Dramatic changes are in store for Iowa State University’s Extension Service. Jack Payne, the I.S.U. vice president who oversees the Extension Service, delivered the news in a video message to Extension staff and county Extension Councils.
"We have developed a plan to restructure and repurpose Extension," Payne said. "No Extension program or unit will be untouched by this plan."
The Extension Service was started in 1903 by a group of Sioux County farmers with the idea of taking information about the latest farming methods from the land-grant university in Ames and sharing it with farmers. The Extension Service runs the 4-H program for kids and teenagers, and has had a presence in each of Iowa’s 99 counties.
The reorganization plan calls for a reduction to just 20 regional offices, according Payne, but he’s not ready to speculate about layoffs.
"We will be receiving federal stimulus money…These dollars can be used as a bridge to help us transition into the new structure and will alleviate any immediate reduction in staff and allow us to work on transitioning throughout the coming months," Payne said. "More details on this and a timeline will be forthcoming."
The plan does call for cutting 25 Extension personnel who work on the Iowa State campus, however. About 11 percent of Iowa State University’s budget is spent on the Extension Service and, due to state budget constraints, officials must cut just over $4 million from Extension’s budget.
"This means a shift in the way we do business," Payne said Wednesday in the webcast.
Critics of the reorganization plan say it’s skewed toward urban Iowa, as each of the 20 regions is built around a "retail center." Mary Holz-Clause, an associate Iowa State vice president who oversees Extension, too, disputes that.
"Those regions were based upon both county tax evaluation and also county population and so we tried to make those as even as we could across the state of Iowa so as not to abandon our rural roots," she said during an interview with KJAN Radio in Atlantic. "…We really still remain committed to serving rural Iowa."
The reorganization plan was presented yesterday to the Board of Regents — the nine-member panel that governs Iowa State University. Read the reorganization plan and watch Payne’s video message by clicking on this link .
(Additional reporting from Ric Hanson of KJAN Radio in Atlantic.)