Bruce Schultz | 6/4/2009 8:06:34 PM
SCOTT, La. – The Louisiana County Agents Association honored five LSU AgCenter extension employees with awards at the organization’s annual convention Tuesday (June 2).
Achievement awards were presented to Louis Lirette, associate county agent in West Baton Rouge Parish, and Dr. Tara Smith, sweet potato specialist at the LSU AgCenter Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase.
The organization presented Distinguished Service awards to Stuart Gauthier, county agent in Vermilion Parish; Dr. Don Reed, wildlife specialist at the Bob R. Jones Idlewild Research Station in Clinton; and Dr. Johnny Saichuk, rice specialist at the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station near Crowley.
The LCAA also honored Buck Leonards, publisher of Louisiana Farm and Ranch magazine, for promoting Louisiana agriculture.
LSU AgCenter budget problems probably will continue after this year, LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson warned the association members.
“Next year may even be worse,” Richardson said. “We may have not only 12 months but 24 months of rough times.”
The LSU AgCenter chancellor said he won’t request a declaration of fiscal exigency from the LSU Board of Supervisors, and he continues to oppose using employee furloughs to save money. He said requiring all AgCenter employees to take off two weeks without pay would save only $2 million.
Richardson said a hiring freeze remains in effect, and a retirement buyout is being considered, but layoffs may not be required.
He said he would favor budgeting state agencies based on merit.
“I’ll be glad to stack our performance against anyone in the state,” Richardson said.
Dr. Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, said cutting the AgCenter’s budget could have dire consequences for its clientele.
“If you cut much more, you’re not going to be able to call your county agent and get all the wonderful information parishes have become accustomed to getting,” he said.
Coreil said it’s likely that employees will have to be moved to compensate for budget cuts and lost positions that will create imbalances in program delivery.
Coreil said parishes will have the option to fully fund extension agent positions if they do not want services reduced due to lack of state support. He said this has been done in some parishes in Louisiana and the option will be promoted if cuts continue.
Several LCAA members expressed concern that offering retirement incentives could result in the loss of critical LSU AgCenter expertise and experience, and Coreil agreed.
“We urge you to stick it out with us during these tough budget times,” Coreil said.