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Extension To See Minor Changes

By Staff | May 14, 2009

The announcement of a major restructuring for Iowa State University Extension Service across the state will have an impact around the state. Locally, the effects will be relatively minor.

Jack Payne, ISU’s Vice President for Extension and Outreached announced the plans on April 30, “with the intention to stabilize Extension during this current economic downturn and position the organization for the future.”

The reduction in services was driven by the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for Extension, in which Extension leaders were working with a 10.7 percent cut in funding that was equal to what the University, as a whole, was forced to accept. In the case of the Extension service, the cut amounted to $4.15 million, requiring some major reorganization of the organization.

Iowa State University Extension services will implement five major areas of change from current operations. The most notable changes include the elimination of all County Extension Education Director (CEED) positions and the elimination of five Area Directors and offices located throughout the state. To go along with the elimination of the positions, Extension will create 20 new regional offices.

For Palo Alto County’s Extension office, the most notable change will come when current shared Extension Education Director Bob Behnkendorf retires this summer. Palo Alto County had been fortunate to be able to share the services of Behnkendorf with Kossuth County for the last few years. Through the sharing of Behnkendorf’s position, the Palo Alto County Extension Board has been able to regain a solid financial standing after some years of difficulty.

Another of the factors that will directly impact Palo Alto County’s Extension Board and Office will be the retention of partnership fees, such as the CEED’s salary and benefits, as well as support from the University, it the form of computer network services and satellite feed services, to name a few. Through the reorganization, the money that the local county would send to Iowa State University to support the local Extension operations will now stay in the county, under the complete control of the local extension council.

ISU Extension will also reduce its five main program areas through mergers, such as combining the Families and 4-H Youth Programs into one entity, the Center for Industrial Research and Service with the Community and Economic Development programs.

With the creation of the 20 new Extension regions, Palo Alto County will become part of Region Two, which will include Kossuth, Emmet, Winnebago, Hancock, and Palo Alto County. The Regional Office will be located in Algona.

Preliminary reports suggest that the local Extension Office in Emmetsburg will remain open as normal, and will be staffed by 4-H and Youth Coordinator Julie Naig and Office Assistant Denise Flaherty. The office will be under the Extension Region Two director, and under the local control of the county Extension Council.

For now, numerous details remain to be worked out, and Extension officials will release more definitive information as soon as possible.