Photo credit: Steve Hollabaugh
Penn State has maintained a strong Extension system through many difficult times over the past several decades. However, the state is certainly not immune to the budget problems that have hit other states — and threatened other Extension programs — around the country. Time will tell, says Baugher, whose own appointment is 100% Extension. “This year, our new governor proposed a severe budget cut for Penn State and the College of Agriculture, and fortunately, our stakeholders are doing their best to get the situation turned around,” she says.
Whatever the final numbers turn out to be, there will be changes to Extension in Pennsylvania. As seen in other states, there will be some streamlining, potential reductions in administration, as well as more of team approach. “Penn State Extension began a “reframing process” two years prior to this budget crisis,” says Baugher. “Provided the state Legislature restores partial funding to Extension, we are positioned to carry out a new “Smart Growth” initiative proposed by Dr. Bruce McPheron, Dean of the College of Agriculture. We will have fewer administrative units but stronger Extension teams working together on statewide priority initiatives.”
Looking into the future, Extension may need to even further broaden its approach. While many states are moving away from a county-by-county model, Baugher notes that in recent times some projects have been taken a step further, with multi-state projects. Also, there’s no question that the old ways of funding won’t work in the future, so new funding models are necessary. Like many others in Extension, these new funding models almost certainly will have to include the exploration of an expansion of industry support.
“Members of our state horticultural association and marketing boards are discussing innovative ways to increase funding from industry,” she says. “They also have seen the value of multi-state and multi-disciplinary projects supported by USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative grants, and are working with the U.S. Apple Association and others to voice the need for continuation in the next Farm Bill.”
Baugher appreciates growers’ support of Extension, and believes it would help if they can point out the ways they support Extension, should they contact their elected representatives. “Our fruit producers are strong advocates for Extension,” she says, “and have stepped forward to talk about our valuable industry and Extension partnerships.”