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Last week’s State of the State speech by Gov. Jay Nixon did not have a lot of good news for the Missouri Farm Bureau and the University of Missouri Extension offices.
The proposed budget for next year that Nixon outlined contains a 50 percent cut for Extension offices statewide.
The Extension provides services and support for programs such as 4-H and school nutrition programs.
“Missouri Farm Bureau is greatly alarmed at the major cuts to extension funding Governor Nixon is proposing for the University of Missouri and Lincoln University,” said Missouri Farm Bureau President Charles E. Kruse in a statement released on Friday. “A proposed funding reduction of more than 50 percent at the University of Missouri and over 40 percent at Lincoln University 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. As land-grant institutions, the University of Missouri and Lincoln University were established with the three specific purposes of teaching, research and extension. Governor Nixon’s proposed cuts dramatically weaken one of these three main pillars of our state’s two land-grant universities.”
The Ray County Extension office employs three full-time people including 4-H Youth Specialist Nancy Coleman. She said her office is aware of the proposed cuts but is carrying on with business as usual.
“It’s a critical situation,” Coleman said. “You hate to see any of those programs cut. I might not be here, but at this point we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll cross the bridge when we have to.”
She said that programs for this year are not cut and the Extension will move forward with programs and scholarships this year. She said cutting programs could be devastating to the local youth.
“I think it’s critical when you are trying to keep youth in programs,” she said. “If a program is deleted, it’s going to make it more difficult for kids to pay for their education.”
Kruse said the Extension has provided a critical link between rural Missourians and higher education. He said in the next several weeks the Farm Bureau will seek out legislators to express their concerns.
Rep. Bob Nance, R-Excelsior Springs, said this is an educational issue and Nixon promised no cuts to education. He said a cut in funding would not only mean a loss of jobs but could mean a loss of federal funding as well.
“The action could cost federal funds, but it is not a done deal yet,” Nance said in an email response. “Hopefully, we can work with the Governor to preserve more of the Extension Services budget.”
The Missouri Legislator has until May to approve a new budget.