Agriculture was integral to the growth of the American colonies, and held an important place in the economy. In the early 19th century, agriculture was intertwined with other great issues of commerce and trade. The Committee on Commerce and Manufacturers focused on these issues, but eventually became mired in controversy over the issue of tariffs, as business and manufacturing interests were often at odds.
In 1825, the Senate debated dividing the Committee on Commerce and Manufacturers to avoid these conflicts. As this time, Senator William Findlay, a Republican from Pennsylvania, submitted a resolution providing for the creation of a standing Committee on Agriculture.
Senator Findlay pointed out that while commerce and manufacturing were two equal components of the American economy, like a three-legged stool, there was one other important segment being left out. He argued that agriculture was one of 'three great branches of domestic industry' along with commerce and manufacturing. All three, he claimed, were equally entitled to the care and protection of the Government. He contended further that agricultural interests were distinct and not always best served when included with those of commerce.
On December 9, 1825, by a vote of 22-14, the Senate approved a resolution creating a standing Committee on Agriculture.
Since its creation, the Committee has helped establish, guide, and examine agricultural policies here and abroad. It has had a hand in fashioning the research and teaching of the 1860’s, the price and income support controls of the 1930’s, and the international trade of the 1990’s. The Committee has been active in times of prosperity and peace, as well as in times of depression and war. Present Committee members face many of the same challenges and concerns as past members: commodity price and income supports, trade, research, food safety, nutrition, and conservation.