By Jeff Shultz
State Representative Cynthia Roe (R-Pauls Valley) said she and other lawmakers were not aware that Oklahoma State University was planning on reducing the number of extension agents in Oklahoma
“The extension service is very important to all Oklahoma counties,” she told the News Star.
Roe said she became aware of OSU’s plans after a House Concurrent Resolution was filed by State Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill) calling for the OSU Board of Regents to halt their current plans until certain information is submitted to top state officials.
Roe said she and other lawmakers in the House were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution.
“4-H and OHCE are two worthy programs provided by the extension service as well as the various farm programs. It would be a shame if we had those programs reduced in any form,” she said.
HCR1003, filed last week, requests that the Board of Regents for Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges cease the reduction of Extension Service agents of the Cooperative Extension Program until the Board and OSU has provided sufficient information to the Governor, House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore and the Secretary of Agriculture.
OSU recently announced the extension service program was facing some serious budget cuts.
To help operate within budget constraints over the last several years, Damona Doye, associate vice president, OCES, Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources points out that Extension personnel numbers have been reduced by more than one-third, accompanied by a 25 percent reduction in area specialists. Several counties are sharing educators due to budget constraints.
“These personnel reduction measures at the state, area and district levels were taken to protect the county Extension personnel who are in touch with Oklahomans across the state,” she said.
In Garvin County, this potentially means staff will be reduced to one educator and one ¾-support staff position. Their staff has already been reduced to 1 educator, 1 clerical and 1 program assistant.
There is not currently a Family and Consumer Sciences/4-H Youth Development educator upon the retirement of Connie Wollenberg in January.
“County extension programs are valuable services to their communities and a huge economic boost that is difficult to measure. Extension service is an investment in our children’s future and a valuable resource for our farmers and ranchers with a large economic impact on our state,” stated Hardin.
Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, is carrying HCR1003 in the Senate.
“Cooperative Extension Service agents provide a vital service in forwarding research to support and grow our state’s agriculture industry,” said Simpson.