Tech’s Extension plan strays from its mission

Chris Parrish and I attended a meeting of the Virginia Farm Bureau in Williamsburg last Thursday, Nov. 4. One of the most talked about issues was the impact of a reorganization proposed by Virginia Tech on our local Extension and 4-H programs.

Once again Virginia Tech is proposing to cut most of the services that are important to the localities like Rappahannock County and leaving the local ELC (Extension Leadership Council) with the task of begging for more funding. This time Tech’s strategy is to look to the counties for more funding to support the programs.

In the past the local ELCs were able to rally support through letters and phone calls to our elected state representatives and obtain more funding from the state of Virginia to save the programs that are so important to our area. This time the funding is available but the funds are being kept in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech rather than being sent out to the localities. This represents a major shift in emphasis away from Virginia Tech’s original mission of serving farmers and rural communities.

The restructuring plan proposed by Virginia Tech is scheduled to take effect in July 2011. I suggest that Tech should seek more input from the localities before implementing this plan that effectively eliminates much of the services that Extension has provided to the local communities for all these years.

Below is the resolution proposed at the Virginia Farm Bureau meeting last Thursday.

Alex Sharp
Chairman, Rappahannock County Extension Leadership Council

Policy: We recommend restoring funding at Virginia Tech and Virginia State for agriculture teaching, research, and extension service, including funding for capital projects. In addition, we believe that Virginia Tech must:

§ Maintain strong and strategic staffing levels for all Virginia commodities at the Area Research and Extension Centers as well as in county extension offices;
§ Maintain a balance between teaching, extension, and research and accountability with respect as to how the funding is allocated;
§ Maintain a strong land grant mission;
§ Maintain a degree program in agricultural education;
§ Strengthen the link between community colleges and Virginia Tech;
§ Have strong representation from the agriculture and forestry industry on the Boards of Visitors;
§ Appoint an agricultural agent for each county when funding is made available;
§ Gain further direction from localities and agricultural organizations for a system that will be viable to serve the local needs of agriculture before implementation of a restructuring plan.

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