On This Day In History...
On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the United States Department of Agriculture—or as he referred to it—the "People's Department."
Back then, more than 50 percent of Americans lived on the farm. Today, only two percent of the population calls it home, but the People's Department remains and continues to serve the best interest of every American.
Among his first acts as president, Lincoln wanted to address the need for our country's economic interests to be protected. He saw agriculture for what it was: The backbone of our economy and the industry that would eventually allow the United States to grow from a young and wild frontier, into a major player on the world stage.
We had been blessed with a vast expanse of natural resources, arable land, and access to coastal territory ripe with the promise of booming international trade. But, in order to maximize the potential of America's farmland, we had to invest time and resources into technology and innovation.
At the time, Lincoln dreamed of advancements like substituting horse-drawn plows for hand powered ones. Today, we have GPS precision tractors that all but drive themselves and seed varieties like drought-resistant corn that have allowed us to meet the demands of an ever-increasing population.
President Lincoln also saw the value of a motivated and incentivized workforce. He believed that workers should be free and educated in order to help realize agriculture's full potential. Today, we have entire programs at major universities dedicated to biotech research and agricultural engineering.
It was a call to action that reverberated from Pennsylvania Avenue to the Texas plains and the banks of the Red River Valley—and it's one that every man and woman involved in agriculture for the past 150 years has worked hard to answer.
Today, a lot has changed, but one thing remains the same: With the help of the USDA, America's farmers and ranchers continue to find new ways to improve production and maximize conservation. The result is that 150 years later, American agricultural production and practices are the envy of the world.
Because of President Lincoln's foresight, U.S. agriculture has become the source of the safest most abundant and most affordable food supply on the planet. But the department still has its work cut out for it.
With a booming global population and an impending 9 billion mouths to feed, the People's Department will have to work harder than ever to ensure American farmers have the resources to meet the challenge.
So, happy 150th, USDA, but don't plan on retiring anytime soon.
"...no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture." -President Abraham Lincoln