The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), also known as the Agriculture Department, is the U.S. federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, 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 the United States and internationally.
Approximately 80% of the USDA's $141 billion budget goes to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program. The largest component of the FNS budget is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program), which is the cornerstone of USDA's nutrition assistance.
|United States Department of Agriculture|
Seal of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Logo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
Flag of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
|Formed||May 15, 1862|
Cabinet status: February 15, 1889
|Jurisdiction||U.S. federal government|
|Headquarters||Jamie L. Whitten Building|
1301 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C.
|Employees||105,778 (June 2007)|
|Annual budget||US$151 billion (2017)|
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. Activities in this program include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides healthy food to over 40 million low-income and homeless people each month. USDA is a member of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, where it is committed to working with other agencies to ensure these mainstream benefits are accessed by those experiencing homelessness.
The USDA also is concerned with assisting farmers and food producers with the sale of crops and food on both the domestic and world markets. It plays a role in overseas aid programs by providing surplus foods to developing countries. This aid can go through USAID, foreign governments, international bodies such as World Food Program, or approved nonprofits. The Agricultural Act of 1949, section 416 (b) and Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954, also known as Food for Peace, provides the legal basis of such actions. The USDA is a partner of the World Cocoa Foundation.
Early in its history, the economy of the United States was largely agrarian. Officials in the federal government had long sought new and improved varieties of seeds, plants and animals for import into the United States. In 1837 Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, a Yale-educated attorney interested in improving agriculture, became Commissioner of Patents, a position within the Department of State. He 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 new seeds and plants, a clerk to collect agricultural statistics, statewide reports about crops in different regions, and the application of chemistry to agriculture. Ellsworth was called the "Father of the Department of 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, Abraham Lincoln established the independent Department of Agriculture to be headed by a commissioner without Cabinet status, and the agriculturalist Isaac Newton was appointed to be the first such commissioner. Lincoln called it the "people's department."
In 1868, the Department moved into the new Department of Agriculture Building in Washington, D.C. designed by famed DC architect Adolf Cluss. Located on Reservation No.2 on the National Mall between 12th Street and 14th SW, the Department had offices for its staff and the entire width of the Mall up to B Street NW to plant and experiment with plants.
In the 1880s, varied advocacy groups were lobbying for Cabinet representation. Business interests sought a Department of Commerce and Industry, and farmers tried to raise the Department of Agriculture to Cabinet rank. In 1887, the House of Representatives and Senate passed bills giving Cabinet status to the Department of Agriculture and Labor, but the bill was defeated in conference committee after farm interests objected to the addition of labor. 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 other 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's Bureau of Home Economics, established in 1923, published shopping advice and recipes to stretch family budgets and make food go farther. USDA helped ensure that food continued to be produced and distributed to those who needed it, assisted with loans for small landowners, and contributed to the education of the rural youth.
It was revealed on August 27th, 2018 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be providing U.S. farmers with a farm aid package, which will total $4.7 billion in direct payments to American farmers. This package is meant to offset the losses farmers are expected to incur from retaliatory tariffs placed on American exports during the Trump tariffs.
|Management and Finance||Deputy Secretary of Agriculture|
|Office of the Chief Information Officer|
|Office of the Chief Economist|
|National Appeals Division|
|Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization|
|Office of Communications|
|Office of the Inspector General||0.1|
|Office of Tribal Relations|
|Office of the General Counsel|
|Office of the Chief Financial Officer|
|Office of Budget and Program Analysis|
|Office of Congressional Relations|
|Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights|
|Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services||Farm Service Agency||6.2|
|Risk Management Agency||8.7|
|Foreign Agricultural Service||1.8|
|Rural Development||Rural Business-Cooperative Service||1.3|
|Rural Utilities Service||7.3|
|Rural Housing Service||28.4|
|Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services||Food and Nutrition Service||112.2|
|Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion|
|Food Safety||Food Safety and Inspection Service||1.0|
|Natural Resources and Environment||Natural Resources Conservation Service||4.2|
|United States Forest Service||4.8|
|Marketing and Regulatory Programs||Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service||1.1|
|Agricultural Marketing Service||1.3|
|Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration||0.04|
|Research, Education, and Economics||Agricultural Research Service||1.1|
|National Institute of Food and Agriculture||1.5|
|Economic Research Service||0.1|
|National Agricultural Statistics Service||0.2|
|National Agricultural Library|
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs|
In 2015, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed the desire to resign to President Obama. The Washington Post reports that he said "There are days when I have literally nothing to do," he recalled thinking as he weighed his decision to quit." President Obama did not accept his resignation but assigned him additional tasks of combating opioid addiction, a task usually not assigned to the Department of Agriculture.
