On this day in history
Created: 5/20/20 (Wed) | Topic: Events
by Pete Hanebutt
American agriculture has evolved immensely since the founding fathers – many of them farmers – set us on the path to where we are today. Our ag history put the United States in a position to feed the world, and our ag economy is the envy of the world. We’re self-sufficient and have the cheapest, safest food supply on earth. We may not always be happy with markets and price discovery; we may not always be happy with where free markets take us, and we are often very unhappy with government regulations, but most farmers and ranchers in America would not trade places with their counterparts in any other country in the world.
May 20th is an important anniversary in the evolution of American Agriculture, and one which most Americans either know nothing about, or never give a second thought. On this day, 158 years ago, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, opening vast expanses of the American interior to those who were willing to risk everything they had in order to try carving out an existence as independent entrepreneurs. Some may complain this act has had unintended social consequences and those revisionist history folks, who always seem to look for opportunities to discredit the American success model, will be happy to jump on the band wagon. But history has proven the Homestead Act had a multiplier effect leading to our industrial revolution. It’s one of the things which made America great and the destination for masses longing to be free.
As Americans, we should be proud of the Homestead Act: It allowed millions to own private property from which a bountiful harvest has continually flowed to our cities and the citizens of the world. The act put land in the hands of eager producers; those who want to raise commodities and fill consumer demands in markets. It has become a positive legacy, in spite of revisionists, which has richly benefited our current consumers.
Our ancestors took advantage of the Homestead Act and their hard work has made our successful modern farms and ranches possible. It’s a reminder of our pioneering spirit, and a hallmark of the American model of greatness.
Pete Hanebutt is the Director of Public Policy for NDFB.