Popular 4-H programs could lose state funding

The state legislature is holding a special session now, June 7-9, to complete the state’s budget, sorting through Governor Scott’s proposed cuts.

Cuts are targeted at programs the governor feels are of little benefit to citizens.

County Extension Director Gene McAvoy noted that he and those in the Cooperative Extension Service throughout the state are “quite concerned” about proposed funding cuts for 4-H programs, especially in rural counties. 4-H programs are very popular, providing opportunities for growth and education programs that are not otherwise available to those living outside of urban areas. Statewide, an estimated 200,000 youth participate in 4-H programs along with some 16,000 volunteers. It has about $13.8 million economic impact on the state every year.

4-H programs are far-ranging, from traditional animal clubs, sewing and the like, to modern science.

In Hendry County, some 300 youth are involved in 4-H programs – some in several clubs.

Cuts in state funding would put a serious damper on the quality of life skills that the 4-H program does so well. Mr. McAvoy noted that 4-H fosters mastery of public speaking and other important life skills at a level that schools are not equipped to take over.

Losing state funding could eventually be devastating to local programs.

He said if the cuts materialize, he expects the most immediate impact to be on statewide programs like 4-H camps, 4-H Congress and staff training. If the shortfall continues for very long, local staff could be eventually be affected. Some local staff members are paid partially by the state. Others fully by the county.

Mr. McAvoy is hoping that the Legislature will get the message from taxpayers – “Don’t mess with our kids!” before it’s too late.

As a county agent and a parent, Mr. McAvoy said he has watched the growth of so many kids through the years. “Their development is a fabulous thing to behold,” he said.

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