Funding for College of Ag, UNCE stabilizing
While Gov. Brian Sandoval will reveal his plans for Nevada for the biennium Thursday during his State of the State speech, the deans for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources both think the worst in funding cuts is behind them.
Speaking at last week’s Cattlemen’s Update, which presented information to the state’s ranchers at various venues including Fallon, Drs. Mark Walker and William Payne see growth and prosperity for their respective programs.
Walker, who is interim dean and director of Cooperative Extension, said the state funnels about $2.8 into the budget with the majority of funding — $7.9 million — coming from the counties. Gifts, sales and a temporary bridge funds make up the rest of the budget.
“We had substantial cuts in the state’s portion in 2012,” Walker said, adding that changes in key personnel and Cooperative Extension resulted in reorganization.
In addition to reorganization, Walker has moved forward to hire additional employees including a Cooperative Extension update for Lyon County, a Climate Program leader to be shared with the Department of Geology, a Food Safety Program leader to be shared with the Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition and Veterinary Sciences and a new 4-H statewide youth program leader who will live in Clark County.
“We haven’t had a central leader because of cuts,” Walker said.
He said the new 4-H leader would be based in Las Vegas because of the number of youths taking advantage of programs and because of the number of lawmakers who would see the program’s benefits.
“We’re reaching out to Clark County where many stakeholders live,” Payne pointed out. “We have no research stations in Clark County. We have to show the urban areas that what we do is important.”
Walker touted the importance of 4-H in Nevada.
“4-H is valued in every community,” Walker pointed out. “It prepares excellent students, develops stronger partnerships and is a gateway (for participants) to the university through the 4-H program.”
“Extension does very well because we connect with youth,” Walker added.
He added Sandoval is the most distinguished person in the state who was involved with 4-H during his youth.
Walker said the university is seeking greater engagement in local 4-H programs and would like to see a return to a statewide competition, something that was a hallmark of the Nevada State Fair, which disbanded several years ago.
Additionally, Walker said Nevada has teamed with California, New Mexico, Utah and Hawaii to consolidate information and focus on the drought and how it affects the five states.
Walker said the biggest need for drought-stricken states is the distribution of water.
Payne discussed the importance of agriculture in Nevada and how career opportunities and college enrollment in CABNR are showing an upward trend.
“Agriculture is very important” It is the third largest industry in Nevada,” Payne said, adding that livestock is the largest commodity in Nevada.
He said the importance of working in agriculture and the number of opportunities to feed a rapidly growing population will provide a number of challenges. Payne cited that many people employed in agriculture are 55 years of age and older and that colleges need to prepare students for the industry.
“We have 1,400 students, the highest in the history of the college,” Payne said.
With the draconian cuts of the past five years behind CABNR, Payne said since 2013, the college has hired 11 faculty members and is consulting searches for five more instructors.
As for the future, Payne said h is optimistic. In 2009, CABNR had a budget of $14.75 million, which dipped to $7.92 million in 2012. The past two years have gradually climbed to $9.5 million in 2013 and $9.7 million last year.