Smith-Lever Act of 1914 Primary Source eText

Primary Source

The Smith-Lever Act supported the establishment of agricultural colleges such as this one in Michigan. THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. The Smith-Lever Act supported the establishment of agricultural colleges such as this one in Michigan. THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. Published by Gale Cengage THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.


By: Hoke Smith and Asbury Francis Lever

Date: May 8, 1914

Source: Smith-Lever Act (Agricultural Extension Act) of 1914. Stat. 372, 7 USC 341 et seq., May 8, 1914. Reprinted in The Statutes at Large of the United States of America from March 1913 to March 1915, volume 38. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1915, 372–374. Available online at ; website homepage (accessed May 15, 2003).

About the Authors: Hoke Smith (1879–1931) began his career as a lawyer in private practice. He was appointed Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland (served 1885–1889 and 1893–1897) and was twice elected governor of Georgia. As governor and Democratic Georgia senator, Smith was an advocate for rural and agricultural interests. He was chairman of the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education in 1914.

Asbury Francis Lever (1875–1940) graduated from Newberry College in 1895 and Georgetown Law School in 1899. He represented South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives for ten consecutive terms from 1901 to 1919, and was chairman of that body's Committee on Agriculture from 1913 to 1919.


After the Civil War (1861–1865), the U.S. federal government became larger and more powerful, and its influence extended to new spheres. Education, traditionally funded and controlled solely by states and localities, was one area affected by this change. Two important examples of federal participation in education in the nineteenth century are the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, and the Hatch Experiment Station Act of 1887. The Morrill Act granted land to each state for the purpose of financing public colleges of "agriculture and mechanic arts." The Hatch Act allocated funds for each state to conduct agricultural experiment stations in partnership with the land-grant colleges and to distribute agricultural information.

During the late–nineteenth century and early–twentieth century, the need for more productive and efficient farms, combined with an explosion in agricultural science and the rapid development of new farming methods, resulted in a demand for accessible agricultural education for the farmer and rural youth. In addition, high schools were increasingly called upon to provide a more practical and vocationally oriented curriculum. The Hatch Act, with its provision for the distribution of information, was largely responsible for the development of special agricultural high schools, often begun as part of the experiment stations. Through the efforts of the Office of Experiment Stations, including advocacy and curriculum development, agricultural education became widespread in the public secondary schools. By 1916, over 4,000 high schools offered agricultural courses.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914, which created the Cooperative Extension Service, is often considered an expansion of the Hatch Act. Smith-Lever provided funding for "cooperative agricultural extension" programs: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the land-grant college and their experiment stations, would "extend" agricultural education to "persons not attending or resident in said colleges." The law provided funding for a wide variety of programs and activities for rural adults and youth on farming practices and home economics including classes, lectures, clubs, conferences, and demonstrations. Educational publications were also produced.


The Smith-Lever Act made it possible for farmers to learn about new methods developed at the experiment stations, through demonstrations and other direct instruction by county agricultural agents. Farmers had previously resisted learning about and using new techniques developed at the colleges and universities. Representative Lever pointed out that the Cooperative Extension Service could solve this problem by showing the farmer "… under his own vine and fig tree as it were, that you have a system better than the system which he himself has been following." The Cooperative Extension Service has been credited with the subsequent rapid diffusion of information on scientific farming methods.

The Smith-Lever Act set a precedent for large-scale federal involvement in vocational education. Three years later, the Smith-Hughes Act provided funds directly to secondary schools for vocational and agricultural education. The Smith-Lever Act was the first instance of a large-scale, federal education program requiring matching dollars from states, a method of funding subsequently used for the Smith-Hughes Act as well.

The law, having undergone a number of revisions, is still in effect today and includes land-grant universities in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Programs begun under the Cooperative Extension Service, such as 4-H Clubs, continue to provide important sources of agricultural education for youth and adults.

Primary Source: Smith-Lever Act of 1914

SYNOPSIS: The text of the Smith-Lever Act discusses the aims and goals of the law, the types of instruction included, and how and by whom such instruction will be carried out. Also included are the details of the amount of funding to be distributed, and the method for doing so.

Chap. 79.—AN ACT To provide for cooperative agricultural extension work between the agricultural colleges in the several States receiving the benefits of an Act of Congress approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and of Acts supplementary thereto, and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in order to aid in diffusing among the people of the United States useful and practical information on subjects relating to agriculture and home economics, and to encourage the application of the same, there may be inaugurated in connection with the college or colleges in each State now receiving, or which may here-after receive, the benefits of the Act of Congress approved July second, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, entitled "An Act donating public lands to the several States and Territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and the mechanic arts" (Twelfth Statues at Large, page five hundred and three), and of the Act of Congress approved August thirtieth, eighteen hundred and ninety (Twenty-sixth Statutes Large, page four hundred and seventeen and chapter eight hundred and forty-one), agricultural extension work which shall be carried on in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture: Provided, That in any State in which two or more such colleges have been or hereafter may be established, the appropriations hereinafter made to such State shall be administered by such college or colleges as the legislature of such State may direct: Provided further, That, pending the inauguration and development of the cooperative extension work herein authorized, nothing in this Act shall be construed to discontinue either the farm management work or the farmers' cooperative demonstration work as now conducted by the Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture.

Sec. 2. That cooperative agricultural extension work shall consist of the giving of instruction and practical demonstrations in agriculture and home economics to persons not attending or resident in said colleges in the several communities, and imparting to such persons information on said subjects through field demonstrations, publications, and otherwise; and this work shall be carried on in such manner as may be mutually agreed upon by the Secretary of Agriculture and the State agricultural college or colleges receiving the benefits of this Act.

