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2005 William H. Hatch Lecture

Given by William B. DeLauder, President Emeritus, Delaware State University
National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges Annual Meeting
November 14, 2005, Washington, DC
DeLauder Biography (PDF)

“The Hatch Act of 1887: Legacy, Challenges and Opportunities”

Good Morning.
Thank you so much for the warmth of your welcome. I appreciate all the efforts of all the organizers that made it possible for me to be here. It is a distinct privilege and a very great honor for me to deliver the 2005 William Henry Hatch Memorial Lecture. It is a special honor because of the long list of distinguished Americans who have preceded me on this platform.

In a thirty-two year career in higher education spent equally between two great 1890 land-grant universities, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Delaware State University , I have had the privilege to experience and to learn about the unique and essential role that our land-grant universities play in improving the quality of life within these United States of America. These are truly engaged universities.

One of the things that America does better than any other country in the world is produce an abundance of safe and nutritious food and fiber. Most of the credit for this must go to the hard work and ingenuity of the American farmer.

But this success would not have been possible without the supporting research and cooperative extension work of our land-grant colleges and universities.

In 1987, John Patrick Jordan, former administrator of the Cooperative Research Service, observed that “research is the fuel for this dynamic industry we call agriculture.” Our farmers have used this fuel efficiently to collectively develop the most productive agriculture industry in the history of humankind.

One of the more tangible benefits of this agriculture industry is that average Americans spend less of their income on food than their counterparts across the world.

Through their teaching and research, our state universities and land-grant colleges have educated many individuals, both Americans and international scholars who have been some of the leaders of the world. In agriculture, a good indicator of this success is documented by the fact that, according to the President of the World Food Prize, fifteen of the past 24 recipients of the World Food Prize have been educated at our land-grant universities.

The World Food Prize is awarded to the individual or individuals who has or have made the greatest contribution to the advancement of the science of feeding people.

This prosperity and these accomplishments are due in large measure to the forward thinking and unyielding determination of Congressman William H. Hatch of Missouri.

After several years of debate and the introduction of various versions of an experiment station bill, Congressman Hatch, then chair of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced legislation to provide funding for the states and territories to establish Agriculture Experiment Stations.

Signed on March 2, 1887, The Hatch Act was the first of a series of legislations that provided land-grant universities with the financial resources needed to develop programs in agricultural research.

Under the provisions of the Act, each state or U.S. territory was funded to establish an agricultural experiment station in connection with the college or colleges established under the provisions of the First Morrill Act of 1862 or in the words of the Hatch Act, “of the acts supplementary thereto.” I will return to the latter point.

As Congressman Hatch had envisioned, these experiment stations formed unique partnerships between the states and the federal government and were expected to engage in basic and applied research that bears on and benefits the agricultural industry of the United States.

However, the initial funding for experiment stations was inadequate to fulfill the expectations of the Hatch Act. As a consequence, several supplementary pieces of legislation followed to increase the funding of agricultural experiment stations.

They were: (1) The Adams Act of 1906, (2) The Purnell Act of 1925, (3) The Bankhead-Jones Act of 1935, and (4) title I, section 9 of the 1945 amendment to the Bankhead-Jones Act. The Purnell Act not only increased funding but also expanded the scope of research to include economic and sociological investigations to improve rural homes and rural life.

The Bankhead-Jones Act established formula funding and required the state to provide matching dollars for research. In 1955, the Hatch Act of 1887 was amended to consolidate all previous laws that provided federal-grant funds for the operation of agricultural experiment stations.

I also remind you that the origins of NASULGC evolved from an earlier association formed specifically to coordinate the activities of the newly created experiment stations.

After the passage of the Hatch Act, the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations was formed in October 1887.

This organization experienced several name changes, broadened its membership and scope, and finally in 1965 settled on its current name, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

I have been a student of the history of the land-grant system, both because of its unique and essential system for the continued prosperity and vitality of this country and because of my passion for issues of equity and parity.

The current system has elements of both. The more research that I conduct on the history of land-grant, the more I discover new information and gain insight to the complexities of it past and purpose.

To illustrate this point, I will share with you an event told to me by Dr. Ulysses Washington, one of Delaware State University 's former agricultural research directors. Dr. Washington recalls a situation that occurred in 1960 when the late Dr. Luna I. Mishoe assumed the presidency of then Delaware State College.

Dr. Mishoe attended his first land-grant meeting and much of the discussion centered on agricultural experiment stations. Dr. Mishoe was a bit uneasy because he did not know where the Delaware State College experiment station was located.

Dr. Mishoe immediately called the campus and spoke with the head of the agricultural department. To his chagrin, he learned that Delaware State College did not have an experiment station.

Thus, Dr. Mishoe was introduced to one of the inequities that existed within the land-grant system. The fact of the matter is that most 1890 land-grant universities never received funding to establish an agricultural experiment station either under the Hatch Act or subsequent, supplementary acts or via State funding. I am aware of three exceptions, though I must admit that the record is unclear and somewhat ambiguous on this point.

To be sure, one of our problems is that we do not have a comprehensive and well-documented history of the 1890 land-grant universities. As best I have been able to determine, the three exceptions are:

(1) Tuskegee University in 1897 received funding from the state of Alabama to establish an experiment station. This was a testament to the research and extension work of George Washington Carver, one of our nation's great scientists and inventors.

(2) Prairie View A&M University established a branch experiment station to the Texas A&M University experiment station in 1947. And

(3) a branch experiment station to the Mississippi State experiment station was established at Alcorn State University around 1971 and was later designated as an autonomous station.

Nevertheless, the original language of the Hatch Act of 1887 or the law permitted the establishment of agricultural experiment stations at land-grant institutions established after 1862. The Hatch Act contains an important proviso that reads: “Provided, That in any State or Territory in which two such colleges have been or may be so established the appropriation hereinafter made to such State or Territory, shall be equally divided between such colleges unless the legislature of such State or Territory shall otherwise direct.”

My interpretation and understanding of this act is that the States, in accordance with federal law, could have established experiment stations at the 1890 colleges, but chose not to do so.

It took more than 75 years before the 1890 institutions received federal funding for agricultural research and extension. The initial research funding came as a result of Public Law 89-106 that was passed in 1967.

The initial formula funding for research and extension began in 1972. State matching was not required until FY 2000. One hundred percent State matching is not required until FY 2007.

This delay in funding significantly hindered the development of the research and extension programs of the 1890 land-grant institutions. I believe that one of the dire consequences of this deficiency was the fact that Black farmers in the south did not fully benefit from the expertise and assistance that could have been provided if these institutions had been properly funded.

One of the appalling and shameful American tragedies has been and continues to be the demise of the Black farmer. For example, in 1910, there were 218,972 Black farms in the United States, constituting about 15 million acres of farmland. By 1969, Black land ownership had declined to about 6 million acres. Today, it is estimated that there are fewer than 8,000 Black farmers.

Sadly, the decline in the Black farmer has occurred at three times the rate of white farmers. The land-grant system, the respective States, and U.S. Department of Agriculture all bear some responsibility for allowing this to happen.

It should also be pointed out that the 1890 land-grant universities tend to be much smaller in size and less endowed than the average 1862 land-grant universities. I do not believe this has happened by choice, but rather as a result of meager support for many decades, both by the federal government and the respective states, that limited growth and development.

As we look toward the future, two of the major challenges of land-grant colleges and universities are:

(1) the increased tension between formula research funding and competitive research grant funding and

(2) the call for increased accountability and relevance of formula funded research.

With regard to the first challenge, it is interesting to note the series of reports by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The series of reports began in 1972 and has been critical of the state of agricultural research and has advocated funding increases for competitive grants. In an NAS report published twenty-eight years later, the USDA was urged to make competitive grants a higher priority.

In these series of reports, NAS believed increased funding would ultimately engender more high risk research with potentials for long-term payoffs, attract scientists outside of the traditional agricultural disciplines and encourage multidisciplinary research.

Competitive funding for agricultural research at USDA was first authorized by Congress in 1977. It was greatly expanded in FY 1991 when Congress initiated the National Research Initiative (NRI).

In a 2002 report on publicly funded agricultural research, the NRC concluded that a major challenge existed in serving and meeting the needs of agricultural producers, both the large commercial producers and the smaller producers, including limited resource producers and producers of niche commodities. The NRC report raised the question: “Is it (agricultural research) equally accessible to all users and whether it is targeted to the full range of users and citizens groups?”

That assessment also recommended that a need exists for better accountability to the public. The report endorsed the idea of public participation in order to meet the needs of stakeholders. You will recall that a major theme of the Reports of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities was engagement with stakeholders in setting the research and outreach agendas.

In 2003, an NRC Committee on Opportunities in Agriculture recommended that USDA refocus its research budget to reflect changing public values and needs. The report also encouraged the USDA to shift its emphasis from increasing food and fiber production to frontier issues such as the impact of globalization, diet and health, food safety, environmentally sound farming alternatives, and the quality of life in rural communities.

Finally, the NRC report advocated that more multidisciplinary research is needed to address many of these issues, especially involving biophysical and socioeconomic disciplines.

Several of the recommendations of the various NRC reports, especially the need for more accountability, the encouragement for more interdisciplinary research, and the need to engage stakeholders in setting the research agenda, are consistent with the themes in the reports of the Kellogg Commission on the future of the State and Land-Grant Universities.

The Kellogg Commission Report titled, “Returning to Our Roots,” recommended that institutional leaders find new ways of encouraging interdisciplinary research, teaching, and learning as part of the engagement agenda. The Report noted that most of today's technical and scientific problems, and social challenges will require cross-disciplinary collaboration and scholarship.

