The Agricultural Extension Service


ANNCR: The Agricultural Extension Service – on Today's Congressional Moment.

Fifty years ago, the average farmer in this country produced enough to feed 27 people. Today, he or she can feed more than 130. Why are American farms so productive? It's partly because of a bill passed by Congress in 1914.

Known as the Smith–Lever Act, it created the Agricultural Extension Service, the partnership between agricultural universities and county farm agents that develops practical applications for research and gets that information out to farmers, through an extensive outreach effort. As a result of Smith–Lever, the astounding variety of agricultural research funded by the federal government at leading universities— into crop varieties, animal care, soils, marketing strategies, water quality and a host of other subjects — doesn't just sit in dusty reports. Instead, it finds its way to the nation's farmers, thanks to extension agents.

There are 2,900 extension offices nationwide now, and even though fewer people farm, they're as busy as ever. They run 4–H programs, help landowners and homeowners use their land wisely, teach about nutrition, and work with communities on economic development. If you haven't met an extension agent yourself, odds are that some of your neighbors — and certainly the farmers who grow the food on your table — have.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at