On May 15, we will recognize the 150th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On that date in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing USDA.
Two and a half years after he established the Department, in what would be his final annual message to Congress, Lincoln called USDA "The People's Department."
President Lincoln knew the importance of agriculture to our prosperity – particularly at a time when about half of all Americans lived on the farm. And while that number today stands at about 2 percent, our values are still rooted in rural America.
As the United States has changed and evolved over the years, at USDA we have not lost sight of Lincoln’s vision. Through our work on food, agriculture, economic development, science, natural resource conservation and a host of other issues, USDA has impacted the lives of generations of Americans.
And over the past three years, we have furthered that commitment to this nation.
USDA has supported producers – making a record number of farm loans, maintaining a strong safety net, and expanding markets to drive record exports.
We’ve stood by rural communities – supporting more than 6,000 community facilities projects, providing more than 50,000 loans to help rural businesses create jobs, and investing in thousands of infrastructure projects that have delivered modern broadband, water and electric services to millions.
We’ve enrolled a record number of acres in conservation programs, and laid out a sensible new planning rule for 193 million acres of National Forests to promote job growth while conserving the environment.
USDA has continued its history of groundbreaking research. For example, we’ve invested about $320 million to accelerate research on the next generation of renewable energy – so we can create jobs and ensure America’s energy security for years to come.
And we’re helping families lead healthy lives. USDA provides nutrition assistance for one in four Americans, enabling them to put healthy meals on the table, even when times are tough, and we’re serving healthier school breakfast and lunch to 32 million kids a day.
Today, USDA truly remains a “Peoples’ Department” that touches the life of every American. Folks depend on us. That’s why I’m committed to leveraging the efforts of our Department and more than 100,000 hardworking USDA employees to continue creating jobs, supporting rural communities and helping our country prosper.