In the Kellogg Commission Report “The Engaged Institution,” the Commission provided seven guiding principles to define an engaged institution. Two of them are particularly interesting for this discussion. They are (1) responsiveness and (2) respect for partners. The first principle advises us to ask the question: Are we listening to the communities, regions, and states we serve? The second principle demands us to answer the question: Do we respect the skills and capacities of our partners in collaborative projects?

I believe that an engaged university will be more responsive and accountable to its constituents.

I learned an impressive, pertinent and excellent example of the successful involvement of stakeholders in setting the research agenda during my participation in the World Food Prize activities in Des Moines, Iowa . In an article in the October 12 edition of The Des Moines Register , the 2005 recipient of the World Food Prize, Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta, explained how he used a bottom-up approach to adapt fish-farming techniques to the abilities and customs of farmers in India, Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand.

Dr. Gupta talked with the farmers in these countries, then developed the technology to meet the needs of the people who would use it. The result was high yielding fish-farming systems in those respective countries.

The bottom line was Dr. Gupta listened and responded to the stakeholders.

The two challenges I have suggested will not go away unless we change our approach to address them. If we do not, then we can expect support for formula funding, in particular, will continue to erode and cease to exist. And this is where we have a unique opportunity.

I believe that, properly utilized, formula funded and competitively funded research are both needed and should complement each other.

Formula funded research provides more of an opportunity to conduct applied and basic research that is relevant to the particular state or region. Competitive research grants provide an opportunity to conduct more cutting edge research that will provide long-term benefits.

We have an opportunity to change the perception that much of the formula funded research is irrelevant to the needs of their respective communities and states and that it lacks accountability. I believe that in the case of formula funded research, we must rethink our research agendas.

First, we must engage our stakeholders – small and large producers, limited resource farmers, people living in rural communities, and local, county, and state officials – to ascertain the needs as perceived by these constituents.

Second, we must establish research priorities consistent with the needs identified by our stakeholders.

Third, we must seek either partnerships or collaborations, when appropriate, to address the identified problems. The use of partnerships to attack problems will minimize unnecessary duplication of efforts and lead to a better utilization of resources to solve problems of mutual interest.

I especially believe that we should have more collaboration between the 1862 and 1890 universities that reside within the same state. This will only work if these collaborations are characterized by genuine mutual respect between the partners and a feeling by both that the partnership is mutually beneficial.

These partnerships have been minimal in the past, in part, because of mistrust, and in part, because the two partners were not viewed as equals. In my opinion, it is in our mutual self-interest to make these partnerships work for the mutual benefit of both partners.

I also believe that there should be more collaboration between 1890 universities and between 1862 universities as a whole, especially in addressing problems of mutual interest.

And, with respect to collaborations within the university, we must not restrict ourselves to disciplines within the College of Agriculture, but rather should consider the entire university and involve the disciplines such as social sciences, natural sciences, business or management and those that contribute to solving a particular problem.

Fourth, we must keep our publics informed about our progress and do so in a way that is easily understood.

I believe that this engagement approach will lead to improved research, more relevant research, better use of resources, and better accountability to our publics.

In summary, the Hatch Act of 1887 has a rich legacy; it has contributed to the development of the world's best agricultural research enterprise and to our land-grant colleges and universities. Our land-grant universities have contributed to the development of the world's most productive agriculture industry.

This has served us well in the past, but as we look toward the future, we face new challenges that offer new opportunities. To paraphrase the words of the Sixth Report of the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities: we must renew the covenant between our institutions and the public to again be “the publics universities” and to engage in activities to serve the common good.

Thank you.


Kerr, Norwood Allen. The Legacy: A Centennial History of the State Agricultural Experiment Stations 1887-1987. ( Columbia, Missouri: Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Missouri – Columbia, 1987).

Mayberry, B. D. The Role of Tuskegee University in the Origin, Growth and Development of the Negro Cooperative Extension System 1881-1990. (Tuskegee Institute, Alabama: Tuskegee University, 1989).

Environmental Working Group Report: Black Farmers. 2005, Washington, D.C.

National Academy of Sciences. 1972. Report of the Committee on Research Advisory to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 1972.

National Research Council. Investing in the National Research Initiative. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 1994.

National Research Council. National Research Initiative: A Vital Grants Program in Food, Fiber, and Natural Resources Research. Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 2000.

National Research Council. Publicly Funded Agricultural Research and the Changing Structure of U.S. Agriculture . Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 2002.

National Research Council. Frontiers in Agricultural Research: Food, Health, Environment, and Communities . Washington, D.C., National Academy Press, 2002.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Third Report. Returning to Our Roots: The Engaged Institution. Washington, D.C., National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1999.

Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities. Sixth Report. Renewing the Covenant: Learning, Discovery, and Engagement in a New Age and Different World. Washington, D.C., National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 2000.