Michigan State University Extension Spotlight

March 29, 2007

CREATE-21 may mean new opportunities for research and Extension partnerships that benefit all

The Farm Bill is due to expire this year, so the Agriculture committees of both houses of Congress are working on renewing the Farm Bill, and as usual, there are a variety of proposed changes.

There are proposed changes in the part of the Farm Bill that includes funding for CES and AES. For nearly 20 years, the federal funding for those programs has remained stagnant. Michigan receives the same appropriation of USDA Smith-Lever funds today as we received 10 years ago, but the cost of providing Extension services has grown tremendously in that period.

These Smith-Lever funds require a 1:1 match with state or local funds, and at one time, many states struggled to make their match. Today, the state of Michigan funds $3.60 for every $1 of Smith-Lever funds, and Michigan counties fund another $3.20 for every $1 of Smith-Lever funds. Some of those state and county funds match other federal and state programs, but it is clear that Michigan is holding up much more than its share in this partnership. As with many other federal programs, the state receives less back in federal funding than our citizens and businesses pay in federal taxes.

The National Association of State and Land Grant Universities and Colleges (NASULGC) has developed a proposal to change the way research and Extension are funded by USDA and most importantly, to INCREASE the federal contribution to the partnership. The proposal is called Creating Research, Extension and Teaching Excellence for the 21st Century (CREATE-21) and our Dean Jeff Armstrong has provided national leadership in developing this proposal.

Itís important to note that CREATE-21 would double the amount of funding going to land-grant universities for research and Extension in the next seven years. Some of the increased funding (30 percent) would come through our Smith-Lever authorization, but most would come through a competitive grants program. CREATE-21 proposes to increase the amount of funding for competitive research and extension from $170 million per year to slightly more than $2 billion per year.

Thirty percent of that $2 billion would be dedicated to projects that integrate research with Extension and/or teaching. As I mentioned in the MSUE Spotlight last month, our MSUE faculty and academic staff members have quickly developed our ability to compete successfully for funding from these kinds of opportunities. This presents a tremendous opportunity for MSUE to increase the amount of federal funding to support our mission and more closely match the state and county investments in our programs.

There are other competing proposals for increasing the USDAís research funding, but none of them include funding for Cooperative Extension. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is on the Senate Agriculture Committee and within the next few days will be introducing language that would implement the CREATE-21 proposal in the 2007 Farm Bill. We are fortunate to have her support and leadership for this important initiative. Representative Tim Walberg (from Michiganís Seventh District) is on the House Agriculture Committee, and when our CARET representatives met with him last month, he indicated that he is very supportive of this approach. Both individuals have demonstrated their strong commitment to Extension.

Just as it is important that we inform our county council members and other stakeholders about state legislation that affects our programs, it is equally critical that we inform our partners about important federal legislation. I encourage each of you to learn more about CREATE-21 (create-21.org) and share your insights with others who care about MSUE.