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State budget conversations continue with focus on conservation and climate programs

Outside of the MDARD budget, Gov. Whitmer recommended a 2.5% funding increase for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch programs. The House recommends a slightly higher increase of 3.3% while the Senate hasn’t yet addressed this budget item. Image credit: Getty Images
Date Posted: April 24, 2024

The state House and Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittees recently approved their respective versions of the 2024-25 budget for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), with both chambers recommending a more than 10% decrease in funding from the prior year. 

Michigan Farm Bureau Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park explained that the upcoming Revenue Estimating Conference in May will help determine so-called budget targets, which more precisely determines how much money is available for the Legislature to appropriate to state-funded agencies and programs. 

“While it’s still early in the budget process, we’re engaged with appropriations leadership in the House and Senate to ensure they know where our members’ priorities are and how their proposals will impact the state’s food and farm sector in the coming year,” Park said. 

The House and Senate full appropriations committees will deliberate the MDARD budget further before its consolidated with all other budget bills and are put before the 110-member House and 38-member Senate. 

So how do the subcommittee proposals compare to Gov. Whitmer’s recommendations? Here’s a high-level look.

Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)

Whitmer’s budget proposed a significant structural change to MAEAP by making the program’s technicians state employees, instead of keeping them housed within Michigan’s conservation district network as they are today. 

Neither the House nor Senate adopted the governor’s recommendation. The Senate instead proposes housing MAEAP technicians within MSU Extension via a contract between the university and MDARD. Alternatively, the House recommends maintaining the existing conservation district structure. Both the House and Senate proposals, while structurally different, would provide $3 million in general fund monies to the program. 

Conservation districts

Separate from MAEAP, the House recommends $3 million for conservation districts, $1 million more than Whitmer’s proposed funding levels. The Senate recommends a larger increase, with dedicated funds totaling $6 million; $3 million in base funding and $3 million for some conservation districts to enter a memorandum of understanding with MDARD for certain services. 

Additionally, the Senate allocated $250,000 to conduct a study on the role and effectiveness of conservation districts.

Climate resiliency

Whitmer recommended maintaining $1 million for agricultural climate resiliency efforts. As outlined in her draft budget, the program’s goals are, “enhancing soil and plant health, soil carbon sequestration, efficient use of water, and protection of water resources.” The Senate agreed with the Governor’s recommendation while the House is proposing $5 million more for a total of $6 million.

Western Lake Erie Basin

Not reflected in Whitmer’s proposal or the House’s recommendations, the Senate recommends reallocating more than $15 million for conservation efforts in the Western Lake Erie Basin. With $25 million originally dedicated to these efforts in 2022, the Senate would like to see the remaining funds used on a cost-share program and mitigation costs for no-till practice adoption, and soil health education. 

Farm to Family Program

Whitmer recommended $4 million for a new Farm to Family Program that her plan says would, “create a holistic approach to support regenerative farming, supply chain investment and promote MI food products.” The Legislature wasn’t quite as generous to the program, with the House recommending $1 million and the Senate recommending $2 million. 

Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture

One item without recommended changes is the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture, an initiative long supported by Michigan Farm Bureau. Both the Governor and Legislature recommend maintaining MAAA funding at $3 million.

Double Up Food Bucks

The Double Up Food Bucks Program has been matching EBT, Bridge Card and food stamp dollars spent on fruits and vegetables for 15 years now in the state. Whitmer proposed maintaining the program’s current funding level of $2 million. The Senate concurred with the Governor’s recommendation and the House proposes increasing funding to $4 million.

MSU Extension and AgBioResearch

Outside of the MDARD budget, Whitmer recommended a 2.5% funding increase for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch programs. The House recommends a slightly higher increase of 3.3% while the Senate hasn't yet addressed this budget item.

Rebecca Park headshot

Rebecca Park

Legislative Counsel
517-679-5346 [email protected]