Allegations have been made that throughout the agency's history its personnel have discriminated against farmers of various backgrounds, denying them loans and access to other programs well into the 1990s. The effect of this discrimination has been the reduction in the number of African-American farmers in the United States. Many black farmers across the nation experienced discrimination in their dealings with in-state USDA agencies. Across the nation, black farmers alleged, and the USDA later agreed, they were denied access to loans and subsidies provided by the government. On a national level, farm subsidies that were afforded to white farmers were not afforded to black farmers. Since they were denied government loans, emergency or disaster assistance, and other aid, many black farmers lost their farms and homes.
In 1999, the USDA settled a class action lawsuit, the Pigford Case, alleging discrimination against African-American farmers in the late twentieth century. The government's settlement of nearly $1 billion with more than 13,300 farmers was reportedly the largest civil rights claim to date. The 2008 Farm Bill provided for additional farmers to have their claims heard, as 70,000 had filed late in the original program. In 2010 the federal government made another $1.2 billion settlement in what is called Pigford II for outstanding claims.
Following long-standing concerns, black farmers joined a class action discrimination suit against the USDA filed in federal court in 1997. An attorney called it "the most organized, largest civil rights case in the history of the country." Also in 1997, black farmers from at least five states held protests in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Protests in front of the USDA were a strategy employed in later years as the black farmers sought to keep national attention focused on the plight of the black farmers. Representatives of the National Black Farmers Association met with President Bill Clinton and other administration officials at the White House. And NBFA's president testified before the United States House Committee on Agriculture.
In Pigford v. Glickman, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman approved the settlement and consent decree on April 14, 1999. The settlement recognized discrimination against 22,363 black farmers but the NBFA would later call the agreement incomplete because more than 70,000 were excluded. Nevertheless, the settlement was deemed to be the largest-ever civil rights class action settlement in American history. Lawyers estimated the value of the settlement to be more than $2 billion. Some farmers would have their debts forgiven. Judge Friedman appointed a monitor to oversee the settlement. Farmers in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Georgia were among those affected by the settlement.
The NBFA's president was invited to testify before congress on this matter numerous times following the settlement including before the United States Senate Committee on Agriculture on September 12, 2000, when he testified that many farmers had not yet received payments and others were left out of the settlement. It was later revealed that one DoJ staff "general attorney" was unlicensed while she was handling black farmers' cases. NBFA called for all those cases to be reheard. The Chicago Tribune reported in 2004 that the result of such longstanding USDA discrimination was that black farmers had been forced out of business at a rate three times faster than white farmers. In 1920, 1 in 7 U.S. farmers was African-American, and by 2004 the number is 1 in 100. USDA spokesman Ed Loyd, when acknowledging that the USDA loan process was unfair to minority farmers, had claimed it was hard to determine the effect on such farmers.
In 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highly critical of the USDA in its handling of the black farmers cases. NBFA continued to lobby Congress to provide relief. NBFA's Boyd secured congressional support for legislation that would provide $100 million in funds to settle late-filer cases. In 2006 a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives and later the Senate by Senator George Felix Allen. In 2007 Boyd testified before the United States House Committee on the Judiciary about this legislation. As the organization was making headway by gathering Congressional supporters in 2007 it was revealed that some USDA Farm Services Agency employees were engaged in activities aimed at blocking Congressional legislation that would aid the black farmers. President Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator, lent his support to the black farmers' issues in 2007. A bill cosponsored by Obama passed the Senate in 2007.
In early June 2008 hundreds of black farmers, denied a chance to have their cases heard in the Pigford settlement, filed a new lawsuit against USDA. The Senate and House versions of the black farmers bill, reopening black farmers discrimination cases, became law in June 2008. Some news reports said that the new law could affect up to 74,000 black farmers. In October 2008, the GAO issued a report criticizing the USDA's handling of discrimination complaints. The GAO recommended an oversight review board to examine civil rights complaints.
After numerous public rallies and an intensive NBFA member lobbying effort, Congress approved and Obama signed into law in December 2010 legislation that set aside $1.15 billion to resolve the outstanding black farmers cases. NBFA's John W. Boyd, Jr., attended the bill-signing ceremony at the White House. As of 2013, 90,000 African-American, Hispanic, female and Native American farmers had filed claims. It was reported that some had been found fraudulent, or transparently bogus. In Maple Hill, North Carolina by 2013, the number of successful claimants was four times the number of farms with 1 out of 9 African-Americans being paid, while "claimants were not required [by the USDA] to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm." Lack of documentation is an issue complicated by the USDA practice of discarding denied applications after three years.
Important legislation setting policy of the USDA includes the:
In 2016, Food & Water Watch claimed that "when independent, government scientists produce research that threatens corporate agribusinesses, the USDA—according to at least 10 government scientists—censors the results, waters down the findings and punishes the researchers".
...claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm.
AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) is an online database created and maintained by the United States National Agricultural Library of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The database serves as the catalog and index for the collections of the United States National Agricultural Library, but it also provides public access to information on agriculture and allied fields.Agricultural Research Service
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the principal in-house research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). ARS is one of four agencies in USDA's Research, Education and Economics mission area. ARS is charged with extending the nation's scientific knowledge and solving agricultural problems through its four national program areas: nutrition, food safety and quality; animal production and protection; natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems; and crop production and protection. ARS research focuses on solving problems affecting Americans every day. The ARS Headquarters is located in the Jamie L. Whitten Building on Independence Avenue in Washington, D.C. and the headquarters staff is located at the George Washington Carver Center (GWCC) in Beltsville, Maryland. For 2018, its budget was $1.2 billion.Canola oil
Canola oil, or canola for short, is a vegetable oil derived from a variety of rapeseed that is low in erucic acid, as opposed to colza oil. There are both edible and industrial forms produced from the seed of any of several cultivars of the plant family Brassicaceae, namely cultivars of Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa subsp. oleifera (syn. B. campestris L.), or Brassica juncea, which are also referred to as "canola". According to the Canola Council of Canada, an industry association, the official definition of canola is "Seeds of the genus Brassica (Brassica napus, Brassica rapa or Brassica juncea) from which the oil shall contain less than 2% erucic acid in its fatty acid profile and the solid component shall contain less than 30 micromoles of any one or any mixture of 3-butenyl glucosinolate, 4-pentenyl glucosinolate, 2-hydroxy-3 butenyl glucosinolate, and 2-hydroxy- 4-pentenyl glucosinolate per gram of air-dry, oil-free solid."Consumption of the oil has become common in industrialized nations. It is also used as a source of biodiesel.Coconut oil
Coconut oil, or copra oil, is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of mature coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). It has various applications. Because of its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize and, thus, resistant to rancidification, lasting up to six months at 24 °C (75 °F) without spoiling.Due to its high levels of saturated fat, the World Health Organization, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States Food and Drug Administration, American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, British National Health Service, British Nutrition Foundation, and Dietitians of Canada advise that coconut oil consumption should be limited or avoided.Convolvulaceae
Convolvulaceae, known commonly as the bindweed or morning glory family, is a family of about 60 genera and more than 1,650 species of mostly herbaceous vines, but also trees, shrubs and herbs, and also including the sweet potato and a few other food tubers.Corn oil
Corn oil (maize oil) is oil extracted from the germ of corn (maize). Its main use is in cooking, where its high smoke point makes refined corn oil a valuable frying oil. It is also a key ingredient in some margarines. Corn oil is generally less expensive than most other types of vegetable oils. One bushel of corn contains 1.55 pounds of corn oil (2.8% by weight). Corn agronomists have developed high-oil varieties; however, these varieties tend to show lower field yields, so they are not universally accepted by growers.
Corn oil is also a feedstock used for biodiesel. Other industrial uses for corn oil include soap, salve, paint, rustproofing for metal surfaces, inks, textiles, nitroglycerin, and insecticides. It is sometimes used as a carrier for drug molecules in pharmaceutical preparations.Economic Research Service
The Economic Research Service (ERS) is a component of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a principal agency of the Federal Statistical System of the United States. It provides information and research on agriculture and economics.Farm Service Agency
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is the United States Department of Agriculture agency into which were merged several predecessor agencies, including the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). The ASCS was, as the FSA is now, primarily tasked with the implementation of farm conservation and regulation laws around the country. The Administrator of FSA reports to the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. The current Acting Administrator is Chris Beyerhelm. The FSA (ASCS) of each state is led by a politically appointed State Executive Director (SED).Food and Nutrition Service
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The FNS is the federal agency responsible for administering the nation’s domestic nutrition assistance programs. The service helps to address the issue of hunger in the United States.
FNS administers the programs through its headquarters in Alexandria, VA; regional offices in San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, and Robbinsville (NJ); and field offices throughout the US. While its staff number among the USDA's fewest, its budget is by far the largest.Germplasm Resources Information Network
Germplasm Resources Information Network or GRIN is an online USDA National Genetic Resources Program software project to comprehensively manage the computer database for the holdings of all plant germplasm collected by the National Plant Germplasm System.GRIN has extended its role to manage information on the germplasm reposits of insect (invertebrate), microbial, and animal species (see Sub-Projects).Hemp oil
Hemp oil or hempseed oil is obtained by pressing hemp seeds. Cold pressed, unrefined hemp oil is dark to clear light green in color, with a nutty flavour. The darker the color, the grassier the flavour. It should not be confused with
hash oil, a tetrahydrocannabinol-containing oil made from the Cannabis flower, hailed by some for its medicinal qualities.Inceptisol
Inceptisols are a soil order in USDA soil taxonomy. They form quickly through alteration of parent material. They are more developed than Entisols. They have no accumulation of clays, iron oxide, aluminium oxide or organic matter. They have an ochric or umbric horizon and a cambic subsurface horizon.
