they are not essential functions of state government.