Des Moines, Iowa, May 16, 2012: On May 15th, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) begins to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its founding. On that date in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln founded the USDA and called it the “People’s Department”. With the vast array of programs and services it manages across Iowa, USDA is staying true to President Lincoln’s vision of serving all people. “USDA is the Peoples Department,” said John R. Whitaker, State Executive Director for the Iowa Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Agriculture and USDA touches the lives of every American every day and in every way. This is done by promoting a sustainable, safe, abundant, nutritious supply of food, fuel, and fiber”
During Lincoln’s time, most Americans farmed or lived on farms. Today, farmers account for only a small percentage of our population. Between 1950 and 2010, corn yields per acre have quadrupled, soybean yields have doubled, and wheat yields are up 280%. A significant amount of Iowa’s land is farmed.
“There are 92,856 farms in Iowa, comprising more than 30.7 million acres” said Greg Thessen, Director of the USDA’s Iowa Field Office for the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). “The Census of Agriculture has also shown an increasing number of farm in Iowa that are operated by women. A 2012 Census will soon be conducted which will continue to document the importance and changes in American agriculture.”
“USDA support of rural communities can be traced back nearly 80 years to the Rural Electrification Administration,” Menner said. “From helping bring electricity to farms, to ensuring safe drinking water, to assisting families in their efforts to become homeowners, to working with communities to build hospitals and schools, USDA Rural Development has been commitment to ensuring rural communities, and their residents, have all the tools they necessary for increased economic opportunity and the highest possible quality of life.”
For more than 75 years, the Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has helped people help the land by working with landowners to voluntarily apply conservation practices on private lands. “Through programs and services administered through our agency, USDA ensures sustainable, productive lands that feed our Nation, while preventing soil erosion, ensuring clean air and water to Iowans and the Nation,” said Rich Sims, state conservationist for Iowa NRCS. Iowa’s connection to USDA is strong with a tremendous history during the past 150 years. . Three Secretaries were born in Iowa, Mike Johanns, Henry A. Wallace, and Edwin Meredith. However, a total of eight of the 30 Secretaries of Agriculture, which includes Secretary Vilsack, have some connection to Iowa. This is the most of any state and has a span of a combined 46 years.
To learn more about the programs and services provided by USDA in your area, visit on-line at www.usda.gov.