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K-State Today

May 24, 2013

From Dean John Floros: A crisis in the making

By John Floros

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, a state legislative proposal surfaced that, if it came to pass, will have a seriously negative impact and many lasting effects on Kansas State University, the College of Agriculture, all of our K-State Research and Extension activities, and to the economy of Kansas.

With respect to the university budget, the House/Senate Conference Committee agreed to a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut for the next fiscal year (FY 2014) and an additional 1.5 percent across-the-board cut for FY 2015. In addition, they proposed an immediate "salary cap lapse." In simple terms, this means a sweep of all vacant position lines at a given date, proposed to be March 15, 2013. For the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension it amounts to approximately 8 percent permanent budget reduction. The total budget reduction would be about 11 percent (approximately 9.5 percent for FY 2014 including 8 percent from the lapse plus 1.5 percent FY 2014 cut and an additional 1.5 percent for FY 2015). It translates into a devastating number of more than 100 staff and faculty positions. A crisis in the making!

The threat to the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension isn’t just about the 11 percent cut or about the $6 million in savings that our Legislature thinks is wasted if it were invested in Research and Extension. It’s important to realize what this loss of investment means to the people of Kansas and the state’s economy. Let’s review:

For every $1 the state invested in the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension, we competed nationally and internationally to bring an additional $2 to $3 for our activities in the state. For every $1 we spend on Research and Extension today, history suggests that an additional $20 to $40 of long-term economic growth will be created.

Research scientists and Extension specialists in the College of Agriculture work in a variety of issues in agricultural and food systems, the biggest industry in Kansas. Their discoveries create real advances to our food and agricultural systems, resulting in the safest food supply and most efficient production possible. Investment in their work generates 40 to 80 times the economic benefit as compared to what the state invests.

Our scientists and specialists work to understand and resolve water-related issues in the state. These activities bring huge economic benefits to Kansas both in terms of quantity of water in the western part of the state and water quality issues in the east.

Our work in health care literacy has brought millions of dollars back to our senior citizens, one of our most economically vulnerable populations.

Our programs in nutrition, diet and health — all built upon the research and education foundation — help people become and remain active and delay incidence of chronic illness.

Our faculty host conferences, workshops and educational events throughout the state that bring significant economic activity to Kansas. Our communities benefit from Research and Extension through the network of Extension agents, bringing opportunities, learning and events to local communities. We also teach how to improve and sustain our rural infrastructure, like rural grocery stores. 

Learning doesn’t stop when our graduates cross the stage at commencement. Our graduates keep coming back to learn new and exciting work from our scientists and how to apply those findings in their business and industry

Our continuing education efforts are diverse and create opportunities for continued learning and economic opportunity. Here are some examples: turf grass conferences for golf course managers and staff; cattleman's day for ranchers and feeders; risk and profit conferences for all agricultural leaders; women managing farm and ranch conferences; rural grocery conferences with strategies to keep rural Kansas communities moving forward; Discovery Days bringing hundreds of 4-Hers to our campus each year; and the list goes on and on.

One of the most lasting effects of cuts would be on our work in growing tomorrow’s leaders. Our lost capacity means less opportunity for youth leadership and development through 4-H and FFA. Our undergraduate and graduate students will also lose. With diminished capacity, we could limit our student numbers in fields where industry demands already exceed the number of graduates. All this capacity depends on the state's investment in higher education and Research and Extension.

The loss far exceeds the immediate 11 percent cut for the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension. The impact would be far larger for the economy of Kansas in the future. The cut will erode a critical mass to a point where it would not be regained even if funding were restored during the next few years. This could be a huge loss for the people of Kansas.

Thanks for all you are doing to help our Legislature make informed decisions about the budget for the College of Agriculture, K-State Research and Extension, Kansas State University and all of higher education.


John Floros
Dean of the College of Agriculture