To maintain the North Dakota 4-H program in the face of budget cuts, 4-H will implement a $20-per-year state-level program fee for participation.

The fee helps fill the gap left by declining state funding, according to Brad Cogdill, chair of the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Center for 4-H Youth Development.

The decision to implement the fee came after a $4.1 million reduction in state funding for the Extension Service for the current biennium and a recommendation from an ad hoc committee, the State Board of Agricultural Research and Education (SBARE) formed, to review the NDSU Extension Service.

The committee reviewed Extension’s mission, existing programs, the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery methods for existing programs, and potential for program changes. One of the ad hoc group’s preliminary recommendations is for the Extension Service to increase the use of fees or grants to provide cost recovery for programs, especially when the programs have significant private value.

The North Dakota 4-H program fee will be required starting with the 2017-18 enrollment year. Even though the enrollment year begins Sept. 1, 2017, fee collection will not begin until Nov. 1. Enrollments through the state’s web-based enrollment system from Sept. 5 through Oct. 31, 2017, will be grandfathered in at no charge. This waiver will be in effect only for this year.

Youth in the 4-H Cloverbud program, which is designed for youth age 5 to 7, will not be subject to the fee. Details about the management of the fee have been provided to all of Extension’s county offices so staff can answer more specific questions.

“The 4-H program fee is just one of several budget adjustments being implemented across the Extension Service,” Cogdill said. “The organization has identified staffing reductions, operating efficiencies and revenue generation as cost-saving alternatives.”

The funds generated from the 4-H fee will be used to support the priorities of:

* Project and club organization materials and training

* Volunteer training and screening

* High-priority project areas

* Measuring the effectiveness of programs

* 4-H’s presence at the North Dakota State Fair

A 4-H program fee is not a new concept to offset budget shortfalls, Cogdill says. A 2016 survey of 38 other states’ 4-H programs showed that 25 have some type of fee in place. Those fees range from $3 to $50 per year. Some states also charge by the number of projects in which a youth participates.

“North Dakota 4-H has been committed to providing positive youth development educational experiences to young people across our state, and a personal investment, along with the public investment of county, state and federal funds, will help assure a strong 4-H program in the future,” Cogdill said.

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