For 1939 legislation limiting the political activity of federal employees, see Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act of 1887 (ch. 314, 24 Stat. 440, enacted 1887-03-02, 7 U.S.C. § 361a et seq.) gave federal funds, initially of $15,000 each, to state land-grant colleges in order to create a series of agricultural experiment stations, as well as distribute new scientific discoveries, especially in the areas of soil minerals and plant growth. The bill was named for Congressman William H. Hatch, who chaired the House Committee of Agriculture at the time the bill was introduced.
In the Morrill Act of 1862, Congress established a set of land grant universities to teach agriculture, mechanical arts and military tactic in each state. The land grants covered the cost of setting up the colleges, but did not provide for ongoing operating costs. Although these schools were making valuable scientific discoveries that helped make agriculture more successful, it was difficult to apply the new discoveries to the specific conditions and problems in each state. The institutions established by this law were to be operated as a part of the land grant colleges in order to give practical advice to farmers.
The outreach efforts of the stations were later expanded by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 to become the cooperative extension services of each state. By this series of legislation, the federal-state partnerships that funded the land grant colleges expanded their role to reach every county of every state providing knowledge about farming, home economics, nutrition, conservation and forestry.
Congress amended the act in 1955 to add a formula that uses rural and farm population factors to allocate the annual appropriation for agricultural experiment stations among the states. Under the 2002 farm bill (P.L. 107-171, Sec. 7212), states will continue to be required to provide at least 100% matching funds (traditionally, most states have provided more). On average, Hatch Act formula funds constitute 10% of total funding for each experiment station. 7 U.S.C. § 361a (et seq.)