The NCIA is a non-profit, educational, and service organization founded in 1902. The Association policies and certified seed standards are determined by a ten-member board of the directors. Seven directors are elected from the membership. The other three directors are ex-officio representing the Nebraska Seed Trade Association; the University of Nebraska Department of Agronomy' and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The officers are elected/appointed annually by the Board. The Association office and seed lab are located in the Plant Science Hall on the East Campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Its operation and activities are fully funded through fees paid by members for service. The agency's name was changed to the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association in 1942.

Specific purposes of the Association are 1.) to carry out all activities associated with certification of crop seeds, 2.) to encourage the production of high quality seed of superior varieties grown and distributed under the most careful conditions so as to assure varietal identity and purity, 3.) to make known to the public the sources of such seed suppliers, 4.) to carry on educational work for improving the agronomic practices and furthering agricultural interests in the states.

Operating as an independent, unbiased organization, the NCIA enhances the value of seed and crops through professional, personalized services that meet seed producer, marketer, and industry needs. NCIA programs contribute to agricultural diversity, productivity, and sustainability while providing quality and innovation to those who feed the world.

Certified seed was first produced in Nebraska during 1920. However, it was not until 1931 that seed approved for certification by the Nebraska Crop Growers Association was given official status by statute. That year, the Nebraska House of Representatives passed H.R. 67 which provided for certification of seeds or plant parts intended for propagation or sale in Nebraska and specified that such certification would be on a self-supporting basis. The Nebraska Crop Growers Association was designated as the official agency for certification of cultivar identity and seed quality factors through an agreement with the University of Nebraska.

Seed certification in Nebraska is based on physiological and physical quality factors. Nebraska certified quality seed must meet minimum standards for varietal purity, germination, mechanical purity and be free from certain diseases and objectionable weed seeds. NCIA's seed certification program is an important technology transfer channel for making improved, one-of-a-kind varieties of food, feed, forage, and turf crops available.

A full-service seed laboratory was established in 1941. In 1950, the association seed laboratory component was granted full membership status by the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA).