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Proposed extension cuts uncalled for

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It was a great surprise to me when Steve Moyer, Nevada Daily Mail reporter, called me and informed me that Governor Nixon has proposed cutting funding to the University of Missouri Extension Service by 50 percent. A cut might have been expected and has happen frequently during the past 30 years, but not 50 percent at one time.

Making a cut to the organization where I spent my career is entirely uncalled for. Evidently, the governor is not informed on the programs of the Extension Service and how important they have been to the state during the history of the Extension Service. This is part of the Land Grant system in addition to teaching and research. Certainly there are indications that the state might need to do some trimming on budget proposals, but it might be better served to cut across the board, affecting all aspects of the budget -- not so much from Extension.

Actually, the state would be better off to increase the Extension budget instead of decreasing it. Investing in University of Missouri Extension is a good investment and the return is greater than what is invested. The governor, and many others, may not realize that for every dollar invested in the Extension Service there is a $27.70 economic impact. This includes $24.70 for new jobs, sales and investments, $1.20 reduction in families' medical costs and $1.80 in increased tax revenues.

Not only does investing in Extension programs affect economics, but it affects other areas of life including the quality of life. The proposal of drastic cuts would affect many good programs. It is difficult to believe that the governor would conceive of such a drastic cut.

It is true that a large percentage of the population is not aware of the Extension Service and what it accomplishes. Still their lives have been affected by the programs, either directly or indirectly.

Missouri has had the distinction of having a high quality University Extension program -- perhaps the best in the nation, or at least one of the best. I have personally seen lives, families, communities and businesses positively impacted by Extension programs. There have been story after story of the results and successes of Extension programs.

The Extension Service has changed greatly over the years, adopting new programs due to the changes that have occurred in technology and conditions over the years. Many citizens in Missouri depend greatly on information from extension.

The motto of 4-H, which is sponsored in Missouri by the Extension Service, is "To make the best better." In many ways Extension has lived up to the 4-H motto, taking good high quality programs and finding ways to make them more effective. Granted, there are always ways to find savings and to make better use of the funding.

The University of Missouri is a significant provider of higher education in Missouri. More than one million Missourians each year rely on University of Missouri Extension for research-based information and education to help them solve problems and make informed decisions.

Many people might consider that extension is an agriculture program. It includes agriculture education, but it is much more. Of the nearly $96.5 million budget for 2009, 15 percent is budgeted for agricultural and natural sciences. That same percentage is budgeted for human environmental sciences. Community development's share of the budget is 5 percent and for business development it is 6 percent. 4-H is budgeted 7 percent of the total budget and 28 percent is designated for continuing education programs. The remainder is divided into three parts, with 14 percent going to local program support, 7 percent is for statewide program support and 3 percent for administration.

There is a large number of citizens concerned about the governor's proposed cuts for Extension. The other day I was visiting with Kelly Gerken and she was concern about the proposal. She was a 4-H member that provided the leadership to the Vernon County 4-H program. Now she is a 4-H parent and her family is active in 4-H and have interests in other aspects of the Extension program.

As I visited with Kelly, I said that I needed to write a column about this subject. Thus, the idea for the subject this week was conceived. The idea that I had for this week will be used sometime in the future. I do not think that I can limit this subject to only one column -- I could write a book about this subject and the importance of the Extension Service to the citizens of this area and the entire state of Missouri.

State Representative Barney Fisher is concerned about the proposed drastic cut in funding for the Extension Service.

"Now is the time for anyone who believes in and supports MU Extension Services to become involved in their state government and oppose Governor Nixon's 50 percent reduction in Extension Services funding." Fisher said.

"Supporters of Extension Services should contact Governor Nixon's office (573) 751-3222; House Budget Chairman, Representative Allen Icet (573) 751-1247 or Allen.Icet@house.mo.gov; and Senate Budget Chairman Senator Gary Nodler (573) 751-2306 or gary-nodler@senate.mo.gov," he said

"I am optimistic that this misguided reduction can and will be restored. While tough budget times are on us again and all budget items may experience some pain, the 50 percent reduction of the MU Extension Services goes too far." Fisher said.

To be continued. . . .

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large