This week marks a milestone in the history of our country and a legacy of President Abraham Lincoln.

While he is known for many accomplishments, a little-known fact is that he established the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 150 years ago.

On May 15, 1862, Lincoln signed into law a bill establishing a new department of agriculture, which was specifically directed to acquire information through “practical and scientific experiments” and to collect and propagate “new and valuable seeds and plants” and distribute these to the nation‘s agriculturists. This was the first in a series of acts of Congress that set American agriculture on a progressive course.

Five days later, Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, granting land to people who would settle on frontier land and improve it.

On July 2, 1862, the president signed the Morrill Act, which granted huge tracts of land to the states to endow colleges dedicated to teaching “such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts … to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes …” This was the beginning of today’s vast and flourishing land grant university system. In later years, agricultural experiment stations were created to "conduct original and other research, investigations and experiments” in support of a permanent and effective agricultural industry.” Extension services were set up to share knowledge with farmers.

Agriculture has been a major part of our economy the last 150 years and is poised to continue that role in the future. As we look at current conditions, there is no denying there has been a shift in the global climate.

President Lincoln would have recognized the science about climate change, and likely would have asked two important questions: How do we mitigate the effects and how do we adapt to them at the same time?