Budget cuts hit ag office

Kali Lingen

Kali Lingen

Gov. Mike Round’s proposed 2010 fiscal year budget cuts $1 million in state general funds for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service.

“There would be a significant impact on programming Extension would be able to provide. Programming such as education, agricultural, 4-H, family and consumer science and community development,” said Donald Marshall, interim dean of College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences.

“The proposed cuts would impact the role of Extension – linking research and teaching it across the state,” said Rosie Nold, the district extension director for the north district.

On Feb. 23, the Joint Appropriations Committee in the South Dakota Legislature held a follow-up budget hearing for the Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station. Marshall said there were many people and a few committee members that spoke in favor of the Extension Service at the hearing. Whether the proposed cuts for Extension become a reality is up to the South Dakota Legislature, Marshall said.

The Extension Service’s budget in fiscal year 2009 was made up of $8.5 million of state general funds, about $3.2 million in federal Smith-Lever funds and approximately $3 million from county governments. South Dakota state funding made up roughly 58 percent of the Extension’s budget last year. The money from county governments is directly provided to county Extension offices.

Last year, 95 percent of the state general funds received by the Extension Service were used for salaries and benefits of employees. The state general funds pay for 71 percent of Extension educators’ salaries and benefits, while the remaining 29 percent is paid by the federal Smith-Lever funds.

Since the state general funds are used for salaries and benefits, Marshall said open positions would be cut first. Extension would have to look at all vacant positions and eliminate them across all of the program areas, said Marshall.

“Over time, we might fill the positions cut, but for now, cut the vacancies,” Marshall said.

“I can’t say for certain, but priority is to keep current people that are currently on staff on staff,” Nold said.

Andrew Jensen, South Dakota Extension Advisory Board Youth Representative and sophomore horticulture and landscape architecture major from Wakonda, said travel operations are going to be the first thing cut from the budget, along with employment vacancies and then Extension educators.

“Extension cuts are going to happen all across the board. It’s not going to be certain offices who are going to have to cut more than others,” said Jensen.

The proposed budget would cut about 12 percent of state general funds for Extension and is equal to about 15 Extension positions, said Jensen.

Extension Service does a variety of things. Extension has staff that works in four different areas: agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, 4-H/youth development and community innovation and leadership.

“Extension is the main way university research and resources are applied and used out in the rest of the state,” said Kari Fruechte, a community innovation and leadership project director.

Extension employs the most personnel in the agricultural areas, Nold said, followed by family and consumer sciences and 4-H.

“Extension is an organization developed to meet the needs of people in the state. We change as fast as issues emerge in our communities,” Fruechte said.

“The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service is needed, and the cuts will affect everyone whether they think they know it or not,” said Jensen.

#1.881844:4201785220.jpg:Ag.Hall.CMYK.RC.jpg:The SDSU Extension Services, housed in Agricultural Hall, may be experiencing budget cuts in the near future.:Rhett Clay