American Presidents on the Importance of Agriculture

February 15, 2016

President’s Day was originally created to remember America’s first president, George Washington, after his death in 1799. It is noteworthy to remember that President Washington considered himself first a farmer and spent his days before and after public office devoted to his passion of agriculture.

During an address before Congress, President Washington said:

“It will not be doubted that with reference either to individual or national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as nations advance in population and other circumstances of maturity this truth becomes more apparent, and renders the cultivation of the soil more and more an object of public patronage.”

But, Washington was not the only president who valued agriculture and the future of farming in the country. Whether it was President Thomas Jefferson who said, “agriculture is our wisest pursuit…and cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” or President Abraham Lincoln who described agriculture as “the great calling,” our presidents knew that farming was a noble profession and a secure food supply was critical for a thriving nation.

On this President’s Day, Farm Policy Facts combed through a bit of presidential history to find the words and views of some of our past leaders on the importance of American agriculture.

“I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, its breed of useful animals, and other branches of a husbandman’s cares.”
– President George Washington

“I am entirely a farmer, soul and body, never scarcely admitting a sentiment on any other subject.”
– President Thomas Jefferson

“…that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.”
– President Abraham Lincoln

“Agriculture is now, as it’s always been, the basis of civilization. The 6 million farms of the United States…form the basis of all other achievements of the American people, and are more fruitful than all their other resources.”
– President Theodore Roosevelt

“Prosperous farmers mean more employment, more prosperity for the workers and businessmen of every industrial area in the whole country.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

“It was the farm production, and the production of oil and minerals, which made it possible for this country to win the war in as short a time as it did. The farmers are to be most highly complimented on the contribution that they made to the war effort, and the contribution that they are making to the peace effort now.”
– President Harry Truman

“The proper role of government, however, is that of partner with the farmer — never his master. By every possible means we must develop and promote that partnership — to the end that agriculture may continue to be a sound, enduring foundation for our economy and that farm living may be a profitable and satisfying experience.”
– President Dwight Eisenhower

“For today American agriculture is in the grip of a technological revolution as vast and as rapid as any in history. It is a revolution, which has made the American farmer the most efficient in history. It has made his productivity the marvel and envy of every nation…Experts from all over the world come to see our farms, to study our techniques, and learn our methods. And the farm technology we have developed here in the United States holds out hope to the world for the first time that no man, woman, or child on earth needs to go hungry again.”
– President John. F. Kennedy

“The miracle of American agriculture is thus an example to all the world’s billions of the wisdom and the rewards of our democratic system. For more than a century, that system has encouraged development of the family farm and the free and independent farmer.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson

“My guiding thought throughout our efforts to put together a truly helpful farm bill has been: we’re nothing without the farmers. They’re the backbone of this country. And everything we do to help them helps our country and its future.”
– President Ronald Reagan

“We’re a blessed nation because we can grow our own food. A nation that can feed its people is a nation more secure.”
– President George W. Bush