In mid-October, administrators with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension announced a new system for delivering its educational programs.

That new system uses set criteria to assign each of Georgia’s 159 counties to one of six service tiers. Each tier represents what kinds and levels of service counties will receive from UGA Extension.

Implementation of the system is under way and is expected take 12 to 18 months to complete.

“Our aim with this new plan was to do all we can to ensure Georgians have access to the education and information they need from us,” said Beverly Sparks, associate dean for Extension with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It was clear with our new budget reality we had to redesign how that education was delivered.”

UGA Extension is the public service and outreach branch of the UGA colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Family and Consumer Sciences. For more than 100 years, it has delivered research-based education from the university to agricultural producers, families and, through Georgia 4-H, children.

“Cooperative Extension may take on a new look and feel in your county, but we will do our best to continue delivering the reliable service and education across the state that you know and trust,” Sparks said.

Over the past two years, all Georgia state agencies have suffered budget reductions. UGA Extension’s cut has grown to 23 percent. “When you have eliminated 88 county agent, 19 state specialist and seven administrator positions, you can no longer continue to do more with less,” Sparks said. “The time has come that we have to do what we can with what we have. We have chosen to focus on what we do best.”