- Cooperative extension service
The Cooperative Extension Service, also known as the Extension Service of the USDA, is a non-formal educational program implemented in the United States designed to help people use research-based knowledge to improve their lives. The service is provided by the state's designated land-grant universities. In most states the educational offerings are in the areas of agriculture and food, home and family, the environment, community economic development, and youth and 4-H. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the USDA administers funding for Smith Lever Act services in cooperation with state and county governments and land-grant universities.
The four National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) research funding programs for land-grant universities are (1) Hatch, (2) Multistate Research (a subset of Hatch), (3) McIntire-Stennis, and (4) Animal Health.
Cooperative Extension System
This table summarizes the cooperative extension programs in each state. (Under the 1890 amendment to the Morrill Act, if a state's land-grant university was not open to all races, a separate land-grant university had to be established for each race. Hence, some states have more than one land-grant university.)
The roots of U.S. agricultural extension go back to the early years of the country. There were agricultural societies and clubs after the American Revolution, and in 1810 came the first Farm Journal. It survived for only 2 years, but in 1819 John Stuart Skinner of Baltimore began publishing the American Farmer. Farmers were encouraged to report on their achievements and their methods of solving problems. Some worthwhile ideas, along with some utterly useless ones, appeared on the pages of the publication.
The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions. Extension was formalized in 1914, with the Smith-Lever Act (link to that topic in About Us). It established the partnership between the agricultural colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide for cooperative agricultural extension work. At the heart of agricultural extension work, according to the Act, was:
- Developing practical applications of research knowledge.
- Giving instruction and practical demonstrations of existing or improved practices or technologies in agriculture.
Smith-Lever mandated that the Federal Government (through USDA) provide each state with funds based on a population-related formula. Today, NIFA distributes these so-called formula grants annually.
The extension service's first big test came during World War I, when it helped the nation meet its wartime needs by:
- Increasing wheat acreage significantly, from an average of 47 million acres (190,000 km2) annually in 1913 to 74 million in 1919.
- Helping the USDA implement its new authority to encourage farm production, marketing, and conserving of perishable products by canning, drying, and preserving.
- Helping to address war-related farm labor shortages at harvest time by organizing the Women's Land Army and the Boys' Working Reserve.
More generally, extension's role in WWI helped it expand its reputation as an educational entity to one that also emphasized service for individuals, organizations, and the Federal Government.
During the Great Depression, state colleges and the USDA emphasized farm management for individual farmers. Extension agents taught farmers about marketing and helped farm groups organize both buying and selling cooperatives. At the same time, extension home economists taught farm women—who traditionally maintained the household—good nutrition, canning surplus foods, house gardening, home poultry production, home nursing, furniture refinishing, and sewing—skills that helped many farm families survive the years of economic depression and drought.
During World War II, the extension service again worked with farmers and their families, along with 4-H club members, to secure the production increases essential to the war effort. Each year for 5 years, total food production increased. In 1944, food production was 38 percent above the 1935–1939 average.
The Victory Garden Program was one of the most popular programs in the war period, and extension agents developed programs to provide seed, fertilizer, and simple gardening tools for victory gardeners. An estimated 15 million families planted victory gardens in 1942, and in 1943 some 20 million victory gardens produced more than 40 percent of the vegetables grown for that year's fresh consumption.
Between 1950 and 1997, the number of farms in the U.S. declined dramatically—from 5.4 million to 1.9 million. Because the amount of farmland did not decrease as much as the number of farms, the remaining farms have a larger average acreage. During the same period, farm production increased from one farmer supporting the food needs of 15.5 persons in 1950 to one farmer supporting 100 persons in 1990. By 1997, one farmer supported the food needs of almost 140 U.S. citizens. That increased productivity, despite the decline in farm numbers, resulted from increased mechanization, commercial fertilizers, new hybrid seeds, and other technologies. Extension played an important role in extending these new technologies to U.S. farmers and ranchers.
