Cornell Cooperative Extension offices across NY struggle with stagnant state funding

Despite inflation and the rise in the cost of living, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County and across the state have operated under the same budget since the 1970s.

The Wayne County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last month calling for the state to increase funding to the 56 Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations across New York state by a total of $3 million. Executive Director for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County, Beth Claypoole said that means about $50,000 locally, which would bring back much for the Wayne County association.

The association’s key objectives are to provide for an association of residents in cooperation with Cornell University and USDA, to extend educational resources of Cornell (including Ag and Life Sciences, Human Ecology, Vet Med), and to further the objectives of CCE associations and the CCE system in the fields of agriculture, community and economic vitality, environment and energy, nutrition and healthy families, and youth development. Lack of funding has made these objectives difficult to meet.

“We could do all the programming we have lost with that funding,” Claypoole said. “In the time I’ve been here, we have lost four people.”

A 15-year veteran to the association, Claypoole said those four positions were core positions.

Most funding for the association comes from the county, Claypoole said, but they do receive some funding from the state, but that has remained constant for years. As a result, she said they have had to make cutbacks.

Among those programs hardest to lose, Claypoole said, was family development, a program that offered a variety of services for parents. However, she added, Wayne County is fortunate enough to have Wayne County Action Program, better known as Wayne CAP, which does several family development programs and is supported 95 percent by grant funding.

Cornell Cooperative Extension does apply and receive grant funding, much of which helps fund agricultural programs. Claypoole said once upon a time they have had local ag specialists that went out to visit farms.

Among the most popular programs, particularly for youth, is 4-H – a challenging department to fund, Claypoole said. Right now, they fund small projects they have the funds for, but the additional funding would allow them to do so much more, Claypoole said. They could increase the number and variety of programs they offer to  residents and bring on more volunteers to help with the programs.

Another key program is nutrition. Currently, the target audience, required under the terms of the grant, for their nutrition programs are low income and low health status with six staff that are 100 percent grant funded working the programs. Claypoole said she would like to provide nutrition to everyone in Wayne County.

The mission of Cornell Cooperative Extension is “CCE puts knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. We bring local experience and research based solutions together, helping New York State families and communities thrive in our rapidly changing world”.

According to the county board’s resolution, the primary programs and objectives of Cornell Cooperative Extension are directly linked to a least of eight of 16 goals of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initiatives for improving the state, and “CCE educators are key community partners in helping to implement these initiatives state-wide, including: maximizing agriculture and beverage production, strengthening the upstate economy, promoting a healthier New York, preserving our environment, building opportunity through education, designing a clean energy economy, and investing in tourism.”

But just as counties are struggling with state mandates, Claypoole said the state also seems to be over burdened with its own mandates.

“More and more money is going to mandates,” Claypoole said. “You pay what has to be paid before you pay for what would be nice to have.”

-Tammy Whitacre, fingerlakes1.com

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