Cooperative Extension offices will remain in all 67-counties, according to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Dean Bruce McPheron. It’s the administrative functions of those offices that will now be streamlined into 19 new districts.
“We had more than 50 Extension directors, administrators across the state,” McPheron tells Radio PA. “This change alone resulted in more than 30 positions going from a primarily administrative role back to a primarily education role.”
The restructuring is being driven by the need to keep the Cooperative Extension relevant in the information age, and financial pressures from all budget sources. Over the past three years, the College of Agricultural Sciences has seen its funding cut by $18.5-million dollars. Including Cooperative Extension, the college has lost about 200 of their 850 employees over that time.
“Our goal is to be able to continue to provide high-quality answers to folks who need that information, based upon the great science that we do here on campus,” McPheron says.
Cooperative Extension offers educational programming and consultation to Pennsylvania residents on both agricultural and environmental issues.
Governor Tom Corbett’s latest budget proposals would provide level funding to Extension and agricultural research by tapping the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund. It’s a potential change that’s already sparked debate under the capitol dome.