The federal government now supports cooperative extension through base funding (Smith-Lever funds and base funding for the 1890 colleges) and specified programs. Smith-Lever funds total $273 million; they are allocated to states by formula, most of which is based on a state's share of U.S. farm and rural population. The argument for the formula approach to funding extension activities is that it provides a stable funding base allowing extension experts to respond on a continuing basis to critical national, state, and local issues as and where such needs arise. Additionally, peculiar to the land grant colleges of agriculture, formula funding permitted the evolution of a system in which the individual time and effort of many faculty are split among some combination of research, extension, and teaching. Those faculty whose research appointment is supported by formula funds and who also have extension (or teaching) appointments are well positioned to link their research with ongoing extension (or teaching) activities.

Arguments against formula funding include the lack of effective means to determine accountability, in terms of how the funds are used, and the lack of peer review of the programs and their methodologies, which would provide incentives to update program content, priorities, and delivery techniques. There is a special need in today's environment—characterized by high public demand for accountability, a rapidly changing knowledge base, and rapidly evolving opportunities for delivery mechanisms—for the incentives and rewards associated with competitive funding of extension programs. Additionally, using rural and farm population as a base for allocating federal dollars fails to capture the broadened applicability of cooperative extension programs to urban and suburban clientele or the broader consumer constituency for agricultural and food systems knowledge, know-how, and performance. The committee therefore makes the following pair of recommendations:

RECOMMENDATION 19. A new formula by which base food and agricultural extension funds are allocated within the land grant system should be designed and implemented to accurately reflect the full range of food and agricultural extension service beneficiaries.

RECOMMENDATION 20. All national extension initiatives should be available on a competitive basis to land grant and non-land grant institutions. Consistent with the committee's prior recommendations (Recommendations 3, 4, 15, and 17), these competitive grants should provide incentives for

  • multistate, multi-institution, or regional extension programs;
  • new and innovative approaches to the delivery of extension services, particularly where access can be expanded significantly and benefits shared across political boundaries;
  • programs that significantly improve the science base for extension programs, such as those dealing with human nutrition education and social science issues; and
  • programs that enhance the public service component of academic programs.

Summary And Conclusions

Extension is likely to evolve differently around the country. In fact it must do so if it is to continue to be responsive to local and state agricultural and community needs, which vary from locality to locality. Extension in California, the nation's most populous and also most agricultural state, does not and will not resemble extension in West Virginia, one of the nation's most rural but least agricultural states. In California, extension is focused on agricultural production and natural resource management and the dissemination and adoption of less-chemical intensive pest management strategies. In West Virginia, extension is much more heavily focused on community resource and economic development, family development, and youth development (National Research Council, 1995a).

Differing university contexts and needs will also drive the future of extension at the state level. For example, where universities are heavily committed to basic research,

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