Extension is valuable service in rural Oregon

By Observer editorial August 27, 2010 07:37 am
Oregon State University is in the process of reconfiguring itself. Not only are the programs on campus part of the transformation process, but outreach programs, like the Extension Service, are undergoing review.
Programs like Extension have helped keep OSU connected statewide. In fact, the Extension link is the best example of outreach among Oregon’s universities. Through its Extension programs, OSU provides expertise in a multitude of subjects to people throughout the state. Programs reach adults and positively impact communities and industries. Other programs, like 4-H, reach youths. The services provided by Extension are especially important to Oregon’s rural areas.

Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts and Union County Commissioner Nellie Hibbert both serve on a committee organized by OSU and the Association of Counties that is providing input on the restructuring process. In a story in The Observer earlier this week, they sounded the alarm that Extension as we know it might become a thing of the past. Let’s hope not.

OSU needs to keep the basic elements of Extension intact. The agricultural expertise provided by people like Darrin Walenta in Union County and John Williams in Wallowa County is invaluable to our region. The forestry expertise provided by Paul Oester is equally important. And the work 4-H organizers like Carole Smith in Union County do impact hundreds of youths in our area. Statewide, there are many more agents just like them — people who are making a difference in the lives of those who live in the areas they serve. Historically, OSU has tailored the programs to fit the needs of particular areas.

Budget constraints might necessitate taking a look at how the program operates statewide, and how it is managed. But the availability of expertise must not change. The public relies on Extension, and through it maintains close ties with OSU. Forsaking that outreach would be a mistake.