LSU Ag Center braces for budget cuts

Louisiana is facing a $2 billion shortfall, which is not good for state-run agencies such as the LSU Ag Center.

The LSU Ag Center is one agency that is on the chopping block and facing a 15 to 30 percent budget cut. That is not good news to the LSU Ag Center Extension Office in Abbeville.

The Vermilion Parish office employs nine, but only two are paid 100 percent by the state. The six county agents’ salaries are a combination of state, federal and local government.

Steve Linscombe is the Southwest Regional Director of the LSU Ag Center and he said the Ag Center is bracing for the worst but hoping for the best.

“At this point in time, we do not know,” Linscombe said. “Our administrators have been asked to prepare for different scenarios of budget cuts. All of those would be dismal. Thirty percent would be devastating to our program.”

Even if the state would slice the budget by 30 percent, Linscombe said Vermilion Parish’s extension office would remain open but may be with fewer employees.

“I don’t foresee in a worst case scenario the extension office in Vermilion Parish closing,” Linscombe said. “This is all speculation at this point; however, there may be fewer people working in that office but I do not envision it closing. We will maintain an extension office in Vermilion Parish.”

The legislators will go into session in April and begin balancing the budget by making $2 billion in cuts.

District 49 State Rep. Simone Champagne is not going to let her fellow state reps ‘slice and dice’ the LSU Ag Center’s budget without studying the cuts first.

“I would want to see where LSU would cut the Ag Center,” Champagne said.

“The Ag Center is important to my district and all of the rural areas,” she said. “They do a wonderful job in promoting the 4-H program, along with all of their research they do with the farming and cattle industry. I want to see where they will cut and the reason they selected to cut there.”

The LSU Ag Center consists of two programs: one is for research while the other is to promote the findings of the research.

The Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Stations conducts research to develop new technology, new varieties and new ways of doing things with agriculture. The extension office takes that information and gets it into the farmers’ hands.

Unless there is a miracle, programs and jobs will be cut, said Linscombe.

“With some of the magnitude of budget cuts that are being proposed, we would have to shut down some programs. Some offices and some research stations will have to closed.

“We do not know what will happen,” Linscombe said. “If you have budget cuts at the LSU campus, they have the ability to raise the tuition. We do not have tuition in the Ag Center so that is not something we can use. We hope a 30 percent budget cut does not happen. That would be devastating. We are having a ‘wait and see’ attitude and see what comes down in the legislative session.”

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