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25 April 2010 - It's Up to Us to Support our Ag Programs

These indeed are grim and challenging times for officials at the state, county, township, school board level; all dealing with budget short-falls, trying to maintain important programs but finding it impossible to do so because they simply don't have the dollars to do it.

Every week I receive newspaper clippings, e-mails and letters from people in rural communities who are concerned about losing 4-H programs and Extension personnel, as well as faculty at land-grant universities.  My state of Illinois is a prime example, a $13-billion budget shortfall forcing termination of four dozen County Extension Director positions and layoffs and dismissals of faculty at the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

I hear from parents with students in rural high schools who are being told that the school board is considering cutting the vocational agriculture and FFA programs because they don't have the dollars to fund them. How can this be happening in a rural high school?

Now, we're not alone because there are many worthy programs and needs that are fighting for the same dollars; and as individuals, many of us are fighting a personal budget short-fall. But in agriculture if we feel strongly about the need for people who provide Extension service, whether it be to senior citizens, 4-H'ers, Master Gardeners or farmers;  or if we are truly concerned about FFA programs and the education they provide young people that could lead them to any one of more than 300 careers, then I guess we pull up the bootstraps and find a way to financially support these programs without turning to government or tax dollars...that aren't there anyway.

Let me give you one example of how we as individuals can do that.  I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the National 4-H Council.  We just concluded our semi-annual meeting in Washington, D.C. and there we talked about a special program "4-H Give 2 Vote" challenge.  It is a fund raiser to benefit state 4-H programs using mobile and on-line technology.  The Council hopes to rally 4-H's more than 88,000 Facebook fans in a giving competition to support their state 4-H program.  Each $10.00 donation equals one vote.  The state garnering the most votes will receive a bonus of $5,000.00 from J.C.Penney for
4-H work.  You can get more information at 4-H.org.

This is just one of many ideas that we in agriculture can generate to  support programs that are important to the rural community. Let's put on our thinking caps and get to work!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.