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A call to action to help save Michigan State animal ag
Truth from the Trenches
My brother has asked me, “Why don’t you run for the school board, Melissa?”

My show-no-commitment answer has always been, “I don’t like to go to meetings and I don’t have time.” But that’s not the truth. Time is not the issue and I really don’t mind meetings – it’s something very, very different.

I don’t like compromise. There are areas in my life that are black and white, non-variables, things I won’t compromise. But there are plenty of areas where I will compromise, areas where I’ve found my way isn’t always the right way.

If I were on a school board I would invariably be called upon to compromise and, quite honestly, I don’t want to be in that position, so I don’t get in that position. A politician, I’m not.

But sometimes, situations come along that need to be addressed, compromise or no. Last week, I called out Michigan State University, questioning their budgetary decisions regarding the Animal Science Department in combination with the selling of the Hereford herd and promoting Meatless Mondays on the MSU extension website.

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a vegetable hater. A balanced diet includes lots of fruits and veggies, but eliminating meat, more specifically beef, and promoting it is wrong for Michigan State. So, okay; enough said about that.

Before the Hereford sale was set in motion, compromises were made as people sat around a table and decided what program would be cut and what would stay funded, as the Animal Science Department faced less state funding.

What an awful place to be. Knowing the decisions made would impact not only thousands of potential students but real, live people who need paychecks to maintain their mortgage payments and buy food for their families – that’s nothing short of a miserable position.

Did they make the right choices? No, not in my opinion. The purebred beef program was more than a legacy – it was a learning tool for students who, in just a few short years, will be directly responsible for feeding an increasing world population. And that’s enough to keep it intact.

From the emails I’ve received, I’m not alone in my position. There are business owners around the state who are outraged, as well. They aren’t chomping at the bit to chastise anyone, but are standing ready to find a solution.

Surprisingly enough, they are not all beef producers. These folks represent a cross-section of agriculture and don’t want to see the teaching of production agriculture erode from the purpose of our land grant institution.

So what do we do now?

I’m holding up the “MAKE NOISE” sign. Put on your solution-finding attitudes and make your feelings known. Ranting and raving won’t get you far, but a well-reasoned letter to your state senator and representative, the president of MSU, the dean of the College of Agriculture or the head of the Animal Science Department is a great place to begin.

I encourage you to not only make noise, but make a pleasing noise – one of cooperation and solution-seeking. Make your support irresistible so they will know Michigan agriculture is not only thriving, but that the faces who make it thrive are willing to help turn the wheel to keep Michigan State University successful in teaching students about production agriculture, so they can feed the world.

Email me at mhart1@frontiernet.net if you need help or have questions.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.
11/1/2012