Your editorial addressing the report “Extension: a Modern-Day Pony Express?” made me wonder if the Pony Express was used to gather the information. Let me introduce you to Twenty First Century Extension.

You were right on target when you said today’s farmer has access to lots of sources of information, including the Internet and industry experts. If you look at where those sources typically gain their information, you’ll find — you guessed it — Extension is behind the scenes.

For example, in Ohio, 600 Certified Crop Advisors (CCA) influence decisions on 10 million crop acres. These CCAs are trained by Ohio State University Extension and place the value of Extension training and information at $14 per acre, for a total economic impact of $125 million. Ohio’s 30,000 licensed pesticide applicators rely on OSU Extension for the education and training they need to maintain their license.

Farm-based research conducted by our Agronomic Crops Team provides farmers with information they can use to test the profit potential of new practices in their operation. Ohio farmers who read C.O.R.N. (Crop Observation and Reporting Network), our electronic agronomic newsletter, credit C.O.R.N. with increasing their profits by $10 million.

You can find stories like these in every state. Consider the national eXtension effort at eXtension.org. There, 74 universities share information on 50 subjects, ranging from gardening and financial management to precision agriculture and fire ants. Nearly 4 million page views and 1 million site visits are recorded every year.

Relevant and focused on today’s issues? You bet. Our county and state advisory committees, and ongoing input from local residents, guide us as we develop and deliver programming. You can see the breadth of what we do by reviewing the national priorities of our organization: global food security and hunger; climate change; sustainable energy; food safety; and childhood obesity (which is also a primary focus for First Lady Michelle Obama these days). Federal funding for Extension has actually increased substantially over the past two years.

Here in Ohio, New Start for Financial Success helps people who have gone through bankruptcy get back on their feet; Dining with Diabetes offers hands-on cooking and shopping tips to manage this disease that afflicts 1.4 million Ohioans; our Business Retention and Expansion program is credited with creating or retaining 1,000 jobs last year; and Real Money, Real World teaches high school students about money management before they get into trouble with debt.

In fact, in a 2005 independent study, Battelle found Ohio State University Extension to be “more relevant and necessary than ever before.”

I’m proud to lead Ohio State University Extension, and even more proud to be part of this national system that touches so many lives. Having been involved with Extension myself for more than a quarter-century, I too marvel at the changes that have taken place in agriculture. Extension has clearly put the pony out to pasture, and now drives a fully automated, GPS-directed precision tractor.

Keith Smith

Director, Ohio State University Extension

Associate Vice President, Agricultural Administration

The Ohio State University