The 150th anniversary celebration of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is paying homage to the man who created it – Abraham Lincoln. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack kicked off the year-long celebration of the USDA’s 150th year Wednesday at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, a building Lincoln used frequently as a member of the state legislature.
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Vilsack says Lincoln created the department at a time when 90 percent of the country’s population was tied to the land, but that would soon change – and agricultural interests had to be protected. “President Lincoln understood that if this country were going to grow stronger, it would likely see many of its people move to cities,” says Vilsack. “This country would become more urban, and it would place a greater pressure on American agriculture.” Vilsack says farmers now make up less than 1 percent of the population, yet one out of every 12 jobs is tied to agriculture.