New Budget Would Ravage UGA Extension Service

Obviously, there’s a lot to say about the proposed budget sitting in the Georgia legislature right now and its “draconian” effects on the extension service.  With stories at The Times in Gainesville and on the AP wire, local reporting is on top of the issue. I want to take a moment to highlight a few things from those stories.

First, from The Times, Hall County extension agent Billy Skaggs explains his role vis-a-vis the farming (and gardening) community:

“When (farmers) come to extension, they know it’s unbiased, it’s research-based, it’s the truth as best we know it, and we’re not trying to sell them anything,” Skaggs said. “We’re not trying to convince them to do something other than what we know to be the best practice for their farm or their operation.”

Second, from the AP, it seems as if losing 4H in the state of Georgia is a real possibility:

University of Georgia President Michael Adams said he has worked hard to support the 4-H, but could not guarantee the program would not be affected.

“I’m all for 4-H, but sooner or later you have to deal with realities,” Adams told reporters after the hearing. “There are no cuts left that we want to make. We are down to very difficult decisions.”

Naturally, extension agents and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) have come out swinging for their jobs. A few of their more important points include the necessity of CAES employees to maintain and improve agriculture, Georgia’s largest industry, and the fact that the state is walking away from UGA’s land-grant mission, which is based upon a partnership between local, state and federal government.

Numbers from the CAES press release:

Included in the plan were drastic cuts for CAES, particularly in the Extension budget. The proposal includes $11.66 million in cuts to Cooperative Extension or 33.3% of the state budget. When you include cuts already sustained since 2008 this would amount to a 51.45% cut in Extension’s state budget. The Extension budget makes up 7.6% of UGA’s state budget and we would be absorbing 20% of UGA’s budget cut. The plan also includes $816 thousand in cuts to the CAES research budget or 1.96% of their budget. The total cumulative budget reduction for Research since 2008 would be 20.43%.

In an effort to stave off these detrimental actions, which would affect every county in the state, Georgians should urge their local legislators to protect the extension service. A list of House representatives and their contact information can be found here. Please call or email today.

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