Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the commemoration of the department's 150th anniversary Thursday at USDA's 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum titled "Moving Agriculture Forward" with dynamic presenters and panelists who discussed issues impacting agriculture in 2012 and beyond. To commemorate USDA's rich history as well as its potential, Secretary Vilsack moderated a panel discussion with former Secretaries of Agriculture Ed Schafer, Mike Johanns, Ann Veneman, Dan Glickman, Mike Espy, Clayton Yeutter, John Block, and Bob Bergland.
"Nine Secretaries of Agriculture, representing 35 years of service, in one place at the same time was an incredible opportunity to learn about USDA's contributions to the strength and health of this nation with an eye for the impact the department can have in the future," said Vilsack. "As we reflect on the department's 150 years, this historic gathering will help us guide how we transform USDA into a more modern and efficient service provider."
At the forum, USDA introduced a short film titled "Secretaries of Agriculture – 30 Leaders, 150 Years," available at www.usda.gov/USDA150, which looks at the history of USDA from the viewpoints of its nine most recent Secretaries. Each Secretary shared reflections on his or her time at USDA and then presents ideas and challenges to the future of American agriculture. The film explores the history and role of USDA in American life, and why it continues to be known by the name given it by its founder, President Abraham Lincoln, "The Peoples Department."
President Lincoln established USDA because he recognized the potential of America's farmers and ranchers to provide a safe, ample food supply for our nation and the world. 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 also find ways to celebrate this landmark anniversary.