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An Act to Establish a Department of Agriculture, May 15, 1862

On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation creating a department dedicated to the interests of American agriculture. Nearly half of all Americans lived on farms, and there was an increasing need to consolidate information and promote agricultural resources. In his fourth—and final—annual message to Congress, President Lincoln called it “the People’s Department, in which they feel more directly concerned than in any other.” Its creation laid the foundation for agricultural policy today. Congress elevated the Department of Agriculture to cabinet-level status in 1889.

General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

An Act to Establish a Department of Agriculture An Act to Establish a Department of Agriculture pg 2

Legislative Highlights

The U.S. Constitution states that “The Congress shall have Power…To make all Laws.” The original laws enacted by Congress are preserved at the National Archives. This page highlights some of the most historically significant laws Congress has passed throughout the nation’s history.