AmericanFarm.com

Funding gets withdrawn for MACAA annual meetings

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
Senior Editor

(March 3, 2015) The staff organizations of the four legs of Extension in Maryland — the agents in agriculture, 4-H, natural resources-Sea Grant and family and consumer services — entrapped in a budget crunch that runs through the fabric of the entire University of Maryland system, have been informed that all financial support for their 2015 annual association meetings has been withdrawn.
Scrounging for ways to salvage the meetings, which are devoted primarily to professional development and tenure tract presentations, the 4-H agents and those assigned to Family and Consumer Services posts, appear to be turning to webinars and teleconferences and the like.
Officers of the Maryland Association of County Agricultural Association are exploring other paths.
The MACAA, which has been holding annual meetings, in one format or another, since the mid-1900s, according to oldtimers, is booked into the Dunes Hotel in Ocean City from June 17-19.
The meetings are devoted primarily to ag presentations by its members and to the regular business of the association including the election of officers and the presentation of awards,
It is interrupted only by the high-rivalry and traditional softball game between the agents of the Eastern and Western shores after a late afternoon crab feast at a nearby park.
Lamenting the anticipated cancellation of the 2015 meeting, one ag agent commented: “Apart from the business at hand, it’s the only time of the year we all get together.”
Jennie Rhodes, Queen Anne’s County agricultural agent and current MACAA president, said she and other members of the organization were exploring alternatives such as paying their own way.
She said she also was considering seeking a discussion with Dr. Stephen Wright, associate dean and associate Extension director.
It was Dr. Wright who alerted the University of Maryland Extension faculty and staff of the university’s decision to pull the plug on the association meetings.
He had been alerted in a three-page e-mail on Feb. 3 from University President Dr. Walter D., Loh who detailed the underlying causes of the budget crunch, which has left the university system with a $39 million shortfall for 2016.
Wright passed along this advisory: “Should professional associations continue with their traditional program retreats utilizing hotel and travel arrangements, given our current university/state financial situation and current travel policies, UME will not authorize the use of county, state, federal or EAC funds for association travel. Therefore individuals participating this year in association events will need to use personal funds for all costs (lodging, mileage, meals, etc.).”
MACAA, according to retired ag agents, began to take shape in 1957 when a group from Maryland journeyed to Boston to attend a meetng of the National Association of County Ag Agents. Then through the years, the ag agents, as did other arms of Extension, gathered at the annual University of Maryland Extension conference for their annual meetings.
And then, some yeara ago, Maryland Association of County Agricultural members decided to meet annually and apart from other Extension activiities in Ocean City.
Dr. Wright stressed that the budget restrictions apply only to association meetings, and not to travel and other costs associazted with the “day to day responsibilities” of the agents.