Cooperative extension escapes major cuts
- Published on 06/14/2012 - 11:24 am
- Written by Business Journal Staff
Fresno County Cooperative Extension advisors are breathing a sigh of relief after county supervisors, conducting budget hearing June 11-15, agreed to a 2 percent increase over what the extension had requested for 2012-13.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a final vote on the cooperative extension budget on June 18.
The approval is substantial because the state plans to cut $100 million from the California State University and University of California budgets in response to major revenue shortfalls.
“Our budget probably won’t change,” said Stephen Vasquez, co-county cooperative extension director. But it will be tight, he said.
Cooperative Extension costs for the 2012-13 year are estimated at $433,572. The county’s contribution is $294,796.
A trust fund and charges for services help fill the remainder.
The 2 percent increase in the cooperative extension budget follows several years of budget cuts. That has made it difficult to fill new positions. Vasquez said he would like to see several advisor positions filled.
“It would improve our service level,” he said.
For now, cooperative extension staff and advisers are happy not to face cuts in the next budget.
However, they do face another problem. A trust fund developed by grower donations that helped subsidize the extension budget will run dry after the 2012-13 budget year.
Vasquez said Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson has agreed to work with the cooperative extension to develop a new trust fund. That could be a lifesaver for the extension that provides services that farmers depend on.
Cooperative extension farm advisors offer research and education programs that support Fresno County growers and consumers. Information covers soils, irrigation, variety selection, pest management and harvest operations.
They make recommendations and provide information on pesticide application to help growers protect crops with less impact on the environment.