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Agricultural Consultants

History

In the late 18th century, President George Washington decided to establish an educational agency of the federal government dedicated to assisting the nation's farmers. Washington's proposal eventually developed into what is now known as the Department of Agriculture.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln promoted the Morrill Act, which established land grant colleges. Under this act, each state was given 30,000 acres of land for each senator and representative in Congress. The state was to sell the land and use the proceeds to build colleges that would specialize in education for agriculture and engineering.

Once established, the state agricultural colleges were faced with the task of compiling enough data to develop an agricultural curriculum that would be of use to the American farmer. Under the Hatch Act of 1887, experimental stations were created. These agricultural laboratory settings were devoted to gathering information regarding soils, crops, livestock, fruits, and machinery. They became sources of information for both agricultural colleges and farmers.

Land-grant colleges became important resources for agricultural data and education. However, it soon became clear that it would be more effective to send people into the field who were familiar with the farmers' work and who were educated in the agricultural sciences than to expect farmers to leave their work or come from remote areas to attend college classes. Thus, the role of the agricultural consultant came into being.

The Cooperative Extension Service was developed and placed in operation in 1914 on a federal basis by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act. The service was opened to any state that wished to join the educational project on a cooperative basis, and most states accepted the opportunity. Because of this, every state agricultural college in the nation today has an extension service as one of its major departmental classifications.

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act created the CSREES, which expands the research and higher education functions of the former Cooperative State Research Service and the education and outreach functions of the former Extension Service. With the passage of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, CSREES became the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).