With the 2003-04 state budget finalized and exacting a 25 percent permanent cut to the University of California Cooperative Extension and another 10 percent to the Agricultural Experiment Station, in addition to last year's 10 percent cut, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) has begun eliminating jobs in its first wave of budget cuts. The cuts will be made through elimination of vacant positions and from retirements, voluntary departures and layoffs.

The job cuts come in response to a $12 million cut to UC Cooperative Extension and another $9 million cut to the Agricultural Experiment Station, which is the Division's research arm.

Managers have begun notifying employees of impending layoffs, in accordance with union contracts and staff policies. So far, 22 positions have been eliminated in system administration and the Forest Products Laboratory in Richmond has been closed eliminating another 14 positions. The total number of employees who will be laid off from the division is not yet known. At this time, all Extension offices in the counties remain open.

“Prior to the state budget being signed, these initial plans were made to deal with a 15 percent budget cut in Cooperative Extension,” said W.R. Gomes, UC vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Further reductions will be necessary in the coming weeks to accommodate the remaining 10 percent to be cut.”

UC explored diligently several alternatives to layoffs, including the possibility of a voluntary early retirement incentive program. However, after careful financial analysis, it was determined that an early retirement program was not feasible.

“We are still seeking other sources of funds to extend employment so more of our reductions can be achieved through attrition and thereby reduce layoffs,” Gomes said.

Two committees appointed last April by Gomes to develop recommendations for responding to the budget cuts are completing their work. Their suggestions for restructuring Cooperative Extension and for recovering some of the costs of Cooperative Extension services are expected soon.