GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved the rest of the state's budget last week, including funding for two of Michigan State University's agriculture programs.
The MSU Extension program and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station system were seen as likely candidates for a line item veto amid a contentious budget battle.
The two programs provide valuable research and expertise to farmers, social programs to youth and low-income people, community development assistance in urban and rural areas and several other services.
While Granholm wielded her veto pen on more than 70 programs, those were not among them.
MSU Extension Director Tom Coon said the governor's signature brings great relief.
"I'm pleased most of all for the people that we serve, and that we'll be able to continue to serve them," Coon said.
Granholm's decision comes after extension staff Wednesday shared plans for major program restructuring with the governor's staff.
"It really shows an endorsement of the change process we've been going through," Coon said.
Chris Kropf, a Lowell-area apple grower and sales representative for agricultural chemical company Valent USA, also is pleased the programs will continue.
"During growing season, I look at information coming off the (MSU) weather stations and the e-mails that I get from (the extension) daily," Kropf said. "I use the information that they give me as much as I look at the weather when I first get up."
Kropf said they don't always do what the extension recommends.
"But it sure is nice to have another opinion, an unbiased opinion coming from the university."
Supporters of the extension's 4-H program also are cheering. More than 200,000 youth participated in the program last year.
April Koop is a Northeast Grand Rapids parent who just started serving on the 4-H Council of Kent County. She was dismayed this week to hear of its budget troubles.
The continued funding is "fantastic for the kids and the whole state," she said, "not to mention what it does economically for Michigan.
"4-H helps the economy and the youth."
Betty Blase, director of the Kent/MSU Extension, is happy her programs can continue, but she knows these are difficult times for the state.
"Our programs do make a difference in Kent County," she said. "But at the same time, we're really cognizant of the challenges that everyone is having."
Coon said the extension will be moving forward with restructuring plans over the coming months.