This paper describes important developments undertaken to improve the performance of the Chinese extension system. During the early 1980s, 29 counties pilot tested a new organizational model whereby seven different county level stations were integrated into a County Agro-Technical Extension Center (CATEC). This new model greatly improved extension performance and is now being used in 80% of the counties. In addition, this integrated system strengthened linkages between CATECs and Township Agro-Technical Extension Stations (TATES), which organize front-line extension activities. TATES work through village-level farmer technicians and demonstration farm households in organizing demonstrations and farmer training. During the 1990s, specialized farm households and farmer associations (higher value products) have become an important target group for extension.
Passage of “Extension Law” in 1993 fully decentralized the extension system, so most funding comes from the corresponding level of government. County and township governments provide partial funding for extension programs and operations, but CATECs and TATES are expected to generate an increasing share of funding for extension programs. Many different funding approaches have been field- tested, however, the “Prescription and Filling the Prescription” model has gained broad acceptance. This approach is similar to how private firms and cooperatives in North America and Europe fund technical advisory services. The cost of these “privatized” advisory services is recovered directly from farmers when they purchase inputs directly from the “commercial” side of the extension center. Farmers prefer this new approach and the number of technical advisory personnel funded by these “commercialized agricultural services” has been greatly expanded.