Letter to the Editor

Your view: Budget concerns

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A 70 percent budget cut for the New Madrid County Extension Service is not exactly a joyous way to start off the new year, but that is now a stark reality. The Extension budget request for 2004 of $34,000 was the same amount received in 2003. However the members of the Extension Council were informed by the New Madrid County Commission that, along with no longer furnishing a building for the extension office, they would only commit $10,000 to fund the Extension service for the 2004 fiscal year.

The Morrell Act of 1890 provides money through a federal land grant to establish the extension service. This was done to insure the agriculture industry would have a source of expert advice and guidance. This service, along with the 4H programs provided by the extension office has evolved with the change of the times but has continued in its commitments to agricultural and county residents. The act also mandates the support of each county in the state to a minimum amount of $10,000. Although the funding is used to pay building rent, utilities, secretarial salaries, travel, etc., the county has chosen to budget to the minimum amount. The Extension Council (consisting of 10 or more elected and appointed volunteer members) oversees the spending of this county money.

The University of Missouri has budgeted $202,500 of federal funds for the 2004 fiscal year. These funds are for equipment, programming and salaries for New Madrid County. However, this money will be lost with the inevitable closing of the New Madrid County Extension Office under the current proposed 2004 county budget.

Extension service is a source for information and assistance free of charge to any county resident. This service also includes the expertise of any extension specialist in any other county in the state. The only cost is to pay the mileage of the visiting specialist in your location, which is paid from the county budget.

By a simple call to your county extension office, any resident of the county has access to any county specialist, be it a question about wilting flowers, barren pecan trees or a question about cutting-edge technology in cotton pest management. Your county specialist will be happy to visit your yard, garden or field to offer his or her expertise free of charge to you.

If you would like to learn more about the services your County Extension office has to offer, please contact New Madrid County University Extension Specialist Jeff House at (573) 748-5531.

If you feel, as we do, that your New Madrid County Extension service is a valuable resource, please call your county commissioner and voice your concern: Presiding Commissioner Clyde Hawes 471-1030; 1st District Commissioner Barry Bennett 748-5074; 2nd District Commissioner Sam Pikey 643-2413.

Your help would be greatly appreciated.

New Madrid County Extension Council

Craig Hunter, chairman

Melissa Pullum, vice chairman

Linda Towery, secretary

Pat Weaks, treasurer

Kevin Rone

Jamie Frakes

Jason Landers

Danny Hayes

David Eddy

Fred Alexander