The money woes affecting other Washington State University Extension offices in the state has not been as severe for those in Benton and Franklin counties.
Both offices are fully staffed, though the Franklin County office is closed on Fridays because of cuts.
"We just don't have enough in the budget to stay open five days a week," said Lauri Sherfey, Franklin County's director of WSU Extension services.
Expenses for all Extension offices and staff are paid partially by the county, partially by WSU.
Benton County, which is on a biannual budget system, contributes $557,016 for 2011 and 2012, or $278,508 per year. Franklin County is contributing $174,520 for 2011.
No Extension programs -- including 4-H -- are being cut in either Benton or Franklin counties.
"That's just not happening here. We have a very strong 4-H program, especially in livestock," said Marianne Ophardt, Extension director for Benton County. Programs also are offered on food and cooking, clothing, arts and crafts, science and technology, and anything of interest to kids.
Even without program cuts, agents in both counties say they are carefully watching their spending.
They said they have become creative at finding ways to make the dollars they do have stretch.
One way is through applying for grants, especially for agricultural programs, Ophardt said.
"The money doesn't supplement the budget but it allows agents to buy supplies so they can do their work and to hire part-time help. I have a grant to study insects and hire someone for a few months in the summer to help me," she said. "This also helps the counties by increasing employment."
"Generally we haven't had severe cuts," she said. "There were some over the last couple of years but we've managed to tighten our belts, travel less and buy fewer supplies, including paper and stamps. We've gone to using email a lot instead. It's just a matter of being conservative."
Another way WSU Extension is stretching its resources is by having agents specialize -- working with just dryland crops for example -- but helping farmers in several counties. not just their home base.
"We've been doing this for years between Benton and Franklin counties but for others this is a new concept," Ophardt said.
WSU also is encouraging its on-campus faculty to interact more with Extension agents in the field.
"We're all working together and getting the biggest bang for the buck for everyone we serve," Ophardt said.
Yakima County expects to cut $9,000 next year from Extension services for a total of $250,000, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.
Since 2008, Extension services statewide have lost $3 million in state support, dropping this year to $12 million, said the newspaper.
Total staffing for faculty, field administrators and office staff has dropped 35 percent in that time. And extension agent positions, as a group, have fallen by 20 percent from 135 to 108 statewide, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
But in Benton and Franklin counties, Ophardt credits the commitment of WSU to agriculture and the county commissioners for keeping Extension programs strong.
"We sometimes get overshadowed by Hanford but we have county commissioners who understand the value of the agriculture industry," she said.
Because Benton County is in the middle of a biannual budget Ophardt knows how much money she has to work with in 2012.
"But what happens in 2013, we don't know. The only thing we're sure of is there won't be any increases," Ophardt said.
w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com