As we enter the holiday season, I have been reflecting on my brief time with the agency and looking to what’s ahead of us. I am genuinely thankful for the opportunity to join AgriLife Extension. I have already had several opportunities to hear from elected officials, collaborators (industry, other agencies, etc.) and program beneficiaries about the impacts that Extension has made on individuals, families, businesses and communities across Texas. It’s safe to say that we have made a significant and meaningful impact on the state of Texas.
While we are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished as an agency, I want to make a case to you for why we must make some changes if we are to continue on a path of success. Let me lead with this: I believe that the future of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is incredibly bright if we do make changes.
I would not have accepted this job offer if I didn’t believe that. The need for our services is great and we have broad support in the counties and in Austin. We have better tools to do our job than at any point in our history. Don’t doubt that we have a bright future. However, that future can only be realized if changes occur.
Now, let me convey just two observations that illustrate the need for changes in our business model. I will share more over time, but for now I simply want to provide a few statistics. First, our overall budget expenses, from all sources (government appropriations, grants & contracts, gifts, program revenues, etc.), increased by an average of 1.1% annually between fiscal years 2009 and 2019. Second, since 2010, we have lost 7% of our agents, 22% of our specialists and program specialists, and 9% of our total workforce.
Simply put, a 1.1% annual increase in revenues hasn’t allowed us to maintain our workforce.
To be certain, our elected officials are very supportive. However, they too face budget constraints that are tightening as they must fund projects and programs in our counties and across the state. It is not their willingness to provide resources that is a problem; it is their ability to do so.
I can’t tell you what the new business model will look like at this point. The strategic planning process will help us define that. I can tell you, though, that a new one is needed if we are to address the consequences that come with reduced personnel numbers and declines in the purchasing power of our appropriations.
We have an amazing history of impacts. I’m excited to work with you to ensure that current and future Texans continue to benefit from AgriLife Extension. Again, we have a bright future, but only if we make changes to how we operate.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Connect on Twitter: @jeffhyde
December 18, 2019
Meet Angela Burkham, Executive Associate Director
Walk Across Texas Results
A research study evaluating the Walk Across Texas program was recently published in the journal, BMC Public Health: “Evaluation of Walk Across Texas! – A Web-based Community Physical Activity Program,” published in the refereed journal BMC Public Health. It’s the first time in the 20-year history of the program that it has been evaluated and published in a peer review journal. The purpose of the study was preliminary evaluation on an established team-centered, web-based community physical activity program in Texas.
Redmon named ASA Fellow
The American Society of Agronomy has named Larry Redmon, Ph.D., ASA Fellow. Redmon is the associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader for the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M, administering one of the largest agronomic extension units in the country.
He also serves as the AgriLife Extension state forage specialist, where he participates in educational programs across the state; and he serves as AgriLife Extension’s first endowed specialist responsible for oversight of the Bennett Trust Endowment and associated land stewardship programs in the Edwards Plateau.
Outlaw honored by Texas Wheat Producers
Joe Outlaw, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist and co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M, has been named Wheat Man of the Year by the Texas Wheat Producers Board. Outlaw received the award from the association for many years of support providing analysis regarding farm policy, commodity outlook and other expertise.
AgriLife Extension programs assist military veterans
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service programs that assist military veterans in returning to agriculture or starting an agricultural enterprise operation were among those showcased during the recent Lone Star and Stripes Farmer Veteran Coalition Stakeholders Conference in Austin. The conference was touted as the fifth national event held by the coalition featuring two days of education, workshops, distinguished speakers, guest panels, networking and more. Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a Navy veteran, was among the speakers at the conference, which was coordinated by the coalition and currently estimates its national membership at about 17,000.
The conference included 500 farmer veterans from throughout the U.S. representing all branches of military service.
Southeast Texas Ag Summit
The first Southeast Texas Agriculture Summit was held December 12 at NRG Center in Houston. The event was co-hosted by AgriLife Extension and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The inaugural event had more than 150 attendees with topics focusing on farm policy, rice production and potential hemp production in Texas. The event will become an annual conference to showcase food and health in the region, giving consumers a better understanding of where their food comes from.
In the news…
Dinner Tonight was part of the annual Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show, garnering media coverage from local outlets. Click the video thumbnail to view a sampling of what was on display.