NEW MADRID -- Since Feb. 1, 1918, an agent with the New Madrid County University Extension has always been on hand to assist local farmers in their daily tasks or work with the county's 4-H group.
But that could all change soon.
In 2003, for to budgeting reasons, the New Madrid County Commission reduced the New Madrid County Extension Council's funding from $34,000 to $10,000 -- which is the minimum amount of funding required by the state.
"We have since gone through that money and have used up what money we had set back," said Jeff House, New Madrid County Extension agronomy specialist and county program director.
Pemiscot County Extension's funding has also been reduced to the minimum $10,000 due to county budget woes, noted Tate Castillo, agronomy specialist for the Pemiscot County Extension office in Caruthersville.
"Basically we've gotten some donations from ag-based businesses and that's how we've been able to keep running this year," Castillo explained.
If the New Madrid County's Extension Council doesn't come up with enough funding to keep operations going, the extension could close its doors as early as December, House said. For this reason, the Extension Council, along with some members of the community, are trying to "save the Extension" through a fish fry fund-raiser and raffle scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the New Madrid Community Building.
"If we don't change the commissioners' minds one way or another, we'll have to shut down," House said.
So the success of the fund-raiser is vital in order for the office to remain open and continue serving citizens of the county, House said.
However, New Madrid County citizens have shown great concern and support and this fund-raiser gives the Extension Council an opportunity to showcase the worthy programs and services it provides to county citizens and youth.
"We have a lot of farmers that are supporting us. We have money already coming in and already have had some donations made to us. Some chemical and seed companies are supporting us as well as some granaries," House noted.
As agronomy specialist and program director, House explained his job is to manage the day-to-day operations and programs of the county's extension. The Extension Council oversees the programs that the extension offers, he said.
The Extension Council provides several programs and services to county citizens and youth, House pointed out.
"We furnish training pesticide applicator licenses to all farmers," House said. "And farmers must have the license to buy restricted-use chemicals."
House said one thing the public needs to understand is if New Madrid County Extension's office is shut down, funding will not be available to pay mileage for any outside assistance from the University Outreach and Extension.
New Madrid County's 4-H program is also in involved in the extension office, and the organization is looking at getting shut down in New Madrid County, House said. The extension also provides human environmental services such as HIV/AIDS workshops or food safety workshops.
"Being that this is an agricultural county and we present an unbiased opinion, I think the extension is very important to the county," House said. "We base everything we do off of research; we don't say we know everything, but we can try to find the answer if we don't know it."
Tickets for the fund-raiser are available at the Extension Office in New Madrid or from Extension Council members. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children under age 10. Tickets will also be available at the door.
The Extension Council is also selling tickets for a chance to win a Beretta shotgun, which will be raffled off Aug. 31. For more information or anyone who would also like to donate to the council, call the office at (573) 748-5531.