MU Extension funding could be cut drastically

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Although Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon does not plan to cut funding for higher education next year, he has proposed a major funding cut for University of Missouri Extension, which provides local residents with a variety of agriculture and business programs.

The 2010 budget proposes a 50 percent, or $14.6 million, funding cut for the University of Missouri Extension. The funding cut is directly related to less than projected funding for capital improvement projects through the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative Fund.

"This would take out, at a minimum, half of all extension personnel," said Tony Rickard, University of Missouri Extension dairy specialist based in Cassville. "Most of our budget is tied up with personnel and programs. We can make program cuts, but a very drastic funding cut like this would require a cut in personnel, which means there would be fewer people to serve the needs of Barry County residents."

Last month, colleges and universities across Missouri were asked to submit budget reduction scenarios to the Missouri Department of Higher Education. The information was used in initial budget discussions.

"The University of Missouri developed scenarios for funding cuts of 15 percent, 20 percent and even 25 percent. Each one called for personnel cuts," said Rickard. "They did not look at a scenario that would affect Extension programs or a budget cut of this size."

If the proposed budget cuts are approved and Extension funding is cut in half, the University of Missouri will most likely conduct detailed evaluations of all programs and continue only those that have the most significant impact on the economy, said Rickard.

"This would knock some people and programs completely out, because we would not have anyone to do those programs," said Rickard. "It would have a devastating effect on Extension programs throughout the state. When you cut a budget by half, it is not business as usual."

The proposed budget cut could also cost Missouri around $34 million, which the University of Missouri Extension receives through matching grants.

"A lot of Extension programs receive matching funding through grants, contracts or federal monies," said Rickard. "If we don't have the money to do the programs, we can't receive matching funding from those grants."

The proposed funding cuts could stop the University of Missouri Extension from providing educational programs that have made a tremendous impact on the state's economy by helping to improve and grow many businesses, said Rickard.

"Missouri Farm Bureau is greatly alarmed at the major cuts to Extension funding Gov. Nixon is proposing for the University of Missouri and Lincoln University," said Charles E. Kruse, Missouri Farm Bureau president. "A proposed funding reduction cuts deep into programs that provide valuable services to Missouri farmers and also help fund agriculture research, youth development initiatives, such as 4-H, and local nutrition programs.

"These programs have, in years past, and continue today to provide a critical link between higher education and Missouri citizens," said Kruse. "In the coming weeks, we will be talking to legislators about our concerns and examining more closely the implications and magnitude of these proposed budget cuts."

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