Forthcoming study will recommend more than $1 billion in total savings

Granholm, Legislature Could Save $34 Million in Agriculture Budget, Sell Land for $59 Million

For Immediate Release

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, as part of a forthcoming study recommending more than $1 billion in budget savings, has found $34 million-worth of state agriculture department programs Gov. Granholm and the new Legislature can start on as they search for ways to balance Michigan’s overstretched state budget. In addition, the Center is recommending to lawmakers that the state fairgrounds in Escanaba and Detroit be sold for another $59 million in one-time revenue.

"Gov. Granholm is to be congratulated for setting a budget-cutting tone for her new administration," said Michael LaFaive, Mackinac Center fiscal policy director, and author of the budget study. "The fiscal pressure exerted by the current $1.6 billion budget deficit gives lawmakers a chance to re-evaluate programs that are unnecessary or counterproductive, or which distort market mechanisms and incentives and would be better handled by the private sector," LaFaive added.

Indeed, as Granholm herself recently told The Detroit News, "Any organization has things within it that are wants and not needs, and all of that needs to be reviewed." And as state Sen. James Barcia, D-Bay City, recently told the Michigan Information and Research Service, "Every government, from local to state to federal, has areas that can be trimmed without impacting the quality of life for your constituents."

Among the Mackinac Center’s recommendations to Gov. Granholm and the new Legislature:

  • Eliminate the Statistical Reporting Service(SRS), a program of the Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA), which maintains an agricultural database under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Most non-agricultural industries provide market information without government assistance," said LaFaive. "There is no reason to expect any less from the agriculture industry." Savings: $435,100.

  • End state funding and oversight of equine drug testing. "Many sports monitor [drug use] without the benefit of state intrusion," said LaFaive. Savings: $509,000.

  • End state funding and oversight of seed quality for farmers and seed dealers. "If the industry believes it needs a central source of analysis to check the quality of its seeds, it should use one of the many existing private agricultural associations — or create a new one — to do so," said LaFaive. Savings: $500,000.

  • End Michigan’s participation in the USDA’s pesticide data program, which is a federal program administered by state governments. Michigan is one of nine states participating in the program voluntarily. LaFaive cited this as another example in which the government provides market data other industries provide for itself. Savings: $1,824,000.

  • Eliminate the Agricultural Development Office (ADO). LaFaive cited, as one example of the Office’s work, a grant agreement with the Midwest Nut Producers Council to "develop, test and devise a marketing strategy for … a chestnut puree and chestnut crumble." "Private industry has its own incentives for adding value to agricultural products," LaFaive said. Savings: $742,400.

  • Eliminate the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council, which publishes color brochures and buys products, such as strawberries and asparagus, and distributes them gratis on Saturdays to travelers who stop at the New Buffalo Welcome Center. Savings: $60,400.

  • Get the State of Michigan out of the state fair business completely and sell both the Detroit and Escanaba state fairgrounds. As examples of what can be done instead, LaFaive cited "Seven Michigan counties and another 80 communities and associations [that] run their own fairs," and Barry County’s Bill Ackerman, who has run a private, for-profit fair for 24 years. Savings from not running fairs: $6,324,600. One-time savings from sale of state fairgrounds: $59 million.

The forthcoming study analyzing Michigan’s entire budget will offer more than 125 budget-cutting ideas for lawmakers searching for sources of savings. "Throughout the budget-balancing process, Michigan legislators will need to make some hard choices about which programs and functions deserve state funding and which are best scaled back or eliminated altogether," says LaFaive. "The Mackinac Center’s budget analysis is aimed at making that process somewhat easier for lawmakers."

All $34 million-worth of recommended agriculture department savings may be viewed at www.mackinac.org/4984 (16 pages).

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Contact: Michael LaFaive, Director of Fiscal Policy at (989)-631-0900.