USDA, Washington State Univ. Celebrate 150 Year Partnership
by Chris Bieker, outreach coordinator, Washington State FSA
Sometimes it takes an anniversary to appreciate what we take for granted. This year commemorates 150 years since the founding of two types of institutions that touch the lives of people across Washington state and the world — public land-grant universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As part of the anniversary celebration, USDA leaders in Washington celebrated the longstanding partnership with Washington State University on May 11.
The USDA State Food and Agriculture Council (FAC) moved their regular meeting to the WSU campus in Pullman and followed it with a partnership celebration. The highlight of the celebration was hearing how each agency interacted with WSU. Dan Bernardo, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences (CAHNRS) returned the appreciation of USDA. The university and USDA have partnered in the areas of crop production, energy, rural infrastructure and economies, conservation and so much more. USDA grants and research partnerships have played an integral role in WSU's ability to carry out its mission.
In 1862, during one of the most difficult times in our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln founded the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He set forth a vision of the “People’s Department” – touching the lives of every American, every day.
The Morrill Act of 1862 authorized land grant universities. WSU was founded in 1890 with a mission of improving quality of life. The institution opened its doors on January 13, 1892, under the name Washington Agricultural College and School of Science.
In 1913, a year ahead of federal legislation authorizing the present extension system, the state authorized a Bureau of Farm Development headquartered at Washington State College and provided for the appointment and maintenance of agricultural experts across the state.
Over the years, the partnership has enjoyed many successes, such as the development of the world's most productive wheat strains. Orville Vogel worked for USDA at WSU and led the wheat breeding program that made possible the Green Revolution.
Today, Washington is one of the top agricultural exporters in the United States. The state's $40 billion food and agriculture industry employs approximately 160,000 people and contributes 12 percent to the state's economy. WSU and USDA are leading the way in alternative fuels research and many other areas that fulfill President Lincoln's vision of the People’s Department.
In celebrating the past, USDA is also looking toward the future. While on the WSU campus, FAC members met with FFA students as part of their state convention. These next generation agricultural leaders grilled USDA directors about the Farm Bill, opportunities in agriculture and how to inform the non-farming public about agriculture. In sharing their own stories, the USDA directors exemplified the department's cultural transformation and gave hope to the FFA students.
The students may have left just as much of an impression on the USDA leaders. Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Judy Olson summed up the event saying “the interaction with the students left me feeling hopeful about agriculture's future and maybe some would even choose to work for USDA.”