I am beyond thrilled to share with you that Governor Newsom signed the state budget last night and it includes a historic increase for the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Not only does it restore UC ANR's budget to pre-COVID levels of FY 2019-20, but we received a 5% increase plus an additional $32 million in ongoing funding, bringing our total state budget to $107.9 million. This budget increase is transformational and will allow us to rebuild our academic footprint across the state.
We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Senator John Laird, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education, for his leadership and dedication to restoring UC ANR's budget, as well as UC ANR stakeholders who called for restored funding. Over the past 20 years, state funding for UC ANR decreased by almost 50% (adjusted for inflation), resulting in a significant reduction of UC ANR's Cooperative Extension Advisors and Specialists; from 427 positions in 2001 down to only 269 in 2021 – creating vacancies in many critical positions. UCCE personnel have been stretched thinner and thinner, most covering multiple counties to serve growing numbers of Californians. Senator Laird, former secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, recognized this critical need and fought adamantly to bring back Extension throughout California. Please join me in thanking Senator Laird and all of our stakeholders for their relentless support for UC ANR.
With this new funding, I am pleased to announce that we are releasing 20 UCCE academic positions for recruitment and look forward to releasing many more over the next several months. The new funding resulting from Senator Laird's support will rebuild our academic footprint. I wish to thank the Program Council for their work developing recommendations for the highest priority and most urgent 15 UCCE Advisor positions and five UCCE Specialist positions. Likewise, I thank the County Directors, Program Team Leaders, Statewide Program/Institute Directors, Research and Extension Center Directors, and Associate Deans for their efforts to identify the most pressing priority position needs, considering the 2018 and 2019 proposals and more recent departures. This input was critical to inform Program Council's recommendations and will prove critical for future releases.
I look forward to sending more information on the specific positions to be released soon! We will develop a timeline for prioritizing the next round of positions to release. While our priority is to fill current major gaps, we also must identifypositions to address California's emerging and future needs. This state budget increase will allow UC ANR to hire more people and achieve greater impact, but we will need to continue seeking funding from additional sources to attain the number of positions needed to significantly improve the lives of all Californians.
After a particularly challenging year, I hope you share my optimistic outlook as the FY 2021-22 budget brings relief with more resources to pursue the UC ANR mission of improving life for all Californians.