WASHINGTON – President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to create the US Department of Agriculture on May 15, 1862. USDA will be holding events throughout 2012 to commemorate the agency’s 150th anniversary.

President Lincoln believed in the national importance of agriculture to the success of the United States, and he also recognized the need for innovation in agriculture. In his last address before Congress, President Lincoln called the agency the “People’s Department.”

"For 150 years, USDA has supported our nation's economic prosperity and touched the lives of generations of Americans," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a recent speech. "I'm proud of the USDA employees who carry out President Lincoln's legacy throughout the country and around the world, making USDA a truly 'Every Day, Every Way' department.

Whether improving domestic and international access to food, promoting nutrition and safety of our food supply, conserving our natural resources, advancing agricultural exports, or developing the rural economy, USDA helps Americans to lead better lives," he added.

Vilsack launched the 150th anniversary celebration in his keynote address at the Agriculture Outlook Forum in February. Other events to commemorate the anniversary include the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival, which will be held June 27-July 1 and July 4-8 on the National Mall. The festival will include demonstrations, discussions and hands-on activities that relate to the partnership between the USDA and land-grant universities, which Lincoln also established during the Civil War, two months after signing legislation creating the USDA.