Cooperative extension has been disproportionately cut throughout the country at both the university and county levels but this week the cuts came close to home. The Wake County Commission has eliminated funding for the horticultural extension agent for the county. Although Wake County is home to Raleigh (the 2nd largest city in NC), Cary, Gardner, and other urban areas, it is also the 4th largest nursery & floriculture producing county, the 12th largest sweet potato producing county, and the 17th largest tobacco producing county. This production occurs on 827 farms that cover 84,956 acres. (Source: NCDA & CS)
The economic value of agriculture to the county isn't the whole story, however. City dwellers in Wake County benefits from the growing local food movement, spearheaded by cooperative extension's 10% Campaign, and the NC Master Gardener program.
Cutting extension is a short sighted solution to a budget problem. The modest investment in extension personnel and programs ($22,000 per year, in the case of the Wake County horticulture agent position) has real and tangible benefits. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that the rest of the Wake County employees will receive a 2% raise this fiscal year. With cuts like this, extension will come out of the recession a much weakened institution but still tasked with helping America's farms feed, clothe, and support the world.
Wake County Board of Commissioners