Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Old Illinois State Capitol to announce the year-long celebration of USDA's 150th anniversary in 2012. Secretary Vilsack was in the hometown of USDA's founder -- President Abraham Lincoln - who signed into law an act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture in 1862.
"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 Vilsack. "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."
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 September 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."
Today, America's farmers and ranchers are responsible in no small way for the health and strength of this nation. Today's event readies USDA for a historic year for the Department. In February 2012, at USDA's Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, the Department will formally launch the 150th anniversary commemoration. 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. Employees in USDA field offices across the country will find ways to celebrate this landmark throughout 2012. Learn more about President Lincoln's agricultural legacy.
USDA will use a 150th anniversary graphic to mark the occasion and created a web page, www.usda.gov/usda150 that goes live today. The site will give the American people a sense of where USDA has been -- and where USDA is headed in the 21st century. This web page will provide information about events, facts and goings-on related to the anniversary.
Secretary Vilsack is currently working to transform USDA into a higher performing organization -- one that is open and responsive; more collaborative, inclusive and effective to meet the needs of the American public. USDA is also building a workforce that looks like and reflects the values of and understands the broad range of Americans the Department serves.