The 4-H program is a part of University of Missouri Extension Cooperative Service.
MU was founded in 1839 in Columbia and was the first public institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River. It became a land grant university after the passing of the Morrill Act of 1862. Senator Justin Morrill is considered to be the father of the United States system of land grant universities and the grandfather of extension programs. He believed that the key to democracy, peace, and prosperity was to provide educational opportunities for all Americans. After several attempts to pass the Morrill Act, it was finally signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
In 1890, a second Morrill Act was passed. It provided funding of opportunities for African Americans and, consequently, Missouri established Lincoln University in Jefferson City. Previous to the second Morrill Act, legislation was introduced by Missourian Wm. H. Hatch, legislation that congress passed in 1887. The Hatch Act provided federal funding for agriculture research stations and expanded the capabilities of agriculture research at land grant universities. This laid the groundwork for congress to establish the cooperative extension service—the Smith-Lever Act of 1914—an act that was signed into law that year by President Woodrow Wilson. The purpose of the law is to help provide practical and useful information to individuals on numerous subjects relating to agriculture.
Congress, seeing the importance of food production in our nation, used the Smith-Lever Act to create the extension services, and utilized land grant universities like MU and Lincoln University, to bring reliable, responsible, and relevant research-based information to those individuals who produce America’s food. In 1927, 4-H became a part of the extension program and was designed to provide educational services to young people. Last year Extension celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
Throughout the years since its inception, the Missouri Extension has been the state sponsor in agriculture-related education. Today, the University of Missouri is one of the nation’s largest institutions of higher education, with over 77,000 students at four different campuses in our state. Also, the University provides extension programs in all 114 Missouri counties. Personally, it has been my privilege to work with the University’s Extension leadership to sponsor and pass much needed legislation to help keep the extension program strong on into the future.
Even though many positive educational opportunities exist at MU, it was disturbing to read and hear about the unrest taking place at the main campus in Columbia, unrest that made national headlines. The protest by some of the students and some faculty members targeted the school’s leadership, specifically the president and the chancellor, who both ended up resigning for their perceived failure “to take action” and to address issues of racial intolerance and diversity. Now the University, with a new interim president, plans to take steps to address this situation. It is my desire that these problems can be resolved quickly in order for “students to return to an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.” Perhaps they can glean some lessons in character and integrity from those young people we honored last Saturday at the awards banquet. This is only one of the reasons that I continue, and I urge you to continue, to support our local 4-H youth program.