Opinion by Gregor Goertz
USDA Celebrates 150 Years Since its Creation by President Lincoln
by Gregor Goertz, State Executive Director, Wyoming Farm Service Agency, on behalf of NRCS, Rural Development and the National Agriculture Statistics Service.
Throughout 2012, USDA will recognize important events, such as President Lincoln’s signing of an Act to establish the Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862, and the July signing of the Morrill Act to establish public land grant universities.
“Through our work on food, agriculture, economic development, science, natural resource conservation and a host of issues, USDA still fulfills President Lincoln’s vision as ‘The People’s Department’ – touching the lives of every American, every day,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack of the anniversary. “As we commemorate 150 years, we will look for lessons from the past that can help us strengthen USDA in the future to address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America.”
USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, National Agricultural Statistical Service and the U.S. Forest Service play critical roles in conserving our natural resources. The quality of life Americans enjoy depends upon the conservation practices that our farmers, ranchers and private landowners implement to clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink and prevent soil erosion.
President Lincoln established USDA because he recognized the potential of America’s farmers to find new ways to cultivate the land and that with advances in research and technology, America’s farmers and ranchers could 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 on Sept. 30, 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.”
USDA is commemorating 150 years working with Americans to protect the land. At the same time, USDA is looking to the future. We know an economy built to last will rely on the health of our natural resources. In the years to come, we will help address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America – and find strategies for managing our public and working lands that promote a strong middle class today while preserving benefits for future generations.
We are stepping up conservation with landscape-scale initiatives that are delivering results and enhancing wildlife habitat. We’ve enrolled a record number of acres of private working lands in conservation programs.
True to his roots as a frontier farm boy, President Abraham Lincoln signed agricultural legislation that expanded and transformed American farming, including such significant reforms as the creation of the USDA, the Homestead Act and the establishment of the Land Grant Agricultural University system.
To meet those goals, we are working to make USDA a more modern and effective service provider and to deliver the best possible results for all of the American people. Many Americans don’t recognize it, but our nation’s prosperity – and particularly the prosperity of our rural communities – is closely linked to the health of our lands and natural resources. Our public and working lands support agriculture, ranching and forestry; they promote economic opportunities through hunting and fishing, recreation and tourism; and they create green jobs producing renewable energy. Simply put, a healthy environment brings good jobs and income opportunities to rural America.
Over the course of the year, we hope Americans will join in our commemoration of 150 years of USDA. It is a great time to learn about our contributions to the strength and health of this nation, and to see how we can continue to partner with Americans working to provide a better life for their families.
Visit usda.gov/usda150 to learn more about USDA’s history and plans for the future. Visit usda.gov/documents/Results-Conservation.pdf to learn about our recent conservation accomplishments.