Cuts hit the Cooperative Extension Service


New regional extension centers are going to be set up in the more populous areas around the state.

Ninety-nine South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service employees will be let go from their positions by Oct. 21.

The “reduction of force notices” were sent out April 12 as a result of a complete restructuring of the Extension Service, Dean Barry Dunn of the College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences said in a conference call.

The restructuring of the CES is a result of a 10-percent reduction in state appropriations for Fiscal Year 2012. In addition to a decrease of $818,644 in state appropriations, the agency is anticipating a reduction of $325,000 in federal budgets for a one-year total of $1.2 million. These cuts come in addition to state budget reductions of $400,000 in the past two years.

The restructuring plan calls for SDSU Extension to establish seven regional extension centers across the state staffed by extension field specialists, a new job classification. Extension educators will no longer be located in county extension offices, and the position of educator will cease to exist. Current appointments for all county extension educators will terminate on Oct. 21 following the conclusion of the 4-H year, Achievement Days and the state fair.

Though 99 people have been let go, only 17 job positions have been deleted. With the restructuring, 82 positions will need to be filled, and a national search will be conducted.

“The job descriptions are different than the ones we currently have,” Dunn said. “The job requirements are higher … . This is a national search that we’re going to be opening up. We really are starting from ground zero with a new organization with new job requirements, and we’re expecting the very best and brightest to apply for those jobs.”

SDSU Extension will create the classification of extension field specialist that would require a minimum of a master’s degree. Field specialists will be administered by SDSU academic departments and located in regional extension centers to offer statewide programming.

Extension will also create the position of 4-H adviser to assure the uninterrupted delivery of 4-H programs. Starting in October, these positions will be responsible for 4-H program activities, Achievement Days and 4-H at the state fair. South Dakota counties will be invited to participate in monetary support that is appropriate for their budgets.

Under the new administrative structure, the position of director of extension will be held jointly by Dunn. This will reduce the number of administrative appointments. An associate director will be appointed from existing staff. Three administrative positions of district extension directors will be terminated.

The new structure calls for a director of field operations and five program directors. Extension will refocus efforts in five capstone areas. These include: competitive crop systems, competitive livestock systems, youth and community leadership – including the 4-H program, food and family and urban and rural initiatives.

The new regional offices will be in Aberdeen, Faith, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown.

In addition, SDSU Extension will continue to maintain federally recognized tribal extension programs in Eagle Butte, Mission and Porcupine.

The regional centers were chosen to reflect population, as well as regional traffic for business, trade and health care, shopping and banking. The communities were also selected to provide a statewide network of offices that is no more than 75 miles from a majority of extension’s audiences.

“These locations are within 75 miles of 95 percent of the farms, 96 percent of ag production, 92 percent of the communities, 97 percent of poverty level people and 98 percent of the youth in South Dakota,” Dunn said.

The regional extension centers will be operational by mid-October.

The restructuring changes how extension will develop and deliver educational programs.

“The demographics of South Dakota have changed very, very dramatically in the last 10 years,” Dunn said. “The other thing that’s changed … is access to technology” and “rapid access to information.”

“Our extension programs will be market-driven and will be based on a business plan,” Dunn said. “Programs will include a strong communications technology, delivery component, making them much more accessible on the Internet via social media and by video conference. Clients will no longer be required to come to an extension office to participate in an educational program or service.”

Dunn said SDSU Extension programs will also include a cost-recovery component in full compliance with USDA regulations.

“We will develop new, appropriate partnerships with underwriters,” Dunn said. “Some programs will have registration fees, and some educational materials will be offered for sale.”