Extenion office short agent

By ROB GEBHART

Daily Press writer

Next year, the Moffat County Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Office may be without an agriculture and horticulture extension agent.

The position was vacated when John Balliette resigned October 1. Before Balliette was replaced, Moffat County Commissioners instituted a hiring freeze to save county dollars, thereby prohibiting the extension office from filling the position.

"The community needs to be aware there may not be a position here next year," said Nate Balstad, Extension Office County Director.

Balstad said that if a refinancing loan Moffat County Commissioners have applied for comes through on Friday, there is a chance that Balliette could be replaced.

Balstad will meet with the commissioners to discuss the vacant position at an open meeting Dec. 8 in the Moffat County courthouse.

As the agriculture and horticulture extension agent, Balliette primarily answered agriculture, horticulture and natural resource questions from Moffat County callers. Agents at the extension office handle about 50 calls a month.

Balliette organized lectures and workshops dealing with beef quality assurance, acreage management and livestock production, among other related topics.

Although Moffat County pays the salary of the extension agent, Colorado State University recommends the agent's salary, based on a formula that accounts for experience and education.

Balstad estimated that the county would save $40,000 to $45,000 by not filling the position.

Usually, four agents, each with their own area of expertise, take calls at the extension office. There is an agent for agriculture and horticulture, family and consumer science, 4-H programs, and food stamp nutrition education.

This past year, 19 extension office employees from across Colorado lost their jobs when the state slashed extension office budgets, Balstad said.

Those budget cuts didn't affect the Moffat County office, but Balstad said there could be additional cuts in 2004, which could affect Northwest Colorado extension offices.

The extension office budget year runs from July to June, so state cuts, if there are any, will not be known until then.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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