What is in this article?:
- Mississippi ag programs get last-minute funding reprieve
- Adverse effect on programs
- Leaders concurred in maintaining funding
It has been a roller coaster ride for state funded agricultural programs in Mississippi this year, with Governor Haley Barbour’s proposed budget reductions threatening sharp cutbacks in land grant programs at Mississippi State University and Alcorn State University. But following negotiations last week by a small group of lawmakers, the legislature Monday approved a $5.5 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that keeps funding at roughly the same levels as last year.
Adverse effect on programs
The cuts proposed by the governor would have adversely affected a number of programs, Morgan says:
• “It would eliminate on-campus and off-campus Extension faculty and Extension positions in critical areas such as agriculture and forestry.
• “It would result in accreditation issues for the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University, due for review in 2014.
• “It would eliminate 40 percent of the rural youth 4-H programs in the state and decimate the successful Extension Service 4-H programs, which bolster the values, discipline, health profiles, and literacy of young people.
• “It would require the Extension Service to consider closing more county offices and transitioning to a regional concept.
• “It would reduce more than 100,000 avian influenza monitoring tests being conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine in assisting the Mississippi Poultry Industry.”
As the legislature started the budget process, they were in a somewhat better position than last year because of the improving economy, and the proposed budget cuts were in the range of about 2.5 percent, which the ag units felt they could live with.
Then the governor returned to the capitol after travels related to his potential bid for the Republican presidential nomination and said more cuts would be necessary for the ag units in order to enhance the state’s “rainy day” fund.
“The problem with such cuts,” Morgan says, “is that, unlike the universities, which have the option of raising tuition to help offset budget shortfalls, the ag units have to make cuts in personnel, programs, etc. They already had so many lapsed positions that haven’t been filled, that another $5 million-plus in cuts would have been devastating to research and Extension.”