On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to create the United States Department of Agriculture. This action was followed by the passing of the Homestead Act, which provided 160 acres of arable land west of the Mississippi River to any head of household for settlement and cultivation. Another piece of legislation that year, The Morrill Land Grant College Act, provided public lands to U.S. states and territories for the establishment of universities that specialized in agricultural research and education. Today, those institutions still provide much of the agricultural research, education and extension services in the country.
Visit the USDA’s website for more on the 150th anniversary and commemorative events.