The roots of the Illinois Department of Agriculture go back to 1819, when the Illinois Agricultural Association was formed just months after Illinois became a state. The only known record of this organization comes from letters written by early settlers.
In 1853, the association became the Illinois State Agricultural Society, with a 2-year budget of $1,000. The society was active until April 15, 1871 when a new state constitution created the Illinois Department of Agriculture, overseen by the State Board of Agriculture.
The department gained its current status as a regulatory and promotional agency in 1917 under the Civil Administrative Code. Today the Agriculture Department administers an $109 million budget and employs more than 600 people statewide. Separate bureaus administer programs and services directed at conserving the state's land and water resources; protecting the health and welfare of livestock and companion animals; overseeing state and county fairs; regulating seed, feed and fertilizer products; ensuring the financial stability of grain dealers and warehouses; promoting Illinois food and agricultural products; and operating the state's horse racing programs.
Since 1981, the department has been headquartered on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.