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Legislative reporting sessions, economic impact of Extension, and civil rights review news (4/25/2016)

Good day, I have three items to share in this blog post. 

First, hats off to the Extension agents who have coordinated legislative reporting sessions to date. The sessions have been excellent. Sessions have been held at Bismarck, Bottineau, Devils Lake, LaMoure, Minot, Forman, New Rockford, Fessenden, Valley City, Linton, Washburn and Fargo where agents have hosted senators and representatives from 20 districts. I recorded legislators from districts 3, 5, 6, 8, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30, 35, 44, 45 and 47 unless I missed someone. In addition to county commissioners, agent invitations have also resulted in aides attending from Senator Hoeven’s and Heitkamp’s and Congressman Cramer’s offices. Many county commissioners and legislative candidates have also attended these sessions.

I believe the outcome of these sessions has been very positive. Our legislators and commissioners learned first-hand from agents about the strong programs Extension is providing in response to local needs, including education on the farm bill, Nourishing Boomers, 4-H science and judging programs, and Design Your Succession Plan, just to name a few. At several sessions, legislators also heard first-hand testimony from Extension users on their experiences and how they benefited. While we speak of Extending Knowledge and Changing Lives, these Extension users shared actual changes to their lives.

More legislative sessions are on the calendar, and I’m confident they will be as successful as those held to date. I look forward to attending the upcoming sessions, including today’s.

Cass County Legislative Reporting Session 2016

(A full house at the legislative reporting session hosted in Cass County)

Second, a recent research article has shown that the national Cooperative Extension System has substantial economic impacts. Charlie Stoltenow shared a report synopsis with the ANR staff. I wanted to share it more broadly and highlight the information below. This particular research had determined that an estimated 137,000 farmers would have left their farms in the past 25 years if not for Extension programs. The study also shows that funding spent on Extension was “directly associated with higher net farm income.” This is powerful data supporting the value of Extension and mirrors the information that we are sharing at our legislative reporting sessions.

Lest you think that this only applies to farmers and agriculture, I point you to the final comments in the policy brief article. It states: 

“The general policy conclusion from this new research is thus that public investments in farmers are better made through the research and educational programs of the Land Grant University system, rather than through direct subsidies to farmers, if the policy goal is to keep farmers on the farm. Educational programs may be especially effective because farmers are known to widely share new knowledge gained. Thus, even if not all farmers participate in given educational programs, the knowledge is disseminated widely through word-of-mouth and by other means. In addition, the broader youth, family and community development programs offered by Cooperative Extension support rural entrepreneurship and innovation, thereby enhancing rural economic vitality. Because so many farmers also rely on off-farm income to supplement their farm income, these broader programs are also essential to farmers’ economic well-being, and have contributed in critical ways to retaining farmers in agriculture over time.” (emphasis added)

Simply stated, Extension provides a strong return on investment, which we should all be proud of.

Third, we have been informed that our USDA Civil Rights Review, which was scheduled for June 6-10, has been cancelled. They informed us that our review has been taken off the list until FY 2018. I anticipate that we will be rescheduled at that time. In the meantime, we should continue our diligence in being inclusive in offering our programs for the benefit of all.  

Chris Boerboom, Extension Director

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