Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Agricultural Commission;

$48,500[7]

All from GF/GP

Marketing and Bargaining

 

 

Board

 

 

Program Description:

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 no more than three members may be of one political party. The commission is responsible for the operation of the MDA, primarily through establishing policies governing all departmental programs. The Commission appoints the director of the MDA and approves all rules and regulations promulgated by the department. The Commission meets once a month, and its meetings are open to the public.

The Marketing and Bargaining Board administers Michigan's Agricultural and Bargaining Act, P.A. 344 of 1972, which permits producers of perishable fruits and vegetables to be represented by an accredited association in negotiation with the handlers. Functions of the board include: determining the definition of a commodity bargaining unit; administering accreditation procedures; determining members of the accredited bargaining units; and protecting the rights of both growers and handlers.

Recommended Action:

The MDA should be structured like many other departments of state government by eliminating the Agricultural Commission, allowing the Governor to choose the Director, and granting the Director the responsibility for setting Department policy. There simply is no need for a five-member commission to preside over the operations of the Department.

The Marketing and Bargaining Board should be eliminated, with its functions handled by the private sector. Both the producers and the handlers of fruit and vegetables have every incentive to make sure that their negotiations 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.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affirmative Action

$189,200[8]

All from GF/GP

Program Description:

The Affirmative Action Office is responsible for ensuring that women, minorities, and people with disabilities are "adequately" represented in MDA's work force. This goal is accomplished through career outreach programs, departmental training programs, and employment procedures. The Affirmative Action Office also offers internship programs to acquaint students with the MDA. The program features internships during the summer and academic year. It also informs minority students about career possibilities in agriculture.

Recommended Action:

By their very nature, affirmative action programs use race and other irrelevant factors as a basis for decision making, instead of pursuing a color-blind policy of non-discrimination. The practice of affirmative action is inherently unfair to those groups not granted special status, and often demeaning to those who are. Under the current system, non-minorities are punished due to their race, and those minorities who do obtain employment in agencies where affirmative action policies are practiced are often viewed as "quotas"--people who do not deserve the job they possess. In many cases this may not be true, yet the specter of affirmative action will always raise the doubt in the minds of non-minorities and minorities alike. The Department of Agriculture should pursue a color-blind "best person for the job" approach instead of its current policy of affirmative action. It could, and should, do so by immediately eliminating this office.[9]

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Statistical

$412,400[10]

$378,400 from GF/GP;

Reporting Service

 

34,000 from Special Revenue Funds

Program Description:

The Statistical Reporting Service (SRS) conducts crop surveys of fruits, vegetables, nursery stock and ornamental plants. The SRS conducts its research on a rotating basis, with fruit the first year, vegetables the second year, and nursery stock and ornamental plants the third year, for example.

Recommended Action:

The SRS could be eliminated immediately. Its functions, if necessary, can and should be handled by the agricultural industry itself. As noted below for the USDA data collection program, most non-agricultural industries provide market information without government assistance. There is no reason to expect any less from the agricultural industry.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

USDA Data

$1,077,300[11]

All from Federal Funds

Collection Program

 

 

Program Description:

The USDA Data Collection Program is a federal program administered by state governments. The state of Michigan currently employs 18 full time employees in this program. The program, much like the Statistical Reporting Service, surveys data and prepares acreage, yield and production forecasts and estimates of Michigan's field crops, fruits and vegetables. It also prepares head counts of livestock.

Recommended Action:

Private organizations exist in almost every area of commerce to survey producers and consumers, and develop detailed and reliable market information. This is true with everything from automobiles, computers, and telephones to snack foods and insurance policies. The important area of agriculture would be no exception, and there is no reason for the state or federal government to be involved.[12] The USDA Data Collection Program should therefore be eliminated.

This program also raises the issue of whether the state of Michigan should accept federal funding for unnecessary or questionable programs, a practice which is commonly justified by the argument that if Michigan doesn't take the money, someone else will, and Michigan citizens will be the losers. Such federal funds are viewed as cost-free "gifts" that can provide Michigan with jobs, and can benefit certain groups.

This issue is addressed in detail in Appendix I. Suffice it to say here that Americans today are realizing the limits to federal spending, and the detrimental impact that deficit spending is now having and will continue to have on future generations. Good citizenship requires that the Michigan Legislature reject this type of federal funding and treat federal tax dollars as if they came from Michigan taxpayers. After all, they do.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Press and Public Affairs

$466,200[13]

All from GF/GP

Program Description:

The Press and Public Affairs Division is responsible for: press relations, public education programs, information and outreach, employee communications, publication development, and coordination of special events. The division also coordinates the agriculture marketing program, which promotes Michigan agriculture.

Recommended Action:

The Press and Public Affairs division should be eliminated immediately. The primary function of the division is to promote Michigan agriculture in general, and the Michigan wine industry in particular. Both of these can and should be handled by private sector producers and trade associations. A prime example of Press and Public Affairs' unnecessary spending is a quarterly, full color newspaper that it produces and distributes for free, entitled Michigan Wine Country. The sole purpose of this publication is to promote the Michigan wine industry.

The state legislature should end such "corporate welfare" immediately.[14] Governor Engler and others have struck a responsive chord by rightfully pointing out the need to help social welfare recipients become independent of government assistance. The same principle should apply to Michigan corporations and industry groups. Most people would be outraged if they knew that state government was subsidizing such profitable businesses. The Press and Public Affairs office should be eliminated.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Upper Peninsula State Fair

$959,500[15]

$256,300 from GF/GP;

 

 

$703,200 from Special Revenue Funds

Program Description:

This program funds an annual fair in the Upper Peninsula, similar to the Michigan State Fair held annually in Detroit.

