4-H Policies and Guidelines

The Role of USDA in 4-H

The legislation establishing the land-grant system, the Department of Agriculture, and the subsequent legislation establishing the Cooperative Extension Service, have proven to be some of the most significant legislation passed in improving the quality of life in the United States. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the federal-state-local partnership between USDA, the Cooperative Extension Service, the land-grant university system and local governments. The Smith-Lever Act also nationalized 4-H youth development programs and by 1924, 4-H clubs were formed across the country and the 4-H Name and Emblem was adopted.

The 4-H Name & Emblem are intended to represent the ideals of the program with its focus on Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. Today, it is one of the best-known and most valued images emblematic of more than a century of 4-H achievement.  As a federal mark, the 4-H Name and Emblem are protected by 18 USC 707. The United States Congress has legislated responsibility for the proper management of the 4-H Name and Emblem to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture has delegated that authority to the Division of Youth & 4-H within NIFA .  The Division of Youth & 4-H houses the 4-H National Headquarters, which provides programmatic leadership to the 4-H youth development program at the federal level.

Unique Public - Private Partnership

4-H is lead by a unique private-public partnership of the Cooperative Extension System, land-grant universities, federal, state and local government agencies, and foundations. These partners work together to provide rich educational content and curriculum, resources in cutting-edge technology, insight into the latest national issues and innovative thought-leadership.

4-H National Headquarters, NIFA

4-H National Headquarters provides national program leadership to identify, develop and manage high quality youth development programs, through the extension land-grant system for 4-H.  NIFA provides federal funding to the system and, through program leadership, helps Cooperative Extension System and land-grant universities take research-based knowledge and expertise to identify and address current issues/problems facing youth in rural, suburban and urban communities.

Cooperative Extension System

The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices.  Youth development educators use cutting-edge research to support volunteers and communities in providing youth with rich, educational, hands-on learning programs and activities.  4-H programs are implemented and managed directly by the state and local Cooperative Extension offices of the 114 land-grant colleges and universities across the country.

National 4-H Council

National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of 4-H at all levels - national, state and local.  Established in 1976  through the merger of the National 4-H Foundation and the National 4-H Service Committee, National 4-H Council works to build stronger 4-H programs through national fundraising support, marketing and brand management.  National 4-H Council also oversees the operation of the National 4-H Youth Conference Center and the National 4-H Supply Service, the authorized agent for promotional items bearing the 4-H Name and Emblem.