Since 1954, county agriculture Extension agents have been involved in planning the annual Wisconsin Farm Progress Days and Wisconsin Farm Technology Days shows. But beginning in 2019, that will no longer be the case.
During the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days annual meeting held April 6 at the Pyle Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Executive Committee announced, beginning with the 2019 show, a county ag Extension agent will no longer serve as the executive secretary of the show. Instead, a county coordinator will be hired to help coordinate each show in each county.
UW Extension Associate Dean John Shutske, who serves as FTD Executive Committee chairman, explained that a person will be hired in each county hosting the show beginning with the 2019 show. Shutske said the person would likely work part-time the first two years and full time the six months prior to the show and during the show.
Shutske explained that he appointed a task force of county Extension agents to study what should be done with Farm Tech Days and make a recommendation. The task force was chaired by George Koepp, Columbia County Extension agriculture agent, and Heidi Johnson, Dane County Extension crops and soils agent.
Shutske said they recommended less overall educational programing at the show. They also recommended that the executive secretary will not be a county agent beginning with the 2019 show.
"Extension is going through a major reorganization," Shutske continued. "Long term we know we will have far fewer people on both the campus and in the counties. These cuts (to Extension) will not take place until 2017."
The county coordinator will essentially play part of the role that the county Extension agent used to play, Shutske said. “We’re never going to replace all of that leadership and all of that time and all of that commitment. But we hope we can work with the county to provide the appropriate level of support of staffing.”
The FTD Executive Committee did not announce the host of the 2019 show.
"We have a couple of counties interested, but we haven't selected a county yet," Shutske said. "We hope to be ready to announce a county within a couple of months after the Walworth County Show in July. As long as we have counties who are willing to host the show, we will get this leadership thing straightened out."
Extension is facing cuts of $3.6 million as a result of the state budget cuts made by the governor and the Legislature last July to the UW System budget. The plan calls for cuts of $1.2 million to county staffing, $1.7 million in cuts in campus positions and specialists and $700,000 in cuts from administration.
Shutske will be stepping down from his Extension position in July and returning to a role as a professor in the UW-Madison Biological Systems Engineering Department. (See related story on Page 8). He said he will likely continue in his role as FTD Executive Committee chairman until April 2017.
The 2016 Wisconsin farm Technology Days show will be held July 19-21 in Walworth County at the Steve Snudden Farm south of Lake Geneva near Zenda. The Snuddens are in the process of expanding their dairy and will be milking 1,700 cows by July.
"This will be the furthest south the show has ever been held in Wisconsin," said Walworth County Extension Agriculture Agent Peg Reedy, executive secretary of the show. "The farm is located 1 1/2 miles north of the Illinois border."
This is the first time Walworth County has hosted a show.
The 2017 show will be held July 11-13 in Kewaunee County at the Randy and Renee Ebert Farm near Algoma, about 1 1/2 miles east of Lake Michigan. The Eberts milk 3,000 cows.
"This will be the rist time Kewaunee County has hosted the show," said Kewaunee County Extension Agriculture Agent Aerica Bjurstrom, executive secretary of the 2017 show.
The 2018 show will be hosted by Wood County July 10-12 at the Sternweis and Heiman Farm just outside of Marshfield.
"They have six robotic milkers milking 450 cows," said Wood County Extension Agriculture Agent Matt Lippert who is executive secretary of the show. "I think this will be the first robotic dairy farm to host Farm Technology Days."