Extension Entomology (Insects)

Land-grant institutions have teaching, research, and outreach (service) as their missions. Cooperative extension is the university’s face to the state’s citizenry, just as teaching faculty are the university’s face to students and research faculty are the component visible to their academic peers around the world. In linking the university to the public, extension entomologists translate research results into practical applications and convey them to end users, while simultaneously apprising university researchers of real-world needs.


The Smith-Lever Act created the Cooperative Extension Service in 1914. However, several key legislative acts preceded Smith-Lever and these acts were critical in leading to the formation of the Cooperative Extension Service. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 (also known as the Land-Grant Acts) authorized that each state be granted 30,000 acres (12,141 ha) of public land for each senator and representative of the states in Congress at that time. Revenue generated from these lands was to be used for endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college to teach fields of study related to agriculture and mechanical arts “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”
The second Morrill Act provided funding to establish the 1890 land-grant institutions. Under the conditions of legal racial separation in the South during the late 1800s, black students were not permitted to attend the original land-grant institutions. Passage of the second Morrill Act expanded the 1862 system of land-grant universities to include historically black institutions.
The Hatch Act is often likened to a sturdy bridge between the Morrill Acts and the Smith-Lever Act. Signed on March 2, 1887, the Hatch Act gave this nation its network of agricultural experiment stations. The Hatch Act states that experiment stations should ” conduct original and other research, investigations and experiments bearing directly on and contributing to the establishment and maintenance of a permanent and effective agricultural industry.” These experiment stations were charged with conducting research for effective and efficient production of food and fiber. Research findings from systems across the country revised farming methods to fit America’s diverse geography, making farmers more productive.
The federal-state research partnerships funded through the Hatch Act supported research that addressed “hunger and poverty and the drudgery of subsistence agriculture production.” From its inception, research stations created by the Hatch Act were designed to meet the needs of agriculture in the areas in which the experiment stations were located, but the research generated often has far-reaching applications. In fact, research supported by Hatch Act funding benefits every person in the United States and much of the world.
The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Cooperative Extension Service. Senator Hoke Smith (Georgia) and Representative Frank Lever (South Carolina) introduced this act “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 application of the same.” This legislation created a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the land-grant universities, and the 1890 institutions that was charged to provide outreach education to the citizens of each state. In practical terms this legislation created the ability for representatives of land-grant universities and 1890 institutions to work with farm families on their farms to introduce research-based advances in agriculture, home economics, and other fields.
Today, this educational system includes professionals in each of America’s land-grant universities (in the 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Micronesia, and the District of Columbia) and in 16 1890 historically black, land-grant universities plus Tuskegee University.
The Cooperative Extension Service is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the land-grant institutions, and the 1890 institutions. Legislation in various states has also enabled local governments in the nation’s counties to become a fourth legal partner in this educational endeavor. Organization of the Cooperative Extension Service at national, international, state, regional, and county levels is discussed below.


At the national level, the Cooperative Extension Service is an integral part of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). The CSREES is a national research and education network that links education programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with land-grant institutions, with 1890 institutions, with agricultural experiment stations, with Cooperative Extension Services, with schools of forestry, and with colleges of agriculture, colleges of veterinary medicine, and colleges of human sciences. CSREES, in cooperation with all these partners, develops and supports research and extension programs in the food and agricultural sciences and related environmental and human sciences. Examples of some program areas in which CSREES and its partners are currently working include improving agricultural productivity; protecting animal and plant health; promoting human nutrition and health; strengthening children, youth, and families; and revitalizing rural American communities.
CSREES serves as a critical connection between research and extension. CSREES works with extension educators on identifying and communicating agricultural, environmental, and community problems (Table I). These problems are then relayed to researchers at the land-grant institutions and agricultural experiment stations. Working together, these partners initiate and stimulate new research that provides solutions to real-world problems.


Extension Educational Programs within CSREES
1. Provide model education programs on food safety; sustainable
agriculture; water quality; children, youth, and families; health;
environmental stewardship; and community economic
development in all 50 states, all U.S. territories, and the
District of Columbia.
2. Represent over 9000 local extension agents working in 3000
local county offices.
3. Engage more than 7 million young people, ages 5-19, in 4-H
programs for personal development and community service.
4. Involve over 3 million trained volunteers who work with out-
reach education programs nationwide.
5. Provide farm safety education programs in all 50 states and
Puerto Rico.
6. Provide pesticide applicator programs that train over half a
million people each year in safe and environmentally sound
pesticide use.
7. Develop eXtension, a coordinated, internet-based information
system where clientele have access to research-based balanced
information on a wide range of topics.


Although some industrialized countries have attempted to reduce costs by delegating extension responsibilities to the private sector, with varying degrees of success, most developing countries have modeled their extension systems on the U.S. paradigm. Frequently, extension outreach in third-world nations is funded by such agencies as the U.S. Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. These technology transfer programs typically are most effective when closely linked with university research programs, permitting rapid transmittal and adoption of research results. Alternatively, the outreach may be handled by such governmental entities as the ministry of agriculture.


Organizational structure of the Cooperative Extension Services varies greatly in size from state to state. In general, leadership of Cooperative Extension Services within each state is the responsibility of the dean and/or director of the agricultural college of the land-grant university and/or 1890 institution within each state. These directors provide leadership to an administrative staff that often includes associate and/or assistant deans of extension, directors of county operations, department heads and/or extension program leaders within various scientific disciplines, and directors of units that support programming. In states with numerous counties, the organizational structure often includes regional administrators that serve under the Cooperative Extension director.
The extension director, along with administrators within each scientific discipline, also oversees a faculty of extension specialists. These specialists serve as educational resources to county agents and their clientele in various subject matter/disciplines. Extension specialists are most often administratively based within their academic department and may be located on the main campus of the land-grant university, at experiment stations or, occasionally, within county extension offices.
The organization of an extension office at the county level also varies greatly from state to state and county to county. In areas of the United States that have very low populations there are county offices with only one county extension agent, responsible for the administration and delivery of programming in all subject areas. In more populated areas, county extension offices often house several agents with program areas divided among agents.

