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MSU land-grant role hot topic for Michigan Farm Bureau

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Corn plants struggle to survive on the drought-stricken land of farmer Scott Keach who owns 2500 acre Keach Farm in Henderson, Kentucky, Jul
Corn plants struggle to survive on the drought-stricken land of farmer Scott Keach who owns 2500 acre Keach Farm in Henderson, Kentucky, Jul

Toward the end of last year, we can recall that I had commented on the then upcoming Michigan Farm Bureau annual meeting, and that one of several matters of grave concern within that major farm organization in Michigan,  was Michigan State University.  There were several matters likely for discussion but the one that seemed  the most sticky, was the reference to “....we are deeply concerned about the loss of focus on the Land Grant Mission  of the University . . . . “

Although that does seem to some people to be something of a generalization, some of the much-talked-about specifics regarding how things are different - - or, to put it another way - - as we consider the general complaint “It’s not your grandfather’s MSU anymore . . . “  We can come up with a number suggestions as to why it can’t be as it formerly was simply because so much about the big picture in Michigan generally, and in Michigan Agriculture specifically, has changed, and that many goals and objectives have changed, and many of the means by which these goals and objectives might be met, are no longer valid.

But, here’s one that has changed rather drastically, and it does seem to me it could have been better handled originally, and a fix could be implemented almost instantly.  I speak of the several MSU-owned farms.  Not long ago, the management and oversight of the University farms was with the University’s Department of Land Management.  Bit by bit, various farms and parts of farms were reassigned to other, subsidiary divisions of University authority.  That kind of action, I believe led to, or at least contributed to the dispersal of MSU’s prize, purebred Hereford beef herd.  That particular event, some say was not in itself so significant, as was that dispersal as a trend away from the aforementioned “land grant mission.”

Probably almost everybody has at least heard the term - land grant college (or university), but may not be fully familiar with what it does, and why it’s important..  A land grant university or college is an institution of higher education in the United States, designated by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.  Congress got into the Acts (pun intended) by way of Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont.  The 1890 Morrill Act was aimed at the former Confederate States. 

And now, the “mission”.  The mission   as set for in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering, as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class.

Actually, there’s quite a lot Michigan State University can do to raise the comfort level within the Michigan Agricultural Community, and I hear that the new reign of Dr Fred Poston as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is seen within Agriculture as quite comforting.

Karl Guenther is a retired farm broadcaster at WKZO and can be reached at khguenther@charter.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.

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