MILWAUKEE — Officials are
planning to eliminate about 80 University of Wisconsin
System-Extension positions as part of a reorganization plan
drafted to absorb a state budget cut, the head of extension
Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said
the job reductions will come from a branch that works with
people at a local level on agricultural, parenting and
economic development issues through offices in each of the
state's 72 counties.
The Extension is a University
of Wisconsin System division designed to apply UW research
and expertise across the state. Its responsibilities include
providing online degrees, running public broadcasting and
along with the local operations that help with everything
from growing crops to family finances.
No county offices will close,
and about 40 of the positions already are vacant, Sandeen
said. The rest of the eliminations, which are likely to
include research positions, in the 700-person Cooperative
Extension division will become clear in the coming months. A
news release detailing the reorganization said it will
"consolidate administration, educators and
The "changes are in
response to a significant budget cut," Sandeen said,
referencing the $250 million reductions to the UW System in
the two-year state budget Gov. Scott Walker signed in July.
The extension's share of that cut is about $7 million.
Hundreds of letters poured in
during a public comment period, Sandeen said during a
conference call with reporters. In the statement, she said
that "we considered every single piece of input, and
the directions we're announcing reflect many of the ideas
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau,
however, criticized the plan as vague and said not much had
changed from early versions.
"They say they're
hearing what ag groups around the state are saying,"
Karen Gefvert, the farm bureau's government relations
director, said, "but I don't know if it's really
"We still have
concerns," she added, "about what does the plan
really mean for our research specialists that the farmers
The Wisconsin Farm Bureau
Federation, the Wisconsin Association of Professional
Nutrient Applicators, the Wisconsin Cattlemen's Association
and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association all have come out
against the plan to cut researchers.
UW System Provost Aaron
Brower said it's not clear how many research positions will
be affected. The cuts planned for county extension workers,
campus faculty and division administration will be specified
by work groups and planning committees, he said.