February 22, 2011

Extension Programs Face Cuts

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Summer camps for children, veterinary care for some 200,000 cows and a program to eradicate bed bugs across New York State are all on the chopping block as Cornell Cooperative Extension faces multi-million dollar budget cuts in the 2012 fiscal year.As the centerpiece of the University’s land grant mission, CCE offers an array of public services for “education, outreach and applied research” in every county of New York state, totaling 56 offices. The program has lost at least 8 percent of its budget since 2009, according to Glenn Applebee, executive associate director, reducing the current statewide operating budget to an estimated $87 million.CCE is projected to forego $4 million in county funding, $3 million in state support and nearly $800,000 in federal appropriations, according to Prof. Helene Dillard, plant pathology, director of CCE and associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  CCE programs receive $2.5 million in federal funding, but the current U.S. Congress could reduce one-third of the research aid.While some long-standing programs such as Integrated Pest Management and Pro-Dairy will be eliminated, others such as 4-H Youth Developement face the difficulty of sharp reductions in staff and funding.“This is the perfect storm,” Dillard said. “There are budget cuts all over. You’re looking at state cuts, federal cuts and county cuts.”“The [current] proposed U.S. House of Representatives cut to our [federal] funds will result in a loss of $781,668 to Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Dillard said. This could result in a “severe impact on our ability to provide Federal Formula Funds for [research] projects,” or grant proposals, Dillard stated.­­Before the cuts from state and federal are implemented, CCE received approximately one-third of its budget from each level of government.CCE cooperates with a number of federal and state departments to offer agricultural assistance, provide economic redevelopment for struggling Rust Belt towns and host the 4-H program, a youth development organization.Three of Cornell’s statutory colleges — CALS, the College of Human Ecology and the College of Veterinary Medicine — collaborate with CCE. The extension program provides “an essential arm of outreach for CALS,” CALS Dean Kathryn Boor stated in a letter to the faculty on Feb. 18 that forewarned of far-reaching cuts.On campus, the proposed reduction in funding will affect a variety of applied research and extension projects. Nearly 200 professors or assistants collaborate with CCE programs, according to Prof. Chris Watkins, horticulture.CCE decreased its statewide workforce from 1,700 to 1,400 last year, according to Dillard, an 18-percent reduction in payroll staff. “The cuts are affecting extension specialists and the [Cornell] faculty who cooperate with them,” Dillard added.CCE operations have borne the brunt of sweeping cuts as twelve local offices grapple with losses of county funding exceeding 20 percent. A majority of the county offices, “at least half in the past four to five years have seen some cuts,” Dillard said. The two main research centers, based in Ithaca and Geneva, have also seen a drop in funding.

The upcoming budget will eliminate many proposals and research opportunities, including the Integrated Pest Management and Pro-Dairy programs. “On the state level — the impact is much greater,” Watkins said, as “some programs have been cut altogether.” Both IPM and Pro-Dairy are scheduled to run out of funding by March 31 and will be terminated indefinitely.IPM serves many functions, from helping minimize pesticides in the groundwater to educating New Yorkers with pamphlets on how to grapple with bed bug infestations.According to Jim Allen, president of the N.Y. Apple Association, the IPM program “supplies all of [local] agriculture with alternatives to using chemicals in agriculture production.” Without IPM, the budget cuts “take away a vital tool for what our growers had to continue to produce safe food for the public,” as the program helps incentivize efforts to avoid pesticides.The other project slated to be abolished, Pro-Dairy, provides assistance to more than 5,400 dairy farms across the state, according to Prof. Thomas Overton, animal science.The University will be directly affected, as “there are some graduate and undergraduates who work with the program,” Overton said. Additionally, there are several CALS faculty “who rely on Pro-Dairy specialists for the effectiveness of their programs.”Overton contended that “research on campus will be harmed” by the cuts as Cornell relies on the program “to sustain the land-grant mission.”Programs like Pro-Dairy were gutted throughout the state, but their impacts in individual counties differed. Since the severity of the cuts differed widely from county to county, two CCE county extensions, Dutchess and the joint Montgomery and Fulton office, were hit especially hard, Dillard said.The director of the Dutchess cooperative extension, Linda Keech, estimated that her office received a 44-percent reduction in county appropriations, totaling $400,000. The Dutchess extension’s budget will decline by 14 percent this year.Keech noted that Dutchess county “had a major 4-H program for 650 kids,” but since her office lost 13 positions, they “won’t be doing any in-school or after-school programming” anymore.More than 110,000 New York children statewide participate in the 4-H program, according to the 2009-2010 Youth Enrollment Summary.At the Fulton and Montgomery county office, total county appropriations declined from $330,000 to $160,000, forcing the local CCE to move locations because “we can no longer afford the rent,” said Marilyn Smith, director of the local CCE.“We have to be out of our current space by the end of this week,” Smith added. Her office has laid off a quarter of the staff and will no longer host a wide array of agricultural programs, including the Field Crops team.In terms of extension system’s future, Dillard foreshadowed hard times. “We’re going to end up seeing a lot of belt-tightening, some reduction in staff and see more people look at regional approaches and sharing of resources.”

Original Author: Max Schindler