USDA celebrates 150 years on May 15 and throughout 2012

In 2012, USDA will commemorate and celebrate the 150th anniversary of our founding in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture.

USDA Factoids:

  • Since 1944, USDA has built thousands of small dams on upstream watersheds to control floods and supply water in rural areas across the country. 
  • In 1900, the average size farm was 146 acres, three times smaller than the average of 487 acres in 1997.
  • The USDA Bureau of Biological Survey, established in 1905, was one of the first federal agencies committed to wildlife conservation.
  • In 1900, 39.2 percent of the US population lived on farms, compared to 1.8 percent in 1990.
  • The Hatch Act of 1887 established experiment stations in each Of the states, laying the foundation for dramatic advances in all agricultural science over the subsequent decades
  • Through the 19th century, seed distribution was the USDA’s single largest activity. By 1897, the Department had distributed 1.1 billion packets of seed. 
  • During the 1930s, the USDA directed the work of tens of thousands of young men enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps
  • Did you know in 2007, eighty-eight percent of farms are small, and these farms account for 64 percent of farm assets, including 63 percent of the land owned by farms?
  • One of the most significant changes in the 2007 Census of Agriculture is the increase in female farm operators, both in terms of the absolute number and the percentage of all principle operators.  There were 306,209 female principle operators counted in 2007, up from 237,819 in 2002 an increase of almost 30 percent.
  • During the 19th and early 20th centuries, USDA scientists explored foreign countries for plant species with potential  beneficial uses for American agriculturalists.
  • In 1980, more than 69 million eggs were produced compared to more than 90 million eggs produced in 2010.
  • Between 1985 and 2002, APHIS intercepted more than 7,000 different species  of plant pests at U.S. ports of entry.  Many of these pests could have severely  harmed our agriculture and environment if they had become established in our country.
  • Peanuts are a great snack anytime, especially at the ballpark.  Did you know that the smallest yield was 623 pounds per acre in 1943 and the largest yield, was 3,426 pounds per acre in 2008?
  • 1900-1910 George Washington Carver, director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute, and soybeans, thus helping to diversify southern agriculture, pioneered in finding new uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes.
  • In 1986, APHIS licensed the world’s first vaccine derived from recombinant DNA

The first shipment of Japanese cherry trees sent for planting in Washington DC arrived in 1910, heavily infested with plant pests, and had to be burned.  Japanese scientists worked with USDA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (a predecessor group) to ensure the second shipment would be safe to plant.  The second shipment of trees arrived and was planted in 1912.
(Note:  Japanese Cherry Trees will be planted in Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, on April 27, 2012)  – see legislative resolution below
LR609 Recognize the 2012 Gift of Trees Centennial and the friendship between Japan and the United States

WHEREAS, 2012 marks the one hundredth anniversary of the gift of three thousand cherry blossom trees from Tokyo, Japan, to Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital; and

WHEREAS, the gifted trees were planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a two-week celebration recognizing the international friendship between the United States and Japan and the arrival of spring; and

WHEREAS, as part of the one hundredth anniversary, the government of Japan will be gifting cherry blossom trees to cities across the country; and

WHEREAS, Omaha, sister city to Shizuoka, Japan, has been designated as a recipient of the gift of trees; and

WHEREAS, the trees will be planted in Lauritzen Gardens and will be presented in a ceremony on April 27, 2012, Arbor Day.



1. That the Legislature recognizes the 2012 Gift of Trees Centennial and the enduring friendship between Japan and the United States of America.

2. That a copy of this resolution be presented to the Consul General of Japan at Chicago, OKAMURA Yoshifumi.


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