Local 4-H and Extension offices feel impact of recent SDSU cuts

As of now there are still more questions than answers in regards to the impact that will be felt locally from the recent cuts made by South Dakota State University to the Extension Service and 4-H.

SDSU is still in the process of reorganizing the system and how everything will function.

Haakon and Jackson counties have shared Extension services for several decades, with a livestock educator at the Philip office and a 4-H and youth development educator based from Kadoka.

In the reorganization both those positions, along with most across the state have been cut. Those educators can apply for one of the field specialist positions in one of the seven regional offices. The regional offices are in Rapid City, Faith, Aberdeen, Pierre, Watertown, Sioux Falls and Mitchell. A state funded tribal office in Eagle Butte will remain as well as two federally funded offices in Mission and Porcupine. A SDSU release stated the centers "were chosen to reflect population, as well as regional traffic for business, trade and health care shopping and banking. The communities were also selected to provide a statewide network of offices that are no more than approximately 75 miles from a majority of Extension's audiences."

Philip and Kadoka fall into one of those areas in South Dakota that are not within the 75 mile radius of any of the centers. While the majority of the state is covered, there are other areas that do not fall in that radius, but most, like Philip and Kadoka, are five to 10 miles just beyond the radius. The northwest corner of South Dakota and the western half of Butte County are the biggest area out of the 75 mile range.

Those people who used their county Extension office for help with identifying a range of plant and bug issues along with help in formulating rations, leaving plant submissions for tests, feed analysis and taking pesticide applicator tests to obtain a license, will all no longer be able to do so. What will replace these services is one of those things that have not yet been disclosed by SDSU.

Locally, Adele Harty, Extension livestock educator has been actively involved in the Sustainable Annie's Systems in South Dakota for Years to Come (Sassy) and Annie's Project programs, helping area youth with livestock loan applications, pesticide applicator licenses, the 4-H livestockology and horse event teams, Save Our Farm Youth (SOFY), scholarship recommendation letters, as well as ag in the classroom activities at the Philip and elementary and Haakon rural schools.

Jessica Eikmeier, 4-H and youth development educator, has worked closely with the local FFA chapter as well, organized numerous after school and summer workshops for area youth, college recommendation letters and Medicare Part D.

The 4-H division will also see an adjustment of services. Counties with 10,000 or more youth will be able to have one full time position paid by SDSU. For counties with 2,500 youth, the university will pay for a 0.45 full time equivlent position with the county paying the remainder of the salary. The counties that have fewer than 2,500 youth can combine forces to reach that figure. Or if four counties join together and still do not have 2,500 kids, the state would still pay for a 0.45 FTE position.

In the case of Haakon and Jackson counties, they have 365 and 954 youth, respectively. The youth numbers are the total number of youth within that county under 18 years of age. Other counties Haakon and Jackson could combine with include Jones, 274 youth, Stanley, 674 youth, and Mellette, 669 youth. Bennett County has tentatively decided on a different path. Mellette County is also considering working through the Mission office. Stanley and Hughes counties have historically partnered together. SDSU has stated they would not financially support a three-county cooperative between Haakon, Jackson and Jones counties to the extent they would a four-county partnership.

County resident's that are 4-H leaders, county Extension board members and fair board members are working with their local county commissioners to find a viable solution to keep 4-H alive in Haakon and Jackson counties. Different scenarios were presented to the commissioners at their meetings on Tuesday.

In the next few months more information should be available as to how everything will be organized as to use of the Extension service and 4-H.

All the changes will be effective October 21, 2011.