U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to visit Penn State on May 16

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit Penn State on Wednesday, May 16, to deliver an address commemorating the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and highlighting the groundbreaking research and innovation that takes place at land-grant universities, such as Penn State.

Vilsack's address, "How Agriculture Education and Research Help Create Job Opportunities: The 150th Anniversary of the USDA and the Land Grant University System -- Looking Back and Looking Forward," will take place at 11 a.m. in Berg Auditorium (Room 100) in the Life Sciences Building on the University Park campus. The event is free and open to the public.

President Abraham Lincoln, who founded the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862, called it "the People's Department," a description that still rings true today. The department's diverse portfolio boasts strong support for American agriculture and local and regional food systems, as well as critical nutrition assistance, food safety, conservation, rural development, and research programs, among many other initiatives.

A few months after USDA's founding, the Morrill Act of 1862 formed the basis for the land-grant university system, a historic partnership between the states and the federal government that fosters collaborative research and education efforts to solve our planet's most critical challenges.

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture partners with more than 100 state colleges and universities that in turn have graduated more than 20 million students, produced countless scientific breakthroughs, vastly increased agricultural productivity and improved the lives of people everywhere.

Penn State currently has more than 60 active USDA research grants totaling more than $30 million. This includes a grant for more than $2 million, awarded in 2011, to establish a nationwide network for monitoring and maintaining honey bee health and pollinator services called the Bee Informed Platform, and another 2011 grant for nearly $5 million to evaluate regional food systems in the Northeast and enhance food security of underserved populations in the region.

In addition, Penn State is home to USDA Agricultural Research Services' Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Laboratory, which serves as a focal point for basic research and problem solving in pasture, grassland and agricultural water-quality improvement.

During his visit, Vilsack also will tour research facilities and host a panel discussion on agricultural education, business and careers with Penn State faculty members, industry representatives and members of 4-H and FFA.

Last Updated May 15, 2012