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MDARD budget complete, MAEAP techs to stay at conservation districts

Separate from MDARD, but related, MSU Extension and AgBioResearch programs will receive a 2.5% funding increase over the prior year within the approved higher education budget. Image credit: Getty Images
Date Posted: July 10, 2024

The Legislature has finalized the 2024-25 state budget, including funding for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). A 7% decrease in funds available to the department, the budget reflects a decrease in federal funding commitments and $3.7 million less in state general fund dollars.

“We believe this budget keeps programs critical to the agriculture sector stable and continues investment in areas like the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture and climate resiliency research at MSU,” said Michigan Farm Bureau Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park. 

Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program

The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program will remain unchanged with the program’s technicians housed within Michigan’s conservation district network and maintaining $3 million in ongoing funds to support administration of the program. This comes after Gov. Whitmer in February proposed making the program’s technicians state employees and the Senate later debated moving the technician’s to MSU Extension via a contract between the university and MDARD.

MFB policy supports MAEAP continuing as a statewide, voluntary, and confidential program to help farmers meet their goals for environmental stewardship and reduce risk of pollution. 

“We value the collaboration the program fosters between farmers, agricultural organizations, state and federal agencies, and universities,” Park said. “It helps us evolve the program together, promote the program’s benefits, and better meet the needs of Michigan’s diverse farms as they work to preserve the air, water and soil quality.”

She also mentioned that the pesticide and fertilizer fees farms and agribusinesses pay to fund MAEAP will need to be renewed by the Legislature next year.

“This year’s budget discussions included unique ideas and we plan to engage with our partners to continue conversations about how we continue to evolve the program,” Park added.

In addition to base funding for MAEAP technicians, $250,000 is being allocated for a study on the role and effectiveness of conservation districts.

Climate resiliency and regenerative agriculture practices

MDARD will also have $6.1 million for so-called “climate resiliency” work and $1 million for regenerative agriculture efforts. More than four pages of text within the budget speak to the department’s use of the funds for grants, farmer-focused programming, and research. 

The stated purpose of the effort is to, “promote the usage and implementation of best regenerative agricultural farming practices and new technologies related to environmental sustainability, including measures to address impacts of climate change.” 

Park said the budget directs MSUE to develop program priorities and metrics, implement goals, evaluating outcomes, and engaging with stakeholders. 

MDARD is also required to submit a report by April 1, 2025, of detailed department activities and use of the funds, contractors or grantees involved, and a summary of projects and results. 

Other MDARD programs

The Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture will receive $3 million to continue the program’s work to advance the animal agriculture economy.

A new “Farm to Family Program” will receive $3 million that Whitmer previously said would use grants to, “create a holistic approach to support regenerative farming, supply chain investment and promote MI food products.”

The Double Up Food Bucks Program for more than 15 years matched EBT, Bridge Card and food stamp dollars spent on fruits and vegetables and will receive $5 million to continue its work. 

$2 million in one-time funds are being provided to MDARD for response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. 

County fairs and expositions will receive $500,000 in continued funding, losing a $2 million one-time allocation from the prior year. Standardbred horse racing will receive $720,000 for county fair meets if there is no other licensed track in the state. 

Additional noteworthy budget items

Within the state’s higher education budget, MSU Extension and AgBioResearch programs will receive a 2.5% funding increase over the prior year. 

Rebecca Park headshot

Rebecca Park

Legislative Counsel
517-679-5346 [email protected]