here are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
Aldo Leopold

01 March 2005

Extension in Denial? Oh the Urbanity!

When Earnest E. Davis of Texas A & M University received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Agricultural Economics Association in 2002, he posed the following question as the title of his acceptance speech: �Will There Be a Cooperative Extension in the Future?� This question has been nagging people within the agricultural research, extension, and education community for quite some time now, in an era where, in the last decade for instance, it would be difficult to find even one or two states that have not cut their extension budgets. Extension support from state governments continues to lag behind the resources needed to conduct effective programming. In New York State, for example, significant budget cuts for extension seem to be looming, and these come on top of already lean times.

Also of interest, and again from Dr. Davis of Texas A&M, was a bit of information that sticks with me. Dr. Davis related a discussion that occurred in the Texas state legislature, at a hearing where the Texas Cooperative Extension Service was attempting to argue in favor of at least steady funding, if not increased funding. During this discussion, Texas Extension was challenged, or more accurately admonished, by the Honorable Pete Laney, himself a farmer, and the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He said �If you want to continue to receive funds for extension programs in rural areas, you must convince the urban legislators that Extension is a valid investment for tax dollars. What I am telling you is that if you want to continue to have rural extension programs, you must have good urban programs.� I believe it would be foolish to dismiss this as a problem only common to Texas, in fact, I have personal experience that would indicate that this is a common problem throughout the US and possibly even the world.

So "Urbanity" is the locus of the power now. The implications for agriculture and natural resources management are profound, but is extension in denial?