United States Department of Agriculture
|United States Department of Agriculture|
| Logo of the USDA |
Logo of the USDA
| Seal of the Department of Agriculture |
Seal of the Department of Agriculture
|Formed||February 15, 1889|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Employees||105,778 (June 2007)|
|Annual Budget||$94 billion USD (2006)|
|Agency Executives|| Ed Schafer, Secretary of Agriculture |
Charles F. Conner, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture
|Child Agency||Click here|
The United States Department of Agriculture (also called the Agriculture Department, or USDA) is a United States Federal Executive Department (or Cabinet Department). Its purpose is to develop and execute policy on farming, agriculture, and food. It aims to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers, promote agricultural trade and production, work to assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger, in America and abroad. Ed Schafer is the department's secretary, following his nomination by President Bush on October 31, 2007 and confirmation by the Senate on January 28, 2008.
The United States had a largely agrarian economy early in its history. Officials in the federal government had long sought new and improved varieties of seeds, plants, and animals for importation to the United States. In 1836 Henry L. Ellsworth, a man interested in improving agriculture, became Commissioner of Patents, a position within the Department of State. He soon began collecting and distributing new varieties of seeds and plants through members of the Congress and agricultural societies. In 1839 Congress established the Agricultural Division within the Patent Office and allotted $1,000 for "the collection of agricultural statistics and other agricultural purposes."
Ellsworth's interest in aiding agriculture was evident in his annual reports that called for a public depository to preserve and distribute the various new seeds and plants, a clerk to collect agricultural statistics, the preparation of statewide reports about crops in different regions, and the application of chemistry to agriculture. In 1849 the Patent Office was transferred to the newly created Department of the Interior. In the ensuing years, agitation for a separate bureau of agriculture within the Department or a separate department devoted to agriculture kept recurring.
On May 15, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln established the independent Department of Agriculture to be headed by a Commissioner without cabinet status. Lincoln called it the "people's department". In the 1880s, varied special interest groups were lobbying for Cabinet representation. Business interests sought a Department of Commerce and Industry. Farmers tried to raise the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet rank. In 1887, the House and Senate passed bills giving cabinet status to the Department of Agriculture and Labor, but farm interests objected to the addition of labor, and the bill was killed in conference. Finally, on February 9, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law elevating the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet level.
In 1887, the Hatch Act provided for the Federal funding of agricultural experiment stations in each state. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 then funded cooperative extension services in each state to teach agriculture, home economics and related subjects to the public. With these and similar provisions, the USDA reached out to every county of every state.
During the Great Depression, farming remained a common way of life for millions of Americans. The Department of Agriculture was crucial to providing concerned persons with the assistance that they needed to make it through this difficult period, helping to ensure that food continued to be produced and distributed to those who needed it, assisting with loans for small landowners, and contributing to the education of the rural youth. In this way, the Department of Agriculture became a source of comfort as people struggled to survive in rural areas. Allegations have been made that throughout the agency's history it discriminated against African-American farmers, denying them loans and access to other programs well into the 1990s. In 1999, the USDA settled a class action lawsuit alleging discrimination against African-American farmers.
Today, many of the programs concerned with the distribution of food and nutrition to people of America and providing nourishment as well as nutrition education to those in need are run and operated under the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
USDA also concerns itself with assisting farmers and food procucers with the sale of crops and food on both a domestic and on the world market.
USDA also plays an important role in overseas aid programs, by providing surplus foods to developing countries to support development programs, sometimes via USAID or directly to foreign governments, international bodies such as WFP or approved non profit organizations. The Agriculture Act of 1949, section 416 (b) and Agricultural Development and Trade Act of 1954 (also known as Public Law 480 or just PL 480) provides the legal basis of such actions.
The United States Secretary of Agriculture administers the USDA.
The USDA's National Animal Identification System assists large agri-business and factory farms track disease in herds, a necessary regulation for sale of meat overseas.
- Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
- Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
- Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
- Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
- Economic Research Service (ERS)
- Farm Service Agency (FSA)
- Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
- Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS)
- Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
- Forest Service (FS)
- Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA)
- National Agricultural Library (NAL)
- National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
- National Finance Center (NFC)
- National Organic Program (NOP)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
- Risk Management Agency (RMA)
- Rural Development (RD)
Important legislation setting policy of the USDA includes the:
- 1890, 1891, 1897, 1906 Meat Inspection Act
- 1906 - Pure Food and Drug Act
- 1914 - Cotton Futures Act
- 1916 - Federal Farm Loan Act
- 1917 - Food Control and Production Acts
- 1921 - Packers and Stockyards Acts
- 1922 - Grain Futures Act
- 1922 - National Agricultural Conference
- 1923 - Agricultural Credits Act
- 1933 - Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA)
- 1933 - Farm Credit Act
- 1935 - Resettlement Administration
- 1936 - Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act
- 1937 - Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act
- 1941 - National Victory Garden Program
- 1941 - Steagall Amendment
- 1946 - Farmers Home Administration
- 1946 - National School Lunch Act PL 79-396
- 1946 - Research and Marketing Act
- 1948 - Hope-Aiken Agriculture Act PL 80-897
- 1956 - Soil Bank Program authorized
- 1957 - Poultry Inspection Act
- 1947 - Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act PL 80-104
- 1949 - Agricultural Act PL 81-439 (Section 416 (b))
- 1954 - Food for Peace Act PL 83-480
- 1954 - Agricultural Act PL 83-690
- 1956 - Mutual Security Act PL 84-726
- 1957 - Poultry Products Inspection Act PL 85-172
- 1958 - Food Additives Amendment PL 85-929
- 1958 - Humane Slaughter Act
- 1958 - Agricultural Act PL 85-835
- 1961 - Agricultural Act PL 87-128
- 1964 - Agricultural Act PL 88-297
- 1964 - Food Stamp Act PL 88-525
- 1964 - Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Extension PL 88-305
- 1965 - Appalachian Regional Development Act
- 1965 - Food and Agriculture Act PL 89-321
- 1966 - Child Nutrition Act PL 89-642
- 1967 - Wholesome Meat Act PL 90-201
- 1968 - Wholesome Poultry Products Act PL 90-492
- 1970 - Agricultural Act PL 91-524
- 1972 - Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act PL 92-516
- 1970 - Environmental Quality Improvement Act
- 1970 - Food Stamp Act PL 91-671
- 1972 - Rural Development Act
- 1972 - Rural Development Act Reform 3.31
- 1972 - National School Lunch Act Amendments (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) PL 92-433
- 1973 - Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act PL 93-86
- 1974 - Safe Drinking Water Act PL 93-523
- 1977 - Food and Agriculture Act PL 95-113
- 1996 - Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act PL 104-127
- 1996 - Food Quality Protection Act PL 104-170
- 2002 - Farm Security and Rural Investment Act PL 107-171
- United States Department of Agriculture and public domain policy.
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- eLook Nutrition - Provides the complete USDA nutritional database online along with search feature.
- National Archives document of the USDA's origins
- Report: USDA Regulatory Policy Has Been 'Hijacked' by Agribusiness Industry - July 23, 2004.
- USDA RELEASES 180-DAY REPORT ON AVIAN INFLUENZA EFFORTS AND SUPPLEMENTAL SPENDING H5N1 efforts.
- USDA Economic Research Service State Fact Sheets
- Location of USDA headquarters on Wikimapia
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Search By Food
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Nutrient Lists Search By Nutrient
- USDA Awards $97 M for Renewable Energy Projects
- USDA Bets the Farm on Animal ID Program
- "President Bush Nominates Ed Schafer for Secretary of Agriculture" (Press release). White House. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
- Jalonick, Mary Clare (2008-01-28). "Senate Confirms Secretary of Agriculture". AP. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- 12 Stat. 387, now codified at 7 U.S.C. § 2201.
- General Accounting Office,USDA - Problems Continue to Hinider the Timely Processing of Discriminatinon Complaints, January 1999
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