Morrill Act anniversary to be observed at Ag Progress Days

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A momentous anniversary will be celebrated during a ceremony at Penn State's Ag Progress Days on Wednesday, Aug. 15, when the University and government officials will mark the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act.

That legislation, signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, transformed higher education by paving the way for a network of land-grant universities designed to teach scientific agriculture, mechanical arts and the classics to the nation's working class. In 1863, the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania -- now Penn State -- was named the state's sole land-grant university.

The ceremony, to be held during the invitation-only Government and Industry Day Luncheon in the Special Events Building, will feature the cutting of a "birthday" cake to commemorate the occasion. Master of ceremonies Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that the land-grant university mission remains critical and particularly relevant today.

Honored guests at the luncheon will include Penn State President Rodney Erickson, state Agriculture Secretary George Greig, Penn State Ag Council Board President Gregg Kirkham and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

Other dignitaries on hand -- representing the county, state and federal land-grant university partnership that supports Penn State -- will be County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Ag Committee Chair Dennis Stuckey, state House Ag Committee Chair Rep. John Maher, state Senate Ag Committee Chair Sen. Elder Vogel, and U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, representing Pennsylvania's 5th Congressional District.

A number of the dignitaries will offer brief remarks.

During the cake-cutting ceremony, the history of the Morrill Act will be reviewed. The creation of the land-grant university system occurred at a time when the United States was under great duress. In the midst of the all-consuming Civil War that divided the nation 150 years ago, Congress was able to muster the will to pass legislation that would transform higher education.

"The Morrill Act led to scientific breakthroughs that would enable a food-production system that's the envy of the world, while establishing a unique, enduring and powerful engine for education and progress," said McPheron.

"The land-grant mission remains critical today, and now it is being broadened by global perspective," he said. "We want to think about the past 150 years and what the investment in the land-grant system has done for the United States, and then expand the land-grant university mission going forward to help address new challenges associated with a global food system."

Other government-related events occurring at Ag Progress Days include:

-- U.S. Rep. Thompson, chairman of the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, and Carl Shaffer, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau president, will hold a "Barnyard Discussion" from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the upstairs meeting room of the Red Barn. The ag-town-hall-type meeting will include an open discussion of federal agricultural policy, including the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill.

-- The state House and Senate Ag and Rural Affairs committees will hold a joint hearing from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building theatre addressing the federal Farm Bill, which is enacted every five years to set national agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy.

-- The state Farm Show Commission will hold a meeting to gather feedback on the recently released strategic plan for the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the lower level meeting room of the Red Barn. The commission is a 10-member panel charged with operating and maintaining the Harrisburg facility, which is rented for more than 220 events annually.

-- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will hold a "Conservation Innovation Grant Showcase" at 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building theatre. During the session, Wayne Honeycutt, deputy chief for science and technology at NRCS, will discuss the significance of conservation, and Bruce McPheron, Penn State ag sciences dean, will talk about the significance of research and science "being scaled for primetime -- field tested and implemented on the farm." Several Penn State faculty members also will give brief summaries of research funded by the program.

Sponsored by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, Ag Progress Days is held at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 14; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 15; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 16. Admission and parking are free.

For more information, visit the Ag Progress Days website at http://apd.psu.edu. Twitter users can find and share information about the event by using the hashtag #agprogress.

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Last Updated August 13, 2012