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4-H funding options raised

Published (3/18/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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4-H programs are a mainstay of youth activity, according to Washington County Agricultural Society Executive Director David Olson, and they drive attendance at the county fair he organizes every year.

When the county board of commissioners eliminated 4-H funding as a budget-cutting measure, It threw us into a tailspin, Olson told the House Local Government Division March 15. Cities and towns flooded the board with resolutions saying 4-H was a very important part of the country fabric, but the county did not change its decision.

Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) sponsors a bill that would create alternative sources of revenue for 4-H programs. Because the University of Minnesota Extension Service requires 4-H programs to employ at least a half-time extension educator, HF3392 would allow the service to authorize 4-H participant fees to be used for that staff salary.

Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) is concerned that the bill would mandate participant fees, which Bunn said was not her intent, which is that fees would be for that purpose if charged.

The bill would also permit cities and towns to appropriate money for county extension programs, countering a long-standing legal opinion against the practice. Olson said that a 1941 attorney general opinion found that municipalities should not contribute to county extension work, although there is no law prohibiting them from doing so.

Were trying to provide some more flexibility (so) that as were trying to get through these tough times we wont lose important institutions, of which 4-H is one, Bunn said. We want to make sure they survive this period of time.

A companion, SF2941, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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