Program: Commissions and boards

Appropriation:

Interdepartmental Grants:

$8,800

Special Revenue Funds:

$15,000

GF/GP:

$39,500

Total:

$63,300[3]

Program Description:

The Commissions and Boards line item subsidizes the work of the Agricultural Commission, the Marketing and Bargaining Board, the Michigan State Fair Board, and the Upper Peninsula State Fair Board. The Agricultural Commission is a five-member bipartisan group of citizens appointed by the governor and subject to Senate confirmation. Members serve four-year staggered terms. By law, not more than three members may be of one political party. The commission appoints the director of the MDA and approves all rules and regulations promulgated by the MDA.

The Marketing and Bargaining Board administers Public Act 344 of 1972, which permits producers of perishable fruits and vegetables to be represented in negotiations for the price of commodities by an accredited agricultural association. Functions of the board include: determining the definition of a commodity bargain board unit, administering accreditation procedures, determining members of the accredited bargaining units, and protecting the rights of both growers and handlers. The State and Upper Peninsula Fair Boards oversee the operations of their respective fairs.

Recommended Action:

The MDA should be restructured according to the design of many other departments of state government, which do not have commissions to oversee department management. This could be accomplished in part by eliminating the Agricultural Commission, allowing the governor to choose the director, and granting the director the responsibility for setting department policy.

The Marketing and Bargaining Board should be eliminated, and its functions handled by the private sector. Both the producers and the processors of fruit and vegetables have every incentive to make sure that their negotiations over the price of their products go smoothly and without error. There is no reason to believe that agricultural producers, wholesalers and processors are any less able to conduct commerce than producers, wholesalers and users of other goods. State funding of the fair boards should be eliminated along with state funding of the fairs themselves. There is no reason to maintain them once the fairs are privatized (see recommendation on pages 14-15). Savings: $63,300.

Program: Unclassified positions

Appropriation:

Special Revenue Funds:

$80,500

GF/GP:

$407,700

Total:

$488,200[4]

Program Description:

“Unclassified Positions” reflects employees who fall outside the state’s classified civil service. The positions include, appointments such as the Director of MDA, State Fair Manager, and Legislative Liaison.

Recommended Action:

With the elimination of approximately 35 percent of the Agriculture budget comes the ability to downsize these appropriations commensurately, producing an additional savings of approximately $170,870. This is an estimate only, and a detailed analysis of the impact of programs reductions is needed to determine exact savings. Savings: $170,870.

Program: Executive direction

Appropriation:

All from GF/GP:

$525,700

Total:

$525,700

Program Description:

“Executive Direction” provides support services to the director of MDA. In other words, they are the director’s staff.

Recommended Action:

With the elimination of approximately 35 percent of the Agriculture budget comes the ability to downsize these appropriations commensurately, producing an additional savings of approximately $183,995. This is an estimate only, and a detailed analysis of the impact of programs reductions is needed to determine exact savings. Savings: $183,995.

Program: Management services

Appropriation:

Special Revenue Funds:

$109,900

GF/GP:

$3,587,300

Total:

$3,697,200[5]

Program Description:

Management Services has historically provided financial administration and computer services. Computer services currently are handled on a line item of their own.

Recommended Action:

With the elimination of approximately 35 percent of the MDA budget comes the ability to downsize the Management Services division commensurately, producing a substantial additional savings of approximately $1,294,000. As a result of the state’s 2002 “early out” program, which allowed state employees to retire earlier than previous rules allowed, the MDA already has reduced Management Services by 17 percent without eliminating any of the programs analyzed in this policy brief. The commensurate reduction of 35 percent may be a conservative estimate of what could be accomplished if policy-makers adopt Mackinac Center recommendations. This is an estimate only, and a detailed analysis of the impact of programs reductions is needed to determine exact savings. Savings: $1,249,020.

Program: Statistical reporting service

Appropriation:

All from GF/GP:

$435,100

Total:

$435,100[6]

Program Description:

The Statistical Reporting Service (SRS) maintains an agricultural database under an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agreement is designed to create and maintain a statistical service of use to the state and to the USDA. The SRS attempts to “keep accurate, current, and historical data for all commodities in the program.”[7]

Recommended Action:

The state could extricate itself from its agreement with the USDA immediately. The functions associated with the agreement, if necessary, can be handled by the agriculture industry itself. Most non-agricultural industries provide market information without government assistance. There is no reason to expect any less from the agriculture industry. Indeed, private organizations exist in almost every area of commerce to survey producers and consumers and develop detailed and reliable market and safety information of the same kind provided for the agriculture industry through the SRS. This is true in every industry, from automobiles, computers and telephones, to snack food and insurance policies.[8] Indeed, both government and business routinely rely on private statistical survey research organizations, such as the Rockville, Md.-based WESTAT, or Mathematica, Inc., of Princeton, NJ. There is no reason to believe that the Michigan agricultural industry or federal and state governments could not look to organizations such as these for data collection and distribution. Savings: $435,100.