On May 15,1862, The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1862 established the U.S. Department of Agriculture, sowing the seed to what would become a long line of agriculture programs.
Abraham Lincoln established the independent Department of Agriculture, to be headed by a Commissioner without cabinet status. USDA was referred to by Lincoln as the "people's department." President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law on Feb. 9, 1889, elevating the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet-level.
Farm bill history
What we consider the first actual "farm bill" or what is referred to as modern federal farm programs, didn't appear until 1933, as the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933. There were predecessors; many individual acts were put into place, but not a compiled bill addressing more than one area of concern.
Many refer to the Golden Age of Farming as1909-1914. Farmers prospered – commodity prices were high, weather conditions were ideal and export demand increased.
This was considered the only time in history that farm income possessed purchasing power relative to the non-farm economy. World War I additionally boosted the agricultural economy, but the end of the war brought a downward spiral. The agricultural sector hit a true depression nine years before the rest of the nation.
Farming was a common way of life during the Great Depression and the USDA became essential for providing Americans with the assistance needed during a difficult time. Ensuring that food continued to be produced and distributed, assisting with loans and providing continued education to rural youth became part of the USDA. Modern farm policy was in its infancy.
When Herbert Hoover took office in 1929, he was strongly opposed to subsidies. With the agriculture sector reeling from the great depression, Hoover backed a bill that created a Federal Farm Board with a budget of $500 million. This board would loan money to farmers to create and strengthen farm cooperatives hoping to control production and market crops more efficiently.
As the industry continued to suffer, it became clear more needed to be done and a more comprehensive farm bill was passed. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was approximately 24 pages long with a budget of $100 million for administrative expenses, $2 billion for payments to farmers, $50 million in bonds to fund the Federal Land Bank for loans and $50 million for "other" funding. It also included a nutrition component which was the precursor to food stamps.
The newest farm bill is 959 pages and is budgeted to cost $956.4 billion over the next 10 years. Why is a five-year bill priced out over a decade? Continually more questions.
Thanks to Google, Wikipedia, The National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas and Brian Catt, CED of FSA Johnson County for information and assistance in understanding USDA history and farm bill history!
The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.