CINCINNATI, Ohio -- The 91st annual National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference, being held July 23-27 in Cincinnati, Ohio, is simply more than just a conference for professional development. The event celebrates the organization that has been serving U.S. citizens for nearly a century: the Cooperative Extension System.
An arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, Extension was federally established in 1914 to aid land grant colleges and universities in reaching out to the public through research and teaching, and other resources focusing on non-formal, non-credit programs. Extension was originally created to serve the country's predominantly rural and agricultural population. Over time, its role has changed with that of a changing nation, and today Extension offers programs to rural, urban and suburban populations in four major areas: 4-H youth development, agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer science, and community economic development.
Each year, the NACAA Professional Improvement Conference fosters professional development, encourages communication and cooperation among members, and facilitates excellence in Extension programming so that the public can continue to receive the very best of what Extension has to offer.
The event is coming back to Ohio after 34 years, with over 2,000 Extension Agents nationwide anticipated to attend. Steve Baertsche, Ohio State University Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Assistant Director, said the NACAA conference is an opportunity to showcase Ohio State's Extension programs, as well as improve the visibility of Extension and the knowledge it brings to the public on a daily basis.
"There is a tremendous amount of knowledge sharing that goes on among
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educators through poster presentations, research abstracts, workshops, tours and other sessions," said Baertsche. "Over time, this conference has evolved into a very strong professional development event designed not only to benefit members, but to benefit those in the community who look to Extension for assistance and research-based information."
OSU Extension prides itself in the wide swath of knowledge that its Extension Educators provide to Ohioans, with all county Educators holding either Master's or PhD degrees to back up their expertise, and working closely in a team environment to enhance communications and better meet the needs of their clientele. Over 24 teams, in such areas as agronomics, air quality, beef and dairy cattle, fruit, sustainable agriculture, precision agriculture, direct marketing and woodland stewards, are part of OSU Extension's Agriculture and Natural Resources program area.
"The purpose of these teams is to bring together the expertise of the local county educators as well as the state specialists. Some people think that Extension can function without local county faculty. Yet, we strongly feel that the collaboration of the local and state specialists is important," said Baertsche. "In fact, our successful teams have strong county educator participation, leadership and guidance."
That success equals value to Ohio residents and the state's economy.
"One recent example is the work the Agronomic Crops Team has done with the threat of soybean rust and the benefit of establishing local sentinel plots throughout Ohio. Due to their applied research with sentinel plots last year, our Agronomic Crops Team could inform Ohio farmers that the need to use soybean rust fungicides was unnecessary," said Baertsche. "That saved farmers $15-$18 an acre on fungicide costs, $70 million in total savings to Ohio's soybean industry, our most valuable farm commodity."
Such efforts are what make OSU and U.S. Extension one of the few remaining fundamental unbiased research institutions in the country. To learn more about Ohio State University Extension and its services or to locate an office in one of the state's 88 counties, log on to http://extension.osu.edu. For more information on the NACAA organization and its Annual Meeting and Professional Development Conference, log on to http://nacaa.com.