Little Bits of History

Department of Agriculture

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 9, 2014
President Grover Cleveland's first Cabinet

President Grover Cleveland’s first Cabinet

February 9, 1889: US President Grover Cleveland signs a bill. The Department of Agriculture was now elevated to Cabinet level. The task of the US federal executive department is to oversee federal policy on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food. The young United States was mostly agrarian. Improvement in seeds, plants, and animals was of interest to many. In 1837, Henry Ellsworth became Commissioner of Patents which was a position inside the Department of State. He soon began collecting and distributing varieties of seeds and plants via members of Congress and agricultural societies. Two years later, Congress established the Agricultural Division inside the Patent Office.

On May 15, 1862 Abraham Lincoln established a Department of Agriculture which was independent of other departments. It was headed by a Commissioner and was not a Cabinet position. Businesses were lobbying for a Cabinet post for the Department of Commerce and Industry while farmers were hoping for the same for their representation. However, the first time it was sent to Congress, both Houses passed the bill but it died in committee when Farmers objected to Labor being included. Finally, on this day, the bill was signed into law and it went into effect in February 15, 1889.

Today, the Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack is assisted by Krysta Harden, Deputy Secretary. There are many operational units under the Agriculture umbrella. There are seven Under Secretaries heading major portions of the Department with 21 different active services. There are four inactive services as well. Early important legislation related to meat inspection with four major laws passed in the first two decades. The Department writes legislation dealing with many topics and some of it intersects with other Departments. The last major law was the fHealthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The Cabinet of the US is made up of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government. George Washington began governance with a Cabinet made up of four men to advise him. Today, members are nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. After approval, the title of Secretary is given. All serve at the pleasure of the President. Currently there are fifteen Secretaries and eight Cabinet-level officers who are available to advise the President. Cabinet level positions have a Level I pay and it was set at $199,700 in 2011. Both the Vice President and the White House Chief of Staff are selected differently than described above and have different salaries.

Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own. – Samuel Johnson

I have always said there is only one thing that can bring our nation down – our dependence on foreign countries for food and energy. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. – John Salazar

The discovery of agriculture was the first big step toward a civilized life. – Arthur Keith

This is an exciting time for farmers and ranchers of all types and sizes as agriculture is a bright spot in the American economy. In 2011, agricultural exports hit a record high and producers saw their best incomes in nearly 40 years. – Tom Vilsack

Also on this day: Time Savers – In 1942, Daylight Savings Time went into effect.
Toast of the Town – In 1964, The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan.
Rain, Snow, Sleet, and Hail – In  1870, the US Weather Bureau was created.
Sports Enthusiast – In 1895, Mintonette was invented.

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