Extension today (including eXtension)
Over the last century, extension has adapted to changing times and landscapes, and it continues to address a wide range of human, plant, and animal needs in both urban and rural areas. Today, extension works in six major areas:
- 4-H Youth Development —cultivates important life skills in youth that build character and assist them in making appropriate life and career choices. At-risk youth participate in school retention and enrichment programs. Youth learn science, math, social skills, and much more, through hands-on projects and activities.
- Agriculture —research and educational programs help individuals learn new ways to produce income through alternative enterprises, improved marketing strategies, and management skills and help farmers and ranchers improve productivity through resource management, controlling crop pests, soil testing, livestock production practices, and marketing.
- Leadership Development —trains extension professionals and volunteers to deliver programs in gardening, health and safety, family and consumer issues, and 4-H youth development and serve in leadership roles in the community.
- Natural Resources —teaches landowners and homeowners how to use natural resources wisely and protect the environment with educational programs in water quality, timber management, composting, lawn waste management, and recycling.
- Family and Consumer Sciences —helps families become resilient and healthy by teaching nutrition, food preparation skills, positive child care, family communication, financial management, and health care strategies.
- Community and Economic Development —helps local governments investigate and create viable options for economic and community development, such as improved job creation and retention, small and medium-sized business development, effective and coordinated emergency response, solid waste disposal, tourism development, workforce education, and land use planning.
Regardless of the program, extension expertise meets public needs at the local level. Although the number of local extension offices has declined over the years, and some county offices have consolidated into regional extension centers, there remain approximately 2,900 extension offices nationwide. Increasingly, extension serves a growing, increasingly diverse constituency with fewer and fewer resources.
The extension system also supports the eXtension Web site. One of the goals of eXtension is to develop a coordinated, Internet-based information system where customers will have round-the-clock access to trustworthy, balanced views of specialized information and education on a wide range of topics. For customers, the value will be personalized, validated information addressing their specific questions, issues, and life events in an aggregated, non-duplicative approach.
Information on the eXtension Web site is organized into Communities of Practice (COP). Each COP includes articles, news, events, and frequently asked questions (FAQs). The information comes from Land-Grant University System faculty and staff experts. It is based on unbiased research and undergoes peer review prior to publication. Current COPs are organized around many topics, including but not limited to diversity, entrepreneurship, agrosecurity, cotton, dairy cattle, and more.
The eXtension Web site also includes a collection of news stories from partner institutions, a Frequently Asked Questions section, a calendar of extension events, online-learning opportunities, and content feeds.
- Gardening, information directory
- eXtension in virtual worlds
- eXtension.org Dairy Cattle CoP
- Extension, citizen questions, all
- American Indian
- Australia, West
- Caribbean and surrounding areas
- Caribbean, fact sheets
- India, all
- India, Hindi and Marathi
- India, Union Territory
- India, other Province links
- Mexico: Contact your local Unidad de capacitacion para el Desarrollo Rural (UNCADER)
- Mexican virtual library
- United Kingdom
- Ireland, all
- Ireland, potatoes
- Ireland, Organic
- Ireland, organic and Farmer's Markets
- Ireland, pesticides
- United States (CREES)
- Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Cooperative Extension Services
- ^ http://www.cuaes.cornell.edu/CUAESWeb/funding.htm Retrieved 2007-10-22.
- ^ http://www.csrees.usda.gov/qlinks/partners/partners_list.pdf Retrieve 2007-10-22.
- ^ Although Tuskeegee University has been a private university, it began to receive Cooperative Extension funding in 1972.
- ^ http://www.csrees.usda.gov/qlinks/extension.html#yesterday
United States government agencies involved in environmental scienceUnited States Environmental Protection Agency • National Aeronautics and Space Administration Department of the Interior Department of Commerce Department of Energy Department of AgricultureFarm Service Agency • Foreign Agricultural Service • Risk Management Agency • Food Safety and Inspection Service • Forest Service • Natural Resources Conservation Service • Rural Business-Cooperative Service • Office of Community Development • Rural Housing Service • Rural Utilities Service • Food and Nutrition Service • Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion • Agricultural Marketing Service • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service • Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration • Agricultural Research Service • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service • Economic Research Service • National Agricultural Statistics Service • Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service Department of Health
and Human Services
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