Two University of Georgia deans and others told of critical funding needs for Georgia research and Extension programs in a congressional subcommittee hearing recently in Athens, Ga.

The UGA deans testified on behalf of the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations and Cooperative Extension Service before the U.S. House of Representatives agriculture subcommittee on conservation, credit, rural development and research. U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman, and Rep. Max Burns (R-Ga.) represented the subcommittee.

Gale Buchanan of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Sharon Nickols of the College of Family and Consumer Science said Extension and research programs are vital to the health of the U.S. economy and its citizens. Federal funding, they said, is critical to maintain them.

“America's integrated agricultural research, Extension and education system is the finest in the world,” Buchanan said.

“(These) programs have been highly successful but are, unfortunately, taken for granted.”

“Taken for granted” has meant losses to reduced and stagnant federal funding and rising inflation, he said. Over the past decade, land-grant universities have lost more than half of the federal buying power that supports these programs.

Nickols provided a graphic illustration. “Of the 242 counties designated as ‘persistently poor’ in a recent study of 11 Southern states,” she said, “91 are in Georgia.” But the number of FCS Extension agents to serve 8 million Georgians in 159 counties is down to 45.

FCS Extension agents focus on teaching the most at-risk families about food safety, nutrition and health, child and family development, financial security and housing.

Buchanan recommended four ways to support extension and research programs.

  • Increase competitive grant programs to address critical nutrition, food security and environmental needs.

  • Restore funds cut from the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and increase funding.

  • Increase funding for institutions that serve minorities.

  • Restore the $20.6 million in Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Services programs cut last year.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from Mel Garber, CAES associate dean for Extension; Clifton Baile, distinguished professor and Georgia Research Alliance eminent scholar in agricultural biotechnology; Donald Reeves, supervisory research agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service; and David Swayne, director of the USDA-ARS Southeast Poultry Research Lab.