Cooperative Extension at the County Level

The interface between extension entomologists on the state and county staff tends to follow a similar model in the majority of states. At the state level the positions are usually tied to a university academic unit and filled with a Ph.D.-level entomologist. These persons would either be full-time extension or have a partial extension appointment combined with other duties, including teaching and/or research. At the county level, job responsibilities and qualifications may vary; however, some common models are evident. County-level extension entomologists usually are termed agents, advisors, or educators, terms used synonymously within this article. Additionally, entomology positions typically fall under either Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) or 4-H and Youth programmatic areas.
County agents initially were itinerant teachers hired for their practical farm and home experiences. Today extension educators are highly trained, often specialized, professionals. Generally extension educator positions require a master’s degree or a bachelor’s degree with significant related experience. At least one degree in a discipline related to the specialty area is usually required. Specialty areas may include entomology but could be any related field such as botany, plant pathology, agronomy, horticulture, general agriculture, soil science, or animal science. Forty-one percent of educators have one-half or more of their job assignments in agriculture. County agents with agricultural backgrounds are expanding their roles to serve urban/suburban clientele as programs such as Master Gardeners become more successful.
County-based extension entomologists, whether ANR or 4-H and youth based, need to be highly skilled, technically based professionals with excellent people, writing, and presentation skills; multitasking abilities; and willingness to work flexible hours.

Extension Specialists

Although extension agents are located in the counties and are expected to have broad expertise, extension specialists typically are housed on university campuses and specialize in discipline areas. The position of Cooperative Extension Specialist is one of statewide leadership toward university colleagues, agricultural industries, consumers, youth, policymakers, and governmental and other agencies. The specialist keeps campus and county colleagues and clientele apprised of emerging issues and research findings and directions, works with them to develop applications of research knowledge to specific problems, and provides educational leadership and technical information support for county staff/clientele.
A Cooperative Extension Specialist is a primary liaison with university research units, providing leadership, facilitating teamwork, developing collaborative relationships with colleagues, and ensuring appropriate external input into research and educational program planning by the Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) and Cooperative Extension. Ideally, the AES-extension relationship is a seamless continuum, with extension identifying timely research opportunities to AES colleagues and conveying research results to clientele. The specialist also defines and considers needs of relevant clientele groups in planning, development, and execution of applied research and education programs.


Specialists provide leadership for nonformal education of end users, intermediate users, and the public. In addition to directing planning and coordination of statewide extension education and information transfer programs related to areas of responsibility, specialists facilitate coordination of workgroup activities with appropriate internal and external organizations. Specialists serve as scientific and technical resources on work groups, providing disciplinary input and perspective.
Specialists’ education efforts are directed toward four main clientele groups—county agents, producer/professional groups, public/private agencies, and the general public. They educate and serve as teaching resources in areas of responsibility for extension county/ area personnel via individual consultations, conferences, and workshops. In addition to formal teaching at training sessions, specialists provide one-on-one consultation in person, electronically, and by telephone.
Specialists prepare and evaluate educational materials, such as publications, newsletters, slide sets, videotapes, computer software, and other learning aids, to extend subject matter information to county staff and the public sector. Because county agents are the main public interface, specialists focus on ” training the trainers, ” developing county skills to serve clientele. In addition, specialists assist agents in customizing materials for their clientele and disseminate industry-appropriate articles through relevant channels.
Although term-length, resident classroom instruction is not the norm for full-time extension specialists, they may participate in teaching programs (via lectures and seminars) of relevant campus-based courses. Doing so permits specialists to serve as models for students developing careers in extension while fostering interactions with undergraduate and graduate students, providing these groups a vision of the third function of a university. In addition, specialists train graduate students, serve on advisory committees, and participate in other graduate education activities.


Like their AES counterparts, specialists are expected to plan, conduct, and publish results of applied research/creative activity directed toward resolution of important issues or problems, independently or, more commonly, in collaboration with other research and extension personnel (including county agents). In addition, specialists provide leadership for planning and coordination of applied research activities related to areas of responsibility with departmental and other researchers, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration and work-group participation.
Research and creative activity include synthesis and interpretation of extant knowledge, an integral aspect of the Smith-Lever mission. Extension fulfills its role by assisting in formulating policy and establishing regulatory standards and mechanisms, providing science-based information upon which policy decisions are made, and serving as the university’s liaison with nongovernmental organizations and historically underserved groups.


Specialists participate in appropriate professional societies and educational organizations and serve on state, regional, national, and international committees; review panels; and editorial boards. Enhanced professional stature accrues to the reputations of specialists’ home institutions in addition to reflecting positively on CSREES.


As good university citizens, specialists participate in activities of committees within the department, college, campus, and other university entities. Serving as liaisons, specialists respond to regulatory and state and federal agencies, external groups, industry organizations, and the media on issues related to areas of expertise, as well as representing the university to producer groups and other organizations.
The value of Cooperative Extension is its ability to design, develop, and deliver educational programs that meet the unique needs of people as they adjust to change. The Smith-Lever Act specifies that the main function of Cooperative Extension is synthesis of existing knowledge, ancillary to creation of new knowledge. The complementarity of AES and Cooperative Extension is demonstrated not only in that extension takes AES’s discoveries to the people but also in extension’s conveying the needs of the citizenry to AES researchers, ensuring that these issues are addressed.

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