MSUE not being dissolved

By Gary Ridley|News Editor, Oscoda County Herald
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MICHIGAN — Reports stating that Michigan State University leaders are creating a plan for dismantling the school’s Extension services across the state are incorrect, according to Michigan State University officials.

The confusion stems from statements made by the senior associate dean of agriculture and natural resources for Michigan State University, Dr. Frank Fear, at the 143rd National Grange convention.

“I never thought in my life…that I would be putting together a dismantling plan for Extension,” Fear was quoted as saying during the Grange Convention in an agricultural publication.

Fear said that he was misquoted in the agricultural publication, and he had “no clue” as to why reports stating that Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) was in a process of dismantling came about.

According to Arenac County MSUE director, John Cummings, area Extension offices were notified via e-mail that a MSUE official was misquoted, and that MSUE is not in the process of dismantling.

However, Cummings did state that MSUE is investigating plans for restructuring the organization.

Like numerous other agencies in the state, MSUE has been hit by budget cutbacks.

MSUE is facing a 44 percent decline in general funds it receives from the state. The cut in funding will be replaced with federal stimulus dollars for fiscal year 2009-10, but those dollars are expected to dry up next year.

“There’s nothing in concrete yet,” Cummings said of the restructuring process.

Current plans being discussed would divide the state into nine to 14 regions with each region’s MSUE activities being administered from a regional director.

MSUE is currently divided into five regions, with directors at the county level.

Under this proposed plan, MSUE director positions that are currently assigned to each county Extension office in the state would no longer exist.

Oscoda County Extension director Phil Durst, agreed that the plans for regional administration is being discussed, and it is unknown what would happen to the local MSUE directors.

“That’s the million dollar question,” Durst said. “But, I have a regional role with dairy.”

Durst also currently serves as a regional dairy agent.

Despite the financial trouble, Durst said he expects MSUE operations to continue, but the level of operation is still unknown.

“Some of the programs could be cut down quite a bit, or eliminated,” Cummings said. “The economy’s affecting all levels of the state.”

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