Temple, Texas, May 14, 2012 -- On May 15th, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will commemorate the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture. 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 US.
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. 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 (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development (RD).
In 2011 alone, NRCS 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. NRCS 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.
“The USDA- Natural Resources Service (NRCS) in Texas continues its commitment and work in protecting Texas' natural resources by working one on one with private landowners to resolve their natural resource issues,” said Salvador Salinas, NRCS Texas state conservationist. “In a state where more than 90 percent of the land is privately owned, our farmers and ranchers are the leading stewards of the land and water, and USDA supports their work through technical assistance and conservation programs – applying the most effective programs in the best places to achieve the best possible result. The NRCS mission remains Helping People Help the Land, as we celebrate this historic anniversary."
Throughout Texas, Rural Development provided over $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.
“We are pleased to be an agency within the USDA that has provided assistance to the heart of America; our rural communities, farmers and residents, for 150 years,” said Rural Development Texas State Director Paco Valentin. “Rural Development offers over 40 programs that provide the resources and assistance needed to essentially build an entire rural community from the ground up, and we will to continue to provide support to thousands of rural Texas residents and communities in the coming years.”
Texas FSA 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. FSA farm programs include price support, commodity operations, conservation and disaster programs that provide assistance and relief for producers. FSA 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.
“USDA agencies realize farmers and ranchers work hard year-round in a risky, sometimes unforgiving industry; but, for the most part, the rewards outweigh the risks. FSA considers it an honor and a privilege to work with Texas producers and we look forward to working to meet the changing needs of agriculture and rural America for many years to come,” said James Douglass, Acting FSA Texas state director.
As we commemorate 150 years of accomplishments, USDA is learning from past experiences while looking to the future. In the years to come, there may be challenges for the economy, agriculture and the Department. However, the USDA will remain focused on the mission to strengthen Americans rural communities, continue to help create jobs, and build on the success of America’s farmers, ranchers and small businesses. 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.