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Senator: UW-Extension is undermining 4-H over COVID concerns

The Brillion News

MADISON - State Senator Duey Stroebel, R-Ozaukee, is blasting University of Wisconsin-Extension for undermining the state's 4-H program.

The point of contention is "guidance" released by UW-Extension saying that "4-H programming will not occur during large gatherings or activities."

Then it says that county fairs "typically will not meet Extension requirements."

Stroebel said the COVID-19 guidance is off the mark.

"In counties across the state ... fair boards are putting on county fairs in full compliance and cooperation with local health department officials," Stroebel said. "After the expiration of statewide mandates in favor of localized health determinations, for some reason UW-Extension canceled most 4-H events this summer statewide, regardless of actual health risks on the ground ... UW-Extension has decided to pretend that this summer doesn’t exist."

In a communication to 4-H organizations statewide, issued on Monday,Extension wrote: "Due to the health concerns, 4-H members are encouraged to avoid large gatherings of any kind and only events that are following Extension guidelines, including distancing and face coverings," the memo said.

The memo bans Extension staff from attending fairs "or other gatherings where the size exceeds the recommended guidance" in their official capacity.

It said it would consider sanctioning activities associated with county fairs "held when the fair is closed to the public" if the activity meets the precautions Extension requires.

Given the position outlined in the Monday memo, Senator Stroebel said: "Perhaps the better question is why should [4-H members'] parents pay taxes to support an organization that actively discourages its stated mission and goals?”

Stroebel is a member of the powerful Joint Committee on Finance, which sets agency budgets.


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