Monday, December 13, 2010

Saving corn... cutting service to farmers and homeowners

You may have used the services of the Virginia Cooperative Extension when having a problem in your home garden or with pests in your lawn. The farmer down the road probably uses a variety of Extension services in managing and improving his operation. Your kids may have been involved in 4-H programs. All that might be coming to an end, or be far less convenient, if proposed budget cuts materialize.

Virginia Tech has proposed restructuring the Virginia Cooperative Extension in a move that will save $5.5 million but make services much less available and convenient to those who use them. The plan, which is in a early draft stage, will consolidate the 106 local offices into a couple dozen regional hubs. Some staff positions, most likely administrative assistants, would be eliminated. Many folks who use extension services would have to travel farther and may find some programs cut or curtailed.

I haven't heard any speculation on specifically how restructuring would affect the central Shenandoah Valley Extension offices. Partly because the plan is just now being developed and partly because Extension employees have apparently been cautioned about speaking out on the issue, there are few public details. Rockingham and Augusta counties are two of the largest agricultural producers in the Commonwealth and they, along with other local governments and citizens, need to engage state legislators on this issue before the General Assembly convenes in January. In this case, the savings may not be worth the costs to our communities.

1 comment:

VallusCivis said...

I don't think its time to bring out the crying towel. Whatever comes out is most likely going to be the starting point for discussion. Its probably time to have this discussion. Its true that the Valley should continue to have strong Extension presence, other areas of the Commonwealth have experienced dramatic changes in their economies. Should every county have an Extension Office? Probably not. This could potentially work out well for this area while making the Extension system more cost effective for taxpayers.