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What is the NCRA?

(Adapted in part from

The NCRA is one of five regional associations responsible for facilitating the cooperation of regional and national research, part of the national agInnovation (formerly ESS, Experiment Station Section), the national agricultural experiment station section. The research is supported in part by the Multistate Research Fund (MRF), which is a federal appropriation authorized by the Hatch Act. Additional support comes from other federal programs as well as state and private sources. The research program focuses on regional priorities that are identified and developed jointly by State Agricultural Experiment Station (SAES) Directors, Departmental Chairs, and participating scientists. Our office serves the 12 Experiment Stations in the North Central region.

Where does the NCRA fit in with other APLU Commission on Commission on Food, Environment, and Renewable Resources (CFERR) groups?  See our organizational chart.

Early History of the Regional Offices

In October 1887, the United States established the Association of American Agricultural Colleges and Experiment Stations, followed by the creation of the Experiment Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP; in 1905. The oldest of the “COPs”, ESCOP originally consisted of six AES directors who monitored the system and developed administrative mechanisms to meet the need to plan and organize research and to make results accessible to our stakeholders.

In 1946, the Research and Marketing Act set aside 25% of Title 1, Section 9 (Hatch funds) for regional research. In 1947, the NCRA was established to assist with the planning and management of research activities important to the region. The Congressional requirement that all agricultural experiment stations spend 25% of the Hatch formula fund allocation on regional research also contributed to the formation of the association. This regional commitment was redefined in the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 to “multistate research”, the multistate research fund (MRF) was created, and there were new requirements for integrated multistate research and extension activities.

In 2001, the NCRA partnered with the directors of cooperative extension and academic programs in the North Central region with a commitment to develop increased functional integration of multistate activities. The commitment has resulted in new multistate activities driven by Extension and/or Academic Programs as well as increased participation in other North Central region multistate projects by extension faculty.

In 2023, the Experiment Station Section was re-branded to agInnovation (, of which the NCRA is an active part and member.

Currently, the NCRA manages about 80 multistate projects. About half of these are “research” projects, supported by the MRF, which must meet a number of criteria including both regional and USDA approval. The remaining projects are Coordinating Committees (CCs) and integrated Extension/Education Research Activities (ERAs) which involve research, extension, and/or education.

The NCRA presently employs Dr. Jeanette Thurston as Executive Director and Ms. Christina Hamilton as Assistant Director. Dr. Thurston is based at Kansas State University and Ms. Hamilton is hosted by the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Together they manage the region’s portfolio of multistate projects and other functions. These duties include program management, regular needs assessments, facilitating project development and review, and assuring accountability. Moreover, the office serves as the principal liaison with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) of USDA. The regional office is supported through a pro-rata assessment of its members.

The regional Executive Directors have national responsibilities within agInnovation and the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP), formed in 1905, which is the executive governing body for agInnovation under the Board on Agriculture Assembly within the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) The Executive Directors provide crucial support to all ESCOP activities and to the national agenda with USDA and Congress.

Members of the NCRA

NCRA Est. 1947 Dr. Jeanette Thurston, Executive Director; Ms. Christina Hamilton, Assistant Director,



The Regional Associations

SAAESD- Southern Region
Est. 1946 Dr. Gary Thompson, Executive Director; Ms. Cindy Morley, Program Coordinator

NCRA- North Central Region
Est. 1947 Dr. Jeanette Thurston, Executive Director; Ms. Christina Hamilton, Assistant Director

NERA- Northeastern Region
Est. 1947 Dr. Richard C. Rhodes III, Executive Director; Mr. David Leibovitz, NERA Coordinator

WAAESD- Western Region
Est. 1948 Dr. Bret Hess, Executive Director; Ms. Jennifer Tippetts, Administrative Management

ARD- 1890 Land-Grant Universities
Est. 1972 Dr. Alton Thompson, Executive Director; Ms. Lisa Williamson, Executive Assistant

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