Two units of Mississippi State University, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) and the MSU Extension Service, established a research program, extension capabilities, and a diagnostic laboratory in Stoneville in 1980. Two years later, the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine began a disease research program. MSU was chosen as the host institution for the USDA-NIFA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center in 1985 and is housed at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center (NWAC). MAFES added a feeds and feeding research program in 1986 and a disease research program in 1995. In 1987, the USDA Agriculture Research Service established the Catfish Genetics Research Unit to conduct genetics and breeding research. NWAC was formally organized into its current structure in 1997. Recently, the USDA-ARS unit was renamed the Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit to better reflect its expanded research mission.
NWAC personnel consist of researchers, specialists, veterinarians, and support staff from MSU's Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, MSU Extension Service, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, USDA Agriculture Research Service, and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Presently, there are 15 scientists and 42 support personnel associated with the Center.
Research areas include nutrition and feeding, production systems, water quality, genetics and breeding, production economics, fish diseases, and fish health management. The diagnostic laboratory averages over 770 cases each year. In addition to farm visits, workshops, and publications, Extension specialists provide support to commodity associations on issues such as disaster assistance and inspection. Wildlife Services personnel provide support in preventing wildlife damages to catfish facilities.