Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources. 

Retirements, tight budget make future organization cloudy 

By Holly Owens,  Herald and News January 5, 2006

Answers about funding Extension agents are beginning to come in as overall budget crunching continues.

So far, the Klamath County Extension Service and Klamath Experiment Station administered through Oregon State University have approval for 3.5 full-time equivalent positions, which is the current staffing. That may sound like status quo, but with recent retirements taken into account, the normal staff is five agents.

“We’re trying to do with three what we were doing with five,” said Ron Hathaway, Klamath County Extension staff chair. “We can’t continue what we were doing when we’ve got fewer people doing it.”

Three agents are scheduled to retire this year.

Hathaway will retire in December, row crop agent Kerry Locke, who also manages the master gardener program, will retire in June, and Ken Rykbost, who has been working part-time as the field station manager, will retire fully in February.

With retirements, new agents and a tight budget, the overall organization of the Extension, and programs offered, are likely to change.

The fate of the master gardener program, which is managed by Locke, is still undecided. But Hathaway noted that the program has been strongly supported

All of the details about the budget and the programs that will be offered haven’t been decided yet, and Hathaway says there is still room to bargain.

One option under consideration to lower costs would be to combine in one location administration of the Extension Service offices on Vandenberg Road, and the experiment station at the south end of Washburn Way.

“We’re kind of looking at this with the experiment station and the Extension being jointly administered,” Hathaway said.

In order to prioritize the programs offered through the Extension, Basin growers in August were asked for input on their needs.

Interest was indicated in three main areas: marketing, forages and water.

The focus in marketing was to develop niche or specialty markets in order to get higher returns for crops, Hathaway said.

“The general idea was, instead of producing a commodity, like potatoes, you’d provide a specific brand in potatoes,” Hathaway said.

Interest was also seen in new varieties of grass hays and grass-alfalfa mix hays and their importance to the livestock industry.

Water quality was the main focus for water programs.

Hathaway also sees a need for programs dealing with agriculture business management.

“The limit is, what do you do with it once you produce it?” Hathaway said. “That ties back into the marketing. Agriculture is a business —it’s not just farming.”

Hathaway has black-and white pictures from the 1940s and ’50s in his office of a crop not seen widely in the Basin any more.

“We were loading rail cars with cabbage,” Hathaway said. “We can raise other crops here. There’s no question about that. After you raise a crop, you’ve got to be able to do something with it.”

There are still more budget revisions ahead and details to be worked out. And with that comes the opportunity to bargain for staffing and programs.

Hathaway is hoping to travel later this month to Oregon State University to discuss staffing needs and believes he’ll have a better idea of the final budget by early February.

H&N photo by Gary Thain
Brian Charlton, left, a faculty research assistant at the Klamath Experiment Station, and Ken Rykbost, field station manager, use still-life photography Wednesday to document a few of the potato varieties grown at the station. The Klamath County Extension Service and Klamath Experiment Station face the possibility of fielding a reduced staff as agents prepare to retire and positions are frozen during a lean budget cycle.
H&N photo by Gary Thain
Klamath Experiment Station field station manager Ken Rykbost prepares to shoot a picture Wednesday of one of the potato varieties grown at the station. Rykbost will retire in February, one of three agents retiring this year in Klamath Falls.





Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright © klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved