The University of Minnesota’s extension service, which has served the state for more than a century, continues to shrink. The service plans to close regional offices in Fergus Falls and Hutchinson at the end of the year, Extension Dean Bev Durgan said.
About 14 employees will be affected. Some will retire and others may be moved to other extension offices.
Durgan said a drop in state funding forced extension officials to close the offices.
“We have seen budget cuts at the state level for the last three years,” she said.
The extension service started in 1909, with the goal of bringing the University’s research to every corner of the state. Through the years extension has provided answers and support to everyone from farmers to home gardeners and 4-H clubs. The service went through a major reorganization in 2002-2003 when it ended state-funded offices in most Minnesota counties. Instead, it established 18 regional centers.
Offices in Albert Lea and Mora closed two years ago.The latest cutbacks in Fergus Falls and Hutchinson will reduce the number of regional centers to 14.
Durgan still believes the extension service can serve all citizens of the state.
“We are throughout the state, we’re working in all the program areas we always have,” she said. “But reduction in funding does affect some of the programs that we can offer and some of the things that we do, there’s no doubt about that.”