Sec. 3. That for the purpose of paying the expenses of said cooperative agricultural extension work and the necessary printing and distributing of information in connection with the same, there is permanently appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sum of $480,000 for each year, $10,000 of which shall be paid annually, in the manner hereinafter provided, to each State which shall by action of its legislature assent to the provisions of this Act: Provided, That payment of such installments of the appropriation herein before made as shall become due to any State before the adjournment of the regular session of the legislature meeting next after the passage of this Act may, in the absence of prior legislative assent, be made upon the assent of the governor

thereof, duly certified to the Secretary of the Treasury: Provided further, That there is also appropriated an additional sum of $600,000 for the fiscal year following that in which the foregoing appropriation first becomes available, and for each year thereafter for seven years a sum exceeding by $500,000 the sum appropriated for each preceding year, and for each year thereafter there is permanently appropriated for each year the sum of $4,100,000 in addition to the sum of $480,000 hereinbefore provided: Provided further, That before the funds herein appropriated shall become available to any college for any fiscal year plans for the work to be carried on under this Act shall be submitted by the proper officials of each college and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. Such additional sums shall be used only for the purposes hereinbefore stated, and shall be allotted annually to each State by the Secretary of Agriculture and paid in the manner herein-before provided, in the proportion which the rural population of each State bears to the total rural population of all the States as determined by the next preceding Federal census: Provided further, That no payment out of the additional appropriations herein provided shall be made in any year to any State until an equal sum has been appropriated for that year by the legislature of such State, or provided by State, county, college, local authority, or individual contributions from within the State, for the maintenance of the cooperative agricultural extension work provided for in this Act.

Sec. 4. That the sums hereby appropriated for extension work shall be paid in equal semiannual payments on the first day of January and July of each year by the Secretary of the Treasury upon the warrant of the Secretary of Agriculture, out of the Treasury of the United States, to the treasurer or other officer of the State duly authorized by the laws of the State to receive the same; and such officer shall be required to report to the Secretary of Agriculture, on or before the first day of September of each year, a detailed statement of the amount so received during the previous fiscal year, and of its disbursement, on forms prescribed by the Secretary of Agriculture.

Sec. 5. That if any portion of the moneys received by the designated officer of any State for the support and maintenance of cooperative agricultural extension work, as provided in this Act, shall by any action or contingency be diminished or lost, or be misapplied, it shall be replaced by said State to which it belongs, and until so replaced no subsequent appropriation shall be apportioned or paid to said State, and no portion of said moneys shall be applied, directly or indirectly, to the purchase, erection, preservation, or repair of any building or buildings, or the purchase or rental of land, or in college-course teaching, lectures in colleges, promoting agricultural trains, or any other purpose not specified in this Act, and not more than five per centum of each annual appropriation shall be applied to the printing and distribution of publications. Shall be the duty of each of said colleges annually, on or before the first day of January, to make to the governor of the State in which it is located a full and detailed report of its operations in the direction of extension work as defined in this Act, including a detailed statement of receipts and expenditures from all sources for this purpose, a copy of which report shall be sent to the Secretary of Agriculture and to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.

Sec. 6. That on or before the first day of July in each year after the passage of this Act the Secretary of Agriculture shall ascertain and certify to the Secretary of the Treasury as to each State whether it is entitled to receive its share of the annual appropriation for cooperative agricultural extension work under this Act, and the amount which it is entitled to receive. If the Secretary of Agriculture shall withhold a certificate from any State of its appropriation, the facts and reasons therefor shall be reported to the President, and the amount involved shall be kept separate in the Treasury until the expiration of the Congress next succeeding a session of the legislature of any State from which a certificate has been withheld, in order that the State may, if it should so desire, appeal to Congress from the determination of the Secretary of Agriculture. If the next Congress shall not direct such sum to be paid, it shall be covered into the Treasury.

Sec. 7. That the Secretary of Agriculture shall make an annual report to Congress of the receipts, expenditures, and results of the cooperative agricultural extension work in all of the States receiving the benefits of this Act, and also whether the appropriation of any State has been withheld; and if so, the reasons therefor.

Sec. 8. That Congress may at any time alter, amend, or repeal any or all of the provisions of this Act.

Approved, May 8, 1914.

Further Resources


Butts, R. Freeman, and Lawrence Cremin. A History of Education in American Culture. New York: Henry Holt, 1953.

Prawl, M., et al. Adult and Continuing Education Through the Cooperative Extension Service. Columbia: University of Missouri, 1984.

Seevers, Brenda. Education Through Cooperative Extension. Albany, N.Y.: Delmar Publishers, 1997.

True, Alfred C. A History of Agricultural Education in the United States, 1785–1925. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication No. 36. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1929.


Camp, W.G., and J.R. Crunkilton. "History of Agricultural Education in America: The Great Individuals and Events." The Journal of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture 26, no. 1, 1985, 57–63.

Fuller, Wayne. "Making Better Farmers: The Study of Agriculture in Midwestern Schools, 1900–1923." Agricultural History 60, no. 2, 1986, 154–168.

Moore, Gary E. "The Involvement of Experiment Stations in Secondary Agricultural Education, 1887–1917." Agricultural History 62, no. 2, Spring 1988.


"4-H Centennial." Available online at; website home page (accessed March 6, 2003).

"Agricultural History Society." Available online at ; website home page (accessed March 6, 2003).

"Center for Agricultural History." Available online at ; website home page (accessed March 6, 2003).