I received this message from Dr. Coreil, the Vice-Chancellor and Director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service. I would encourage you to read it through so that you will be aware of continuing challenges we face over funding for Cooperative Extension Service activities in Louisiana.
This week the House of Representatives will debate H.R. 1, the Full Year Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund federal departments, agencies, and programs through Sept. 30, 2011. As reported last week, the CR would reduce the topline number for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA is the USDA agency that supports Land-grant research and extension) by $217.056 million compared to FY 2010. (See details at the following website: http://www.land-grant.org/reports/2011/02-11.htm). The Full Year Continuing Resolution (CR) on the House floor this week does not address all federal discretionary spending equitably. The CR would cut $217 million (16%) in critical food, agriculture, and natural resources research, extension, and education programs and operating budgets during the remaining seven months of FY 2011. This is more than 1.5 times greater than the 10.3% cut proposed in overall non-defense discretionary spending. Most troubling about the NIFA cuts in the House CR are the two programs which were singled out for the greatest reductions:
- The Smith-Lever program would be cut by $29.8 million, a reduction that would harm 4-H clubs across America (which provide positive youth development to more than 6 million youth) and other Cooperative Extension programs that help farmers and ranchers grow more food and consumers eat nutritiously.
- The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative would be cut by $34.7 million, a reduction that would dramatically scale back competitive grants that support critical national research of direct benefit to food, agriculture, and natural resources producers and consumers.
Opponents of congressionally directed spending repeatedly identify competitive programs as the preferred method of rewarding research funding. Yet, this bill eliminates congressionally directed spending while simultaneously cutting this flagship competitive grants program. State Extension programs were singled out for a 10% reduction this fiscal year – Smith-Lever funds which provide the bulk of federal support for Extension would be cut by almost $30 million across the nation. This would negatively affect our 3 core Extension programs that are beneficial to all 64 Louisiana parishes:
4-H clubs would be harmed across Louisiana:
(1) providing positive youth development for over 6 million youth across the nation, and (2) supplying the future workforce for the agriculture industry.
- 240,000 youth participants in the 4-H program in Louisiana
- 7,627 adult volunteers representing all 64 parishes were instrumental in the Louisiana 4-H program contributing a value of 1.27 million dollars of time
- 4-H youth development program in all 64 parishes
- 112,000 youth and adults addressed community needs through service and character education programs
- 88,000 citizens received direct impact from service projects with $48,000 raised to assist with these projects
- 4-H youth served 16,360 hours on service projects valued at $341,106
Farmers and ranchers would have reduced access to reliable, current, research-based information to grow more and better food, provide jobs and stimulate/grow rural and urban economies.
Food and nutrition programs that support the use of US farm commodities in feeding families according to healthy living guidelines would be reduced.
The NIFA reductions – especially Smith-Lever reductions – are very damaging to what we do in all 64 Louisiana parishes. Concerned stakeholders can help reduce these damaging cuts before the CR becomes law. Smith-Lever should be funded at no less than the FY 2010 enacted levels.
Anyone that would like to contact their congressional representative and/or senators can go to: http://house.gov and enter your Zip code at the top left. (Under the logo).