McPheron warned that the college faced 440 job cuts; closings of research stations and county extension offices; and cuts to 4-H, which reaches almost 10 percent of Pennsylvania's youth. After people told lawmakers how much they value Penn State's agricultural programs, he said it's likely reductions will be far smaller, probably between $5.5 million an $8 million.
"It's odd that you can be in a circumstance where a 10 to 15 percent cut seems like a win," McPheron said.
At the University of Georgia, Scott Angle, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, recently decided to lay off 18 workers and sell a farm. He said there was nothing else left to cut.
"We have tried as best we can — and to a fairly successful extent — to protect the learning experience for our students on campus but this does mean our research and extension capabilities have been compromised, Angle said.
Farm programs in the University of California system have already seen steep declines in state support over the last 20 years. Daniel Dooley, vice president of its Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he expects agriculture at the Berkeley, Davis and Riverside campuses will be cut less than most programs once California's $9.6 billion deficit is resolved, but it will be hurt.
"Final decisions haven't been made but the reality is with each reduction we're going to have to decide what we're going to do and what we're not going to do," Dooley said.
Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida, said his operations were "held harmless" in the Legislature this year. Florida construction and tourism were hard-hit by the recession, so he argued that agriculture and natural resources are now the backbone of the state economy.
At Iowa State University, agriculture has seen state funding erode since 2001. Wendy Wintersteen, dean of its College of Agriculture, said it's happening even as her enrollment rises 4 to 6 percent a year. She's planning for a 6 percent reduction in state funding — not as bad as it could be.
"We're getting to a better place in the state's economy, and agriculture is a big part of the state being able to recover from this economic downturn," Wintersteen said. "We're optimistic about the future and what we can contribute to the state."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.