Montana State University President Waded (cq) Cruzado says Cooperative Extension continues to be one of the most effective organizations for personal empowerment and has an important role in the future of the nation.
Her comments at the 2012 Seaman A. Knapp Memorial Lecture earlier this month came during the annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities in Denver.
APLU is a research and advocacy unit of public research institutions, land grant colleges and state universities. The Seaman lecture is one of three rotation talks presented by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture and APLU honoring land grant university leaders.
Classifications "as thick as walls" separate those who believe that Extension should serve its traditional populations or people living in rural areas, and those who believe Extension should provide urban services, such as those that provide service in community development programs, she said.
Calling such categorizations "a false distinction between service and education," Cruzado said the future of Extension will depend largely on how well it adapts to new realities.
Many Extension officials today recognize that unless more effort is concentrated in urban areas, legislators who largely represent cities will not be prone to earmark funding for Extensions, which have come under budget crisis in recent years.
Cruzado said that rapid response to all people in a time of need is one of Extension's strengths, such as when the organization helped those stricken by Hurricane Sandy with education and outreach, particularly concerning food safety.
Such immediate response to crisis points to Extension's value today, she added.
"This is our best answer to those who might be confused about Extension's mission," she said. "This is how we continue to anchor our credibility and enhance our base of support."
Extension continues to be anchored to providing rural services, however, although the farm community represents only about 1% of the population.
"This very important 1% includes hundreds of thousands of individuals who, today, use and need the products, programs and services provided by Extension throughout its history," she said.