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June 16, 2004   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
June 16, 2004

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the primary outreach arm of Alabama A&M and Auburn universities, is reorganizing to strengthen the research-based educational programs it offers to all Alabamians.

"The move allows Extension to focus its resources on 14 newly determined priority program areas," said Extension Interim Director Gaines Smith.

"The new structure streamlines the organization and provides better ways to be accountable to the public," he added.

In October 2002, Extension committed itself to moving in a "new direction," with a goal of providing more targeted, focused programs that will meet local needs and have measurable statewide impact. Since that time, the System has seen the third major personnel reduction in less than a decade, making the new, leaner structure an even more timely and significant move.

The latest step involves moving 72 county Extension agents to regional assignments, with more to come. "These agents will change from teaching a lot of subjects in a single county to providing expertise in one of the 14 priority areas across a multicounty region," Smith explained. County Extension coordinators in each of the 67 counties, plus locally funded county agents, will also be responsible for working in one or two of the 14 areas of focus.

The priority areas are agronomic crops; animal science and forages; aquaculture and recreational pond management; family and child development; community resource development; consumer science and personal financial management; farm management and agricultural enterprise analysis; poultry; food safety, preparation and preservation; forestry, wildlife and natural resource management; commercial horticulture; home grounds, gardens and home pests; human nutrition, diet and health; and 4-H and youth development.

The redirection focuses on goals that include better serving the needs of agriculture through regional centers, maximizing the effectiveness of the nine urban centers, making optimal use of new technologies, creating stronger links between research and Extension at the field level, and enhancing accountability.

The new structure also streamlines several administrative positions to more efficiently carry out these goals, according to Smith. The assistant director located at Alabama A&M University will continue to lead the urban programs taught in the nine Extension urban centers across the state, while three assistant directors located at Auburn University will lead the five program categories of agriculture, forestry and natural resources, family and individual well-being, community resource development, and 4-H and youth development.

"It took a great deal of hard work and cooperation by our employees to reinvent the way this statewide system goes about the business of educating people with diverse needs from one community to the next and from one family to the next.

"Extension has served the people of Alabama for almost 100 years. Our new organization ensures a foundation for us to continue providing vital services for the next 100 years," said Smith.

In 1995 the Extension services at Auburn and Alabama A&M were combined into a unified statewide system, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

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