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Cooperative Extension Hopes to Retain Erie County Funding in New Budget

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – For 90 years, the green, four leaf clover logo of 4H has been a familiar sight at the Erie County Fair. But the county's 2006 budget holds the fate of the youth program, along with many other programs run by the Cooperative Extension.

For most people, a trip to the county fair just wouldn't be the same without a stop at the 4H barns. The cute animals are second only to the beaming faces of the young people who raised them. But we may have seen the last year of that pride. The Coop this year lost its $360,000 of county funding. Earl Gingerich, Jr. is president of the county's Cooperative Extension. He says without some level of county funding, the Cooperative Extension -- and all its programs -- will close.

"We understand that we are in the county executive's budget," Gingerich said. "The Legislature's majority leadership is starting to see that if we do not have adequate funding that we will no longer exist. We've been here for 90 years."

Gingerich says the coop is on borrowed time as it is. Cooperatives must rely on a mix of local, state and federal funds. He says Cornell allowed the county coop to stay open this year without county funding. But he says that agreement ends on January 1st.

Gingerich says the County Fair Board has said it could start its own youth program. But Gingerich says that's a short-sighted plan.

"They would not be able to provide the year-round support that we can," Gingerich said. "Sure, they could hold it together for a year or two. But I don't think they would have the ability to pick up the liability to do the training and keep everything in place."

In addition to 4H and support for farmers, the Cooperative Extension also provides an array of educational and support programs from gardening and nutrition, to environment and community development.