WESTMINSTER — The Cooperative Extension Service will continue to maintain offices in Carroll and across the state, but recurring budget problems mean the staffs likely will be smaller.
The Extension Service, part of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and a full-fledged branch of the University of Maryland system, will have fewer resources with which to meet farming challenges, said Raymond J. Miller, director of the institute.
Miller told an unusually large gathering at Thursday's agribusiness breakfast that the Extension Service and Experiment Station research budget has been cut five times since September 1990, most recentlyagain last week.
The Extension Service has offices in every county and Baltimore and is responsible for helping farmers learn of the most recent technology available. Research is carried out at Research and Education centers around the state.
He blasted the popular notion that agriculture is on the decline in Maryland, noting that even when adjusted for inflation, agricultural receipts have increased by 42 percent over the past 15 years. But while many traditional farm enterprises -- dairy, tobacco and row crops -- have declined, they are being replaced.
Miller said Extension research is important to help technology keep pace with changes in the industry. He noted that cut-flower and aquaculture industries, for example, need technological advancements to grow.
"Agriculture is one of the most high-tech industries in the world," he said.
Environmental concerns will be a major challenge for agricultural interests in the years ahead, Millersaid. He noted that environmental and farm groups share similar goals.
"But when they come together, they always seem to butt heads," he said.
Miller added that the budget crisis will eventually be solved, either by increased taxes or an improved economy, and agribusiness managers must make sure financing is reserved for farm-related projects.
"Your representatives need to understand the kind of programs we are talking about today are important," he said.