A new $70 billion state budget includes many victories for agriculture, with key programs maintaining, or seeing boosts in funding, along with new initiatives to fuel farm innovation, boost conservation efforts, and help manage farm stress.
“We’re very pleased that the state’s agriculture budget is seeing more than a 50% increase,” said Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski. “The investments in Michigan agriculture will help further address the challenges and stress farmers have faced because of the pandemic, while encouraging voluntary conservation practices and supporting innovations in agriculture.”
The new budget includes more than $97 million in funding for agriculture, including:
Conservation district funding
Three million dollars is set aside for local conservation districts, with $2 million of that coming as ongoing funding. This has the potential to greatly benefit farmers through funding for the popular Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) and supporting conservation district technicians who help farmers with the MAEAP verification process, as well as accessing federal Farm Bill dollars.
Fertilizer and pesticide fees paid by farmers and agribusinesses generate most of the state revenue for the program, which awaits renewal by the Michigan Legislature through Senate Bill 494.
Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture
Michigan State University is continuing to receive $3 million to fund the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture, supporting research projects and infrastructure upgrades. Twenty-five new research and outreach projects are being supported with $2.28 million, and the remainder is being used for renovations to the MSU Swine Teaching and Research Center, a critical component to funded research.
Farm innovation grants
More than $3 million is being used to launch a Farm Innovation Grant pilot program, focusing on finding ways to modernize and mechanize farming practices. Labor has been a challenge for many farmers and this pilot program will fuel innovation and creativity to solve these and other challenges in farming.
Western Lake Erie Basin nutrient management
The $25 million in funding to establish an Agriculture Nutrient Best Management Practices program marks the largest new investment in the state budget. The voluntary program is targeted at improving water quality in the Western Lake Erie Basin, including cost sharing and grants to help farmers implement conservation practices.
Farmers continue to overcome incredible challenges posed by the pandemic, but many still feel financial and logistical pressures caused by these uncertain times. The budget includes $225,000 for a program from MSU Extension aimed at finding ways to help address and manage farm stress.
County fair infrastructure
Two million dollars in one-time spending is included for county fairs and exhibitions which will provide a major boost for infrastructure upgrades. The budget also includes $500,000 in ongoing funding for county fairs.
Double Up Food Bucks
The Fair Food Network which oversees the successful Double Up Food Bucks program is maintaining funding in the new budget. The program allows SNAP participants who buy food from participating grocers and farmers markets to receive additional money to purchase more Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, which has been shown to help local farmers gain new customers and sell more produce.
10 Cents a Meal
The state-funded farm-to-institution 10 Cents a Meal program, supported in part by the Michigan Farm Bureau, provides matching incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. The new budget includes $5 million for the program, more than doubling the funding.
TB quarantine reimbursement
A new program to provide financial assistance for costs of maintaining livestock under TB quarantine is receiving $400,000 in funding, marking an important investment in animal agriculture.