Outstate residents displeased with cuts

Anna Weggel

Rural community members voiced concerns about changes made to the University’s Extension Service at a meeting of two House committees Thursday.

The Extension Service offers agricultural expertise and research outreach to rural counties. Until this year, the service was represented by staff in individual Minnesota counties.

The service was streamlined this year to include 18 centralized regional centers, in part because of a $7 million reduction in state and county funding, Extension Service Dean Charles Casey said.

Each community member who spoke Thursday expressed discontent with the changes.

Cottonwood County farmer David VanLoh said he was concerned about the continuation of the 4-H club in Minnesota because of the decreased number of leaders that the budget allows for this year.

“4-H and youth development is a program to be expanded, not cut back,” VanLoh said.

He said what he learned in 4-H is still important to him now.

“I want that influence to continue in Minnesota,” he said. “What would happen if a county fair was lacking 4-H?”

Al Christopherson, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation president, said he wants the service to help keep the best and brightest at the University.

“One of Minnesota’s most valuable resources is our youth,” he said.

Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said many community members are dissatisfied with the Extension Service changes.

“There is a huge level of frustration not only with the legislators, but the citizens we represent,” he said.

Cottonwood County farmer Glen Graff also expressed concerned for the future of Extension Service.

“What is the long-range plan for University of Minnesota extension?” Graff asked legislators. “Is there one? I’m tired of asking these questions. I’d rather see the results.”