Extension is an essential part of county government

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

University of Missouri Extension is governed at the local level by county extension councils. These local governing bodies are established in Missouri state law as a function of county government.

"The law is clear," said Tony DeLong, extension county council coordinator for University of Missouri Extension. "Extension is not a civic organization. Extension is a core function of county government."

County Extension Councils are political subdivisions like school boards and fire districts. However, extension councils depend on revenue from the county commission as required by state law since extension councils are designed to provide a core function for the county.

County Extension councils were established in 1961 to fulfill the local educational needs through research-based programming. Extension councils were to be funded in a partnership (federal, state, county) with funding that supported programs based on the needs of county residents.

Federal and state laws for Extension date back to 1862 when the Morrill Act was passed.

According to DeLong, Missouri law says the three roles of the county commission are to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens.

Health education goes beyond public health. It includes nutrition, reduction in obesity, parenting skills and an array of approaches to improving the mental and physical health of society -- all areas that extension focuses on.

Safety (education, support and prevention) goes beyond law enforcement. It is programming that prepares for a natural disaster, services that help with quick recovery, reduction of injury and food safety. A big part of extension's work focuses on developing a safe, abundant, low-cost food supply in this county -- both on the farm and in the garden.

Welfare is at the heart of extension programs that focus on the economic and well-being of society. Examples of these extension programs include business development programs, a youth development program known as 4-H and community development programs that empower citizens to take the challenges of today and lead.

"A county receives about a $7 return on every dollar invested in support of the local county extension is at the minimum, residents are getting a bargain and the commission is underserving the county citizens," said DeLong. "If the dollars for local support are not there the programs of public value are not able to make the difference."

Most county commissions in the state have worked as partners with the local extension council to provide resources that make programs possible locally. This partnership is essential.

"Over 1.2 Missourians received programming from MU Extension last year and most of that would not have been possible without this county and council partnership," said DeLong. "I certainly say 'thanks' to those commissions that have been supportive of the mission.

For more information about county extension councils in Missouri visit http://extension.missouri.edu/extcouncil/.

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