09/16/13 — Extension still looking for county livestock agent

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Extension still looking for county livestock agent

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 16, 2013 1:46 PM

It has been five months since Eileen Coite stepped down after 13 years as the Wayne County Cooperative Extension livestock agent to become Extension director in neighboring Sampson County.

The position remains empty and is not expected to be filled by the Sept. 26 start of the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair where Ms. Coite for years has played an integral role working with youths and the fair's many livestock shows.

However, Fair Manager Eddie Pitzer said that "right now we are looking good," and that Ms. Coite will volunteer as much time as possible to help with the livestock shows.

The livestock shows will continue as they have in the past as show directors take a more active role, he said.

Fairgoers will see one change.

Previously, the shows were held in the grandstand arena. In case of rain, the nearby livestock arena was used.

However, this year the display areas have been shifted, and the livestock arena will house displays. It will not be available in the case of rain.

Instead, all of the shows will be held under an 80-foot by 80-foot open-sided tent that will be erected near the grandstand arena.

"I think that we will be able to get through the fair, but the Junior Lamb Show and Sale is in April," Pitzer said. "We are really going to miss that position if it is not filled by the first of the year."

In Wayne County, Ms. Coite worked extensively with the 4H program and youth development. She also worked with forage crop production, livestock management and production, and animal waste management.

Youths begin early getting their animals ready for the popular April show, and it is vital to have someone to work them, Pitzer said.

"She did a great job with youths," Pitzer said. "It is important for people to understand why we need a livestock agent. Livestock is a major industry in Wayne County."

"The county is ready to go (to fill the position)," Extension Service Director Kevin Johnson said. "Right now we are still in a hold pattern, but I am optimistically waiting."

County Commission Chairman Steve Keen has sent a letter to state officials asking that the position be filled as quickly as possible, Johnson said.

"But they are in a situation, the university system keeps getting cut," he said.

The state is looking at prioritizing positions, and other areas are lobbying for their positions, he said. A state meeting is scheduled to look at priorities.

There have been talks of cuts and consolidation of positions, possibly creating multi-county jobs, Johnson said.

Johnson said neighboring counties including Johnston and Duplin had been asked for help when possible in the areas Ms. Coite was responsible for.

"Basically we are trying to keep afloat," he said. "There have been some retirements in the southeast district. The retirements free up money, but at the same time creates vacancies.

"I know that the (Wayne County) Livestock (Development) Association is very concerned. There are a lot of livestock activities in the county. Eileen is helping out at some of the shows but she has bought a house in Sampson County and will be moving that week."