CSU cutbacks have local agents concerned


The Colorado State University Cooperative Extension program is facing a 15- to 20-percent cut in next year's state budget. And local agents are watching closely to see how the local office might be impacted.

Extension Agent Nate Balstad, who is in charge of 4H and other local youth outreach programs, reported to the Moffat County commissioners last week that 20 field agents could be cut statewide.

Balstad and fellow agent Elisa Shackelton said they are concerned that those cuts could occur in the local office.

While Craig Extension agents are not sure if staff cuts will occur in Craig, Shackelton said the office does know that cutbacks to programs will probably have to be made.

The office already is investigating where it can make necessary cuts to fall within the tighter budget, and Shackelton said they are investigating potential for more grant dollars.

As far as potential staffing cuts, the only two extension agents who receive part of their salary from the state are Shackelton and Balstad.

Agent Beth Dubois' position is federally funded by a grant and agriculture/horticulture specialist John Balliette's position is fully funded through the county.

Shackelton said the office would probably receive word on the severity of the cutbacks sometime in May.

Shackelton said one option for agents in the Craig office might be to coordinate programs across county lines, with neighboring counties, such as Rio Blanco.

Programs in place in Moffat County could be implemented in Rio Blanco County, she said, and the agents in Moffat County might serve both areas.

Anywhere from 250 to 400 youth enrolled in 4H and other youth programs could be impacted by the elimination of Balstad's position, Shackelton said.

Shackelton deals with issues surrounding public health, including a food safety program, and also coordinates several programs for local youth, such as the Life Skills Expo held recently at the Centennial Mall in Craig.

Since its inception, the mission of the cooperative extension nationwide was to place educated individuals in communities and provide an educational outreach.

Shackelton said that outreach is crucial in communities such as Craig on the Western Slope.

"This extension office is exceptional," Shackelton said. "It has a high level of professionalism. Everyone works really hard and is well educated."

While there is concern, Shackelton said the local office always has had good reviews from the state level, and hoped that would be a factor when it comes time for decisions to be made on cuts.

"We feel pretty good," she said. "We've always been evaluated well."

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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