Section 4: The Organization of Missouri Extension

University of Missouri Extension is a unique partnership among federal, state and local governments. This partnership gives MU Extension flexibility in its delivery of programs, innovation in its approach to administration, and an ability to be comprehensive in its assessment of societal trends and educational needs among the people it serves. The partnership can be symbolized by three interlocking circles.

At the federal level, extension is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, headed by the administrator for the Cooperative Extension System who reports to the assistant secretary of agriculture for science and education. The administrative head of MU Extension is the vice chancellor for extension and engagement. At the local level, MU Extension is supported by 114 county governments and administered by elected county extension councils.

Federal legislation

Each partner has a legislative basis for participation in extension activities. The Cooperative Extension Service was established by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. This federal legislation established the three-part support of extension, creating operating mechanisms through the USDA and establishing the link with the land-grant universities that were previously authorized by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

Missouri statutes

Prior to the passage of Smith-Lever in 1914, the Missouri Legislature had authorized county courts (now called county commissions) to appropriate funds for a county farm advisor to work with the University of Missouri to encourage modern farm practices. Subsequent legislation was passed in 1919, 1923, 1943 and 1945 to continue this work. In 1955, all previous laws related to extension were repealed and a new law enacted, which provided for the organization of extension at the county level under the supervision of an elected extension council. Today's legislation is found in the Missouri Revised Statues, Section 262.550 to 262.620.

County participation

The authorizing legislation in Missouri mandates the participation of county governments in extension by establishing minimum financial support from county appropriations, according to the assessed valuation of the county. In addition, the county commission appoints one of its members to serve on the county extension council to assure cooperation and coordination.

USDA organization

The administrator for the Cooperative Extension System within USDA oversees the work of program leaders in agriculture, home economics and human nutrition, 4-H and youth development, natural resources and rural development, and program development, evaluation and management systems. Congress has oversight committees in both houses. A variety of structures at national and regional levels add to the delivery and evaluation of extension programs, including the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges and the Regional Rural Development Centers.

In Missouri, MU Extension coordinates extension programming of all four campuses managed under the Chancellor of MU-Columbia. IMPACT Leaflet No. 10b shows how MU Extension is organized.

UM System administration

The ultimate policy-making and operational responsibility for MU Extension through the UM System rests with the nine-member Board of Curators appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Missouri Senate. The chancellor of MU-Columbia has administrative responsibility for MU Extension. This responsibility is delegated to the vice chancellor for extension and engagement.

Program direction

Reporting to the vice chancellor for extension and engagement in Missouri is the associate vice chancellor for extension and engagement. Eight regional directors and five senior program directors report to the associate vice chancellor for extension and engagement. These directors co-supervise the field faculty specialists and staff working at the county level. Each county has an engagement specialist to assist with the day-to-day operation of the county extension center.

Extension on campus

Campus faculty specialists are responsible to the deans of their respective schools or colleges. Extension field faculty specialists have working relationships with campus faculty specialists for the development of programs to meet the needs of local people.

Lincoln University

In addition to the four-campus UM System, Extension in Missouri has an additional component — Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LU). LU is an 1890 land-grant university and operates a variety of research and extension programs in cooperation with the UM System. The LU Board of Curators has responsibility for setting policy and overseeing administration of LU's Extension program. The board in turn delegates that authority to the director of cooperative extension through the president of the University. LU employs state extension specialists in agriculture, home economics, community development, youth development and gerontology. They work with UM System faculty specialists in Missouri's 114 counties.

Extension in the county

Extension is most visible at the county level. Two groups play important roles in carrying out the extension mission — the county commission and the county extension council. The county commission is a 3-member, elected body, which oversees the administration of public business in a variety of areas, including safety, transportation and social services. The commission makes funds available for the extension office and programs. In addition, the commission represents citizens at large by appointing one of its members to serve on the county extension council.

The county extension council is an elected body whose responsibility is to work as a partner with field faculty specialists to select, develop and promote educational programs through the extension network. Made up of not less than 10 nor more than 20 elected members, as well as some appointed members (see Section 11 for details), the council works with the county commission and staff to develop and oversee an educational program that will meet the needs of county citizens. Council members may serve two consecutive two-year terms and may be re-elected after one year off the council.

In addition to the county commission model, there is a county executive model used by chartered counties. In these counties, legislative and executive authority is provided by a 7- to 9-member elected body, with a county executive. Under the county executive model, the council makes the laws for the county, while the executive carries out the law.

In summary

While extension's organizational structure may appear complicated with many participants playing roles, this diversity at the three levels ensures accountability and responsiveness to the needs and desires of those whom MU Extension serves. Extension's strength is its flexibility and adaptability in ever-changing national, state and local environments.


Regional Directors map (PDF)