Ag Department celebrates 150 years
TEMPLE -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) commemorated the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the USDA on May 15, according to a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service press release.
President Lincoln established the USDA because he recognized the potential of America’s farmers to find new ways to cultivate the land with advances in research and technology, allowing them to provide a safe, ample food supply for our nation and the world.
In one of President Lincoln’s only speeches on agriculture at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, he said, “... no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.” Two years later, in what would be his final annual message to the Congress, Lincoln called USDA “The People’s Department.” At that time, the population of the United States was about 31.4 million, and about half of all Americans lived on farms. Today, with a population of almost 313 million people, 2.1 million farms are operating in the United States.
Over the past 150 years, USDA’s work with food science, agriculture, economic development, science and research, natural resource conservation, community development, and alternative energy sources fulfills Lincoln’s vision “to touch the lives of every American, every day.” The success of the agency can be shown daily as Americans benefit from the safety, security, and maintenance of our food and water supply, land and forest resources, advancing school systems, and continually evolving rural communities. Twenty million Americans are employed through our food, fuel, and fiber industries, and almost 1 million jobs have been created through agricultural exports. The USDA maintains a strong farm safety net to help keep American agriculture secure from the market and weather, and is leading the way on renewable energy projects, implementing funding for energy-saving technologies to farms, ranches, and businesses.
In Texas, the mission of the USDA is upheld through the work of the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development.
In 2011 alone, the Natural Resources Conservation Service worked with Texas farmers and ranchers to invest $121.4 million in conservation programs authorized through the federal Farm Bill, to help protect water, soil and air resources, wildlife, forests, and rangelands throughout the state. The conservation service has provided conservation-related products and service that enable people to be good stewards of the nation’s soil, water, and related natural resources on non-federal lands since 1935.
Throughout Texas, the Rural Development provided more than $1.55 billion in funding to recipients in 2011 through programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers, and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas. Rural Development administers and manages housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs through a national network of state and local offices.
The Texas Farm Service Agency promoted American agriculture by delivering nearly $1.4 billion in federal farm program payments and loans to Texas farmers and ranchers during fiscal year 2011. The Farm Service Agency’s farm programs include price support, commodity operations, conservation, and disaster programs that provide assistance and relief for producers. The Farm Service Agency also helps family farmers and ranchers by offering direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans as well as emergency loans to producers who cannot obtain commercial financing from a traditional lender.
For more information on the 150th anniversary of the USDA or programs and services offered through the agency, visit http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome.