Pierce County has proposed the reduction of the WSU Pierce County Extension budget from its current level of $275,423 to $75,423 for 2010. This reduction will affect programming in the current 2010 funding year. This is roughly a 72% cut from the current level of funding. At that funding level it would effectively eliminate the Agriculture and Natural Resources program.
This program is responsible for technically assisting Pierce County farmers, developing educational programs to support existing and new farmers, and driving the knowledge base of agriculture in the County. Over the past 15 months this program has applied for over $6 million dollars in external grants funds through partnerships with county, state, and federal agencies, non-profit agencies, and farmer cooperatives. This money has been used to build the future generation of farmers, identify potential new agricultural products and cropping systems, reduce production costs and increase profit margins, and increase consumer interest in Pierce County agricultural goods.
For every $1.00 Pierce County contributes to support this program the county receives $176.00 in return in the form of grant funding or state support. In such a tight economic climate turning away this much funding will have resounding effects and reduce potential future leveraging of county funds.
Pierce County agriculture is a contributor of over $84 million to the overall economy of the county. This $84 million tends to multiply up to 2.5 times and accrue close to home. Although this $84 million is less than significant compared to the total economy of the county, it is very significant to the rural areas of the county. The county has witnessed a loss of farmland and farmers over the past twenty years, and without technical support and educational outreach this trend will only continue. The county is seeing strong interest by residents to purchase locally produced goods through such avenues of farmers markets and other direct sales avenues. Without the support of such programming the supply will not meet the demand.
Your Involvement Is Crucial!
Without hearing from you, the council will not see the value of this programming and will terminate funding. Voice your opinion to county council member listed below. The council’s Rules and Operations Committee will consider the budget reduction proposal at its 10 a.m. meeting on Monday, April 5. The full council will then consider it at its Tuesday, April 6 council meeting at 3 p.m.
For those who cannot attend, both meetings will be broadcast live on PCTV channel 22 and streamed live and archived at www.piercecountytv.org.
We, at Terra Organics, work with the folks at WSU Extension in Pierce County all the time and we need them as a resource and voice in support of local agriculture in Pierce County. Please consider contacting your representative to the County Council today!
Our friend, Mary Embleton, at Cascade Harvest Coalition, wrote the following letter:
Proposed budget cuts by the Pierce County Council threaten to shut down WSU Extension in Pierce County. As you remember, we lost all farm support and research programs in King County this year due to budget actions by the King County Council. We cannot continue to lose the critical infrastructure, staff, research and program support that Extension provides to farmers and resource landowners throughout our region and state. My greatest fear is that these cuts will continue unless we act now and are heard.
I believe that the councils and others do not see farming as economic development, which is a priority in these challenging economic times. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every farm is a business that directly supports employees and many other purchases throughout the community. That spending and employment lead to additional economic impacts throughout the region. Local farms make local economies more resilient, not less. Collectively, our efforts are strengthening local economic development opportunities by helping more farmers get on the land, creating new market connections and adding significantly to the quality of life in our region.
We have worked so hard for so many years to get where we are now. The demand for local food easily exceeds what we can produce at this time. There are programs and research in place to grow the next generation of farmers, improve economic and environmental sustainability and address critical issues of climate change, food access and food safety. If we truly want a sustainable regional food system, we have to act NOW.
Please, take a few moments to call and write each Pierce County Council member asking them to maintain funding to WSU Pierce County Extension.
I have included some background information and talking points should you need them.
This is critically important.
District 1 – Shawn Bunney
District 2 – Joyce McDonald
District 3 – Roger Bush
District 4 – Timothy M. Farrell
District 5 – Barbara Gelman
District 6 – Dick Muri
District 7 – Terry Lee
Here are some talking points:
WSU Extension is a joint program of Washington State University and Pierce County. WSU Extension staff are the county government’s experts in agriculture production and farm management. Extension staff have degrees and experience in production agriculture and focus their technical assistance and education on economic development and profitability of farms and related businesses. The reductions proposed in the Council budget will have the following impacts on the $84,000,000 (annual sales) agriculture industry:
- WSU Extension could no longer provide economic development services to agriculture including alternative feed crops for livestock production, grain production, and new crop identification and development.
- Technical assistance via farm visits, the phone, e-mail or the web for plant, animal and pest problems would no longer be available for Pierce County growers.
- All agriculture workshops for existing and new farmers and ranchers will be eliminated.
- The County would lose leveraged resources from WSU and its volunteers. Pierce County Agriculture Extension generates an additional $176.00 for every $1 of general funds: $82,747from WSU, $6 million in partner grants, support and in-kind matches.
- Workshop revenue would also be lost to the County.
Impacts on Agriculture Industry
- Loss of farmland and farming operations due to unprofitability
- Increased costs to farmers as a result of plant, pest and animal problems
- Loss of competitiveness to other growing regions
- Less access to locally-grown food products for consumers
- More salmon and water quality/quantity issues because there is less farmland and fewer farm land stewards
- Decrease in “food security”: farms less sustainable; consumers less self-reliant
Dan @ Terra Organics