OFFICIAL OPINION NO. 11-03, Federal Law Implications of Budget Cuts to the S. D. Cooperative

  
OFFICIAL OPINION NO. 11-03, Federal Law Implications of Budget Cuts to the S. D. Cooperative

 

 

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA
 
OFFICE OF
 
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
 
June 17, 2011
 
 


29966 423rd Avenue
Scotland, SD 57059
 
Rep. Peggy Gibson, Dist. 22
1010 Valley View Court
Huron, SD 57350-4221
 
Rep. Larry Lucas, Dist. 26A
P.O. Box 182
Mission, SD 57555-0182
 
Rep. Dean Schrempp, Dist. 26A
P.O. Box 62
Lantry, SD 57636
 
Sen. Jason Frerichs, Dist. 01
13497 465th Avenue
Wilmot, SD 57279-0027
 
Sen. Jim Hundstad, Dist. 02
13755 395th Avenue
Bath, SD 57427-6501


OFFICIAL OPINION NO. 11-03

 
Re:    Federal Law Implications of Budget Cuts to the South Dakota
          Cooperative Extension Service
 
You have requested an official opinion from this office.
 
QUESTION: Whether budget reductions for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service mandated by the legislature and its subsequent reorganization in response to reductions in state appropriations has resulted in the Service not being in compliance with the Morrill Act of 1862 or the Smith-Lever Act of 1914.
 
ANSWER: The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service remains in compliance with applicable federal law and is eligible for receipt of federal funds.
 
FACTS: South Dakota State University is a land grant institution that was established in part from lands provided to the State under the Morrill Act of 1862. The South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service operates under the direction of the South Dakota State University. The activities of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service are underwritten in part by federal funds received through the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, as amended, and other federal enactments. As a result of the fiscal problems facing the State, the South
 
 
Dakota Legislature reduced the fiscal 2012 budget for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service by $820,000. This was preceded by smaller reductions of $200,000 in each of the two previous fiscal years.
 
These reductions, together with looming future cuts in federal funds, resulted in South Dakota State University reorganizing the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service. The reorganization plan is generally set forth in South Dakota State University College of Agricultural and Biological Services, SDSU Extension, “Stewards of Progress,” April 2011, and may be found on the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service website. Most notably, the reorganization has resulted in the consolidation of county extension offices into seven regional extension centers strategically located throughout the State.
 
IN RE QUESTION: The Morrill Act of 1862, 7 U.S.C. § 301 et seq., provided federal lands for the establishment of the nation’s agricultural land grant institutions. The Morrill Act of 1862 contains no provision requiring or even referencing the provision of cooperative extension services. Therefore, South Dakota’s compliance with the provisions of the Morrill Act is unaffected by the legislature’s reductions in appropriations to and reorganization of, the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service. In fact, South Dakota would remain in compliance with the Morrill Act if the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service ceased to exist.
 
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914, as amended, 7 U.S.C. § 341 et seq., and other federal enactments such as the Agricultural, Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 (AREER), Public Law 105-85, provide federal funding for cooperative extension services that are under the direction of a land grant institution established by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The Smith-Lever Act contains conditions and requirements for the receipt of federal funds for cooperative extension services. One major condition of funding is state matching funds. The Smith-Lever Act requires 100% state match from non-federal sources for the federal dollars received. The Board of Regents has advised that even with the reductions contained in the 2011 General Appropriations Act, there are sufficient funds appropriated for the fiscal year 2012 to meet all matching requirements for Smith-Lever Act funds.
 
The Smith-Lever Act and AREER also require the land grant institution operating a community extension service program to annually submit to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for acceptance a plan for providing cooperative extension services. The Board of Regents has advised that South Dakota State University submitted such a plan in April and was notified on May 31, 2011,
 
 
that the plan had been accepted. The plan SDSU submitted contains the reorganization plans for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service resulting from the state funding reductions. In my opinion, the Department of Agriculture’s acceptance of the plan for the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service settles any question regarding South Dakota’s compliance with the requirements of federal law.
 
In conclusion, South Dakota State University, through the reorganization of the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, has developed a plan that continues to legally satisfy the Smith-Lever Act and other applicable federal laws. It is for you and other members of the legislature to address any policy decisions relating to state funding reductions through the appropriation process.
 
Respectfully submitted,
 
 
 
Marty J. Jackley
Attorney General
 
MJJ/JPH/jkp