Recommended Action:

While it is true that the Upper Peninsula State Fair is an enjoyable event for many people each summer, sponsoring fairs is not a proper function of government in a civil society. Every year, thousands come from across the country to enjoy Michigan's natural wonders. And millions enjoy such entertainment opportunities as attending professional sporting events and privately run fairs and festivals. The Upper Peninsula State Fair is no different; there is no reason to believe that we need the state to run a fair in the Upper Peninsula in order for there to be one. If there is sufficient demand for a fair of this type--and it appears that there is--then private organizations will respond to that demand and conduct one.[16] This program should be eliminated.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Grants

$14,590,900[17]

$410,000 from Federal Funds;

 

 

$10,948,200 from GF/GP;

 

 

$3,232,700 from Special Revenue Funds

Program Description:

The Department of Agriculture issues grants to a variety of organizations and programs across the state. For fiscal year 1995-96, the following grants have been approved:

Michigan State University

$210,000

Energy conservation program

$263,100

Grants to cities with racetracks

$1,745,600

Great Lakes draft horse show

$78,800

Building and track improvement, county and state fairgrounds

$627,700

Premiums, county and state fairs

$1,611,200

Purses and supplements, fairs

$2,653,700

Standardbred fedele fauri futurity

$77,000

Standardbred Michigan futurity

$77,000

Quarterhorse program

$43,000

Licensed tracks--light horse racing

$84,000

Standardbred breeders awards

$1,201,500

Standardbred purses and supplements, licensed tracks

$292,100

Standardbred sire stakes program

$800,000

Standardbred training and stabling

$47,800

Thoroughbred program

$1,973,400

Thoroughbred sire stakes program

$424,000

Food bank

$500,000

Future Farmers of America

$28,500

Local soil conservation districts program

$1,400,000

Northwest Michigan horticultural research station

$41,800

Southwestern Michigan tourist council, taste of Michigan

$60,400

Grown in Michigan program

$100,000

Michigan festivals

$50,000

Forest stewardship program

$200,000

Recommended Action:

Most of the above grants have only a tenuous relationship to the purposes identified in the Department's mission statement. None provide consumer safety functions. Instead, they subsidize private industry, private organizations, or academic research. A large share of this funding subsidizes horse racing and gaming in Michigan, which is arguably not even an agricultural concern. As mentioned previously, the Michigan Legislature should encourage businesses and organizations to become independent of government handouts. This form of corporate welfare insulates the subsidized organizations from the test of the marketplace: Do Michigan citizens value these activities enough to voluntarily support them? The Grants program should be eliminated immediately.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Equine Monitoring System

$87,600[18]

All from GF/GP

Program Description:

The Equine Monitoring System was established by the Department of Agriculture to do the following: establish and maintain a database on the population, health status and economic characteristics of the horses in Michigan, and to identify major disease and health problems based on frequencies and economic impact of such conditions. The state periodically conducts a statewide survey of all horse owners to gather the information it requires. The program is under the direction of Martin Saffell of Michigan State University.

Recommended Action:

This is a program that has been marked for elimination by many state legislators for a number of years, yet it has remained intact. Saffell, defending the existence of the program, has stated, "Unlike other livestock, the USDA did not have any data on horses. They have data on dairy cows, hogs, chickens, etc. Horses are not really part of agriculture, except breeding farms are considered farming, and most produce hay or other products. Farms are now specialized. We need documentation to lobby" the USDA.[19] This program continues to be in place in order to attract federal funds for local purposes. As stated above in our discussion of the USDA Data Collection program, the Legislature should refuse to accept federal funding for such purposes. Appendix I explains why all states should resist the temptation to take federal funds for unnecessary programs. It is time for this program to be eliminated, and for horse owners to stop asking taxpayers to subsidize their industry and hobby.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Marketing and Market

$1,099,700[20]

$420,600 from Interdepartmental Grants;

Development Program

 

$625,900 from GF/GP;

 

 

$50,500 from Special Revenue

 

 

Funds

Program Description:

The Marketing and Market Development program campaigns and advertises throughout the nation and the world on behalf of Michigan agricultural products.

Recommended Action:

This program is another example of corporate welfare; private industry should be responsible for its own marketing programs, not the taxpayer. It should be eliminated at once.

Program

Gross Appropriation

Appropriation Breakdown

 

 

 

Equine Drug Testing

$741,700[21]

All from Special Revenue Funds

Program Description:

This program tests the drug levels present in the bloodstreams of race horses. It is included in the line item "Laboratory Support Services."

Recommended Action:

While it is true that the horse racing industry may wish to monitor the drug level present in the bloodstreams of race horses in order to ensure the integrity and quality of the races, such an issue should not involve state government. Many sports monitor similar things without the benefit of state intrusion. For example, in weightlifting, swimming, and track and field, competitors are privately tested for legal and illegal consumption of performance enhancing drugs, and there has been very little trouble with enforcement. There is no reason to believe that similar results could not be achieved in horse racing.

The horse racing industry has, like the weightlifting and swimming communities, a vested interest in seeing their sport attain a high level of respect and legitimacy. Indeed, without spectator confidence in the legitimacy and fairness of the races, the horse racing industry would quickly perish. As a result of this incentive, the industry can be expected to regulate itself.[22]