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Groups ask for ag representation in MSU presidential search

A Michigan Senate resolution calls the lack of ag representation a “grievous oversight.”

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

May 22, 2023

3 Min Read
 aerial view of farms and fields
MSU SEARCH COMMITTEE: Earlier this month, MSU announced the 29 names who will help nominate the school’s next president. None have an agriculture production background. James L. Amos/Getty Images

The search is underway for Michigan State University’s 22nd president, and while some excitement swirls, there’s also a cloud of disappointment.

The recently named, 29-member search committee (including four trustees) does not include one representative from the agriculture industry.

Michigan’s agriculture sector generates more than $100 billion annually and makes up the second-largest industry in the state at 17% of the labor force.

The lack of an agricultural representative has the state’s largest, general farm organization, Michigan Farm Bureau, saying it runs afoul of the university’s roots and deep history with agriculture.

It’s calling on its members to send a prewritten or personalized message to the MSU board of trustees by visiting bit.ly/MSUaction or texting ‘MIMSU’ to 52886. 

Agriculture is an irreplaceable segment of the state and nation’s economy and has underpinned MSU’s land-grant mission since its establishment in 1855 as the Michigan Agricultural College.

MFB President and Tuscola County farmer Carl Bednarski called the omission disappointing and a disservice to the needs of all Michiganders.

“The ag community and MSU have a shared history and vested mutual interest that extends back to the university’s founding mission,” he said in a statement. “In fact, just last year, ag groups stepped up to the plate for MSU and helped secure $53 million in state funding for needed upgrades to its Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center and the university’s Research Greenhouse Complex.” 

Chuck Lippstreu, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, told Michigan Farmer the situation is very unfortunate.

“We're calling for the trustees to address that oversight and get somebody from agriculture on the search committee,” he said. “To be very clear, we're not asking for anyone to come off the committee. These distinguished individuals have important perspectives to lend to the search for a new MSU president, and their leadership should be part of this conversation. We're simply asking that agriculture have a seat at the table, and that there'll be a representative of the production agriculture industry as the university searches for its next leader.”

Senate support

There is support in the Michigan Senate with a resolution calling for MSU to include an ag representative on the presidential search committee, calling it a “grievous oversight” for not including them in the first place.

“The selection of Michigan State University’s next president will have profound implications on the future of Michigan’s agricultural sector, yet there is no direct representation of Michigan’s agricultural community on the university’s presidential search committee,” the resolution states. 

Thirty-two legislators also signed a letter highlighting the need for ag representation, noting MSU Extension and AgBioResearch are critical drivers of success for Michigan’s crop and animal industries. 

“The research and scientific work on plant and animal health have helped our farms address current and future challenges to their operations and adopt environmentally sustainable best practices,” the legislators wrote. “Michigan State University is essential to the continued growth and prosperity of Michigan’s agriculture industry at every level.”  

According to the letter, future successes for Michigan ag and MSU are intertwined. 

“We strongly encourage you to welcome a representative of Michigan’s agriculture industry to the presidential search committee,” the legislators concluded.

Currently included in the committee makeup are representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student body, university faculty, support staff, alums, athletic coaches and state leaders.

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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