An Act to Establish a Department of Agriculture
Thirty-Seventh Congress of the United StatesAt the second session Begun and Held at the City of Washingtonin the District of Columbia
Chap. LXXII.--An Act to establish a Department of Agriculture.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby established at the seat of government of the United States a Department of Agriculture, the general designs and duties of which shall be to acquire and to diffuse among the people of the United States useful information on subjects connected with agriculture in the most general and comprehensive sense of that word, and to procure, propagate, and distribute among the people new and valuable seeds and plants.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That there shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, a "Commissioner of Agriculture," who shall be the chief executive officer of the Department of Agriculture, who shall hold his office by a tenure similar to that of other civil officers appointed by the President, and who shall receive for his compensation a salary of three thousand dollars per annum.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the Commissioner of Agriculture to acquire and preserve in his Department all information concerning agriculture which he can obtain by means of books and correspondence, and by practical and scientific experiments, (accurate records of which experiments shall be kept in his office,) by the collection of statistics, and by any other appropriate means within his power; to collect, as he may be able, new and valuable seeds and plants; to test, by cultivation, the value of such of them as may require such tests; to propagate such as may be worthy of propagation, and to distribute them among agriculturists. He shall annually make a general report in writing of his acts to the President and to Congress, in which he may recommend the publication of papers forming parts of or accompanying his report, which report shall also contain an account of all moneys received and expended by him. He shall also make special reports on particular subjects whenever required to do so by the President or either House of Congress, or when he shall think the subject in his charge requires it. He shall receive and have charge of all the property of the agricultural division of the Patent Office in the Department of the Interior, including the fixtures and property of the propagating garden. He shall direct and superintend the expenditure of all money appropriated by Congress to the Department, and render accounts thereof, and also of all money heretofore appropriated for agriculture and remaining unexpended. And said Commissioner may send and receive through the mails, free of charge, all communications and other matter pertaining to the business of his Department, not exceeding in weight thirty-two ounces.
Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the Commissioner of Agriculture shall appoint a chief clerk, with a salary of two thousand dollars, who in all cases during the necessary absence of the Commissioner, or when the said principal office shall become vacant, shall perform the duties of Commissioner, and he shall appoint such other employees as Congress may from time to time provide, with salaries corresponding to the salaries of similar officers in other Departments of the Government; and he shall, as Congress may from time to time provide, employ other persons, for such time as their services may be needed, including chemists, botanists, entomologists, and other persons skilled in the natural sciences pertaining to agriculture. And the said Commissioner, and every other person to be appointed in the said Department, shall, before he enters upon the duties of his office or appointment, make oath or affirmation truly and faithfully to execute the trust committed to him. And the said Commissioner and the chief clerk shall also, before entering upon their duties, severally give bonds to the Treasurer of the United States, the former in the sum of ten thousand dollars, and the latter in the sum of five thousand dollars, conditional to render a true and faithful account to him or his successor in office, quarter yearly accounts of all moneys which shall be by them received by virtue of the said office, with sureties to be approved as sufficient by the Solicitor of the Treasury; which bonds shall be filed in the office of the First Comptroller of the Treasury, to be by him put in suit upon any breach of the conditions thereof.
Galusha A. Grow, Speaker of the House of Representatives. Solomon Foot, President of the Senate pro tempore. Abraham Lincoln, President. Approved, May 15, 1862.
Selected Resources on the Development and Early Days of USDA
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the Year 1862
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the Year 1863
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the Year 1864
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the Year 1865
- "Lincoln and Agriculture." Ross, Earle D. Agricultural History, vol. 3(2): pages 51-66, 1929. NAL call no. 30.98 Ag8.
- "Social and Economic History of American Agriculture, part 1." (PDF | 6.7MB) Edwards, Everett Eugene. [1920?]. These are class notes Edwards used to teach the first semester of Social and Economic History of American Agriculture at American University. NAL Special Collections, Everett Eugene Edwards Papers. NAL call no. S21.C8U66.
- "Social and Economic History of American Agriculture, part 2." (PDF | 5.6MB) Edwards, Everett Eugene. [1920?]. These are class notes Edwards used to teach the second semester of Social and Economic History of American Agriculture at American University. NAL Special Collections, Everett Eugene Edwards Papers. NAL call no. S21.C8U66.
- --Includes a passage about the development of the Department of Agriculture starting at the bottom of page 21.