In the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB), most Inceptisols are Cambisols or Umbrisols. Some may be Nitisols. Many Aquepts belong to Gleysols and Stagnosols.Natural Resources Conservation Service
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), is an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical assistance to farmers and other private landowners and managers.
Its name was changed in 1994 during the presidency of Bill Clinton to reflect its broader mission. It is a relatively small agency, currently comprising about 12,000 employees. Its mission is to improve, protect, and conserve natural resources on private lands through a cooperative partnership with state and local agencies. While its primary focus has been agricultural lands, it has made many technical contributions to soil surveying, classification and water quality improvement. One example is the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), set up to quantify the benefits of agricultural conservation efforts promoted and supported by programs in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill). NRCS is the leading agency in this project.Rural Utilities Service
The United States Rural Utilities Service (RUS) administers programs that provide infrastructure or infrastructure improvements to rural communities. These include water and waste treatment, electric power, and telecommunications services. it is an operating unit of the USDA Rural Development agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It was created in 1935 as the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a New Deal agency promoting rural electrification.
A total of 890 rural electric and 800 rural telecommunications utilities in 47 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia have received financial assistance. Approximately 7,200 rural communities are served through financial assistance received from water and waste loans and grants.The RUS administers the following programs:
Water and Environmental: provides financial assistance for drinking water, sanitary sewer, solid waste and storm drainage facilities in rural areas and communities with a population of 10,000 or less.
Electric Programs: help maintain, expand, upgrade and modernize the rural electric infrastructure. It also supports demand-side management, energy efficiency and conservation programs, and on-and off-grid renewable energy systems.
Telecommunications: helps deploy the rural telecommunications infrastructure.Scrophulariaceae
The Scrophulariaceae is a family of flowering plants, commonly known as the figwort family. The plants are annual and perennial herbs, as well as one genus of shrubs. Flowers have bilateral (zygomorphic) or rarely radial (actinomorphic) symmetry. Members of the Scrophulariaceae have a cosmopolitan distribution, with the majority found in temperate areas, including tropical mountains. The family name is based on the name of the included genus Scrophularia L..Soybean oil
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean (Glycine max). It is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils. As a drying oil, processed soybean oil is also used as a base for printing inks (soy ink) and oil paints.Sunflower oil
Sunflower oil is the non-volatile oil pressed from the seeds of sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Sunflower oil is commonly used in food as a frying oil, and in cosmetic formulations as an emollient. The world's total production of sunflower oil in 2014 was nearly 16 million tonnes, with Ukraine and Russia as the largest producers.Sunflower oil is a mixture mainly of the polyunsaturated fat, linoleic acid (59% of total), and the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid (30% of total). In sunflower oil plant breeding and manufacturing, four types of processed oil containing different amounts of the major fatty acids are produced. The expressed oil has light amber color with a mild flavor. The oil contains a rich content of vitamin E.
As of 2017, genome analysis and development of hybrid sunflowers to increase oil production are under development to meet greater consumer demand for sunflower oil and its commercial varieties.United States Secretary of Agriculture
The United States Secretary of Agriculture is the head of the United States Department of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Perdue took office on April 25, 2017 after being confirmed by the U.S Senate 87-11. The position carries similar responsibilities to those of agriculture ministers in other governments.
The department includes several organizations. The 297,000 mi2 (770,000 km2) of national forests and grasslands are managed by the United States Forest Service. The safety of food produced and sold in the United States is ensured by the United States Food Safety and Inspection Service. The Food Stamp Program works with the states to provide food to low-income people. Advice for farmers and gardeners is provided by the United States Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service.Vegetable oil
Vegetable oils, or vegetable fats, are fats extracted from seeds, or less often, from other parts of fruits. Like animal fats, vegetable fats are mixtures of triglycerides. Soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and cocoa butter are examples of fats from seeds. Olive oil, palm oil, and rice bran oil are example of fats from other parts of fruits. In common usage, vegetable oil may refer exclusively to vegetable fats which are liquid at room temperature.
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Natural Resources and Environment
|Assistant to the Secretary for|
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Research, Education, and Economics
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Marketing and Regulatory Programs
|Under Secretary of Agriculture for|
Farm Production and Conservation
|Office of the Chief Financial Officer|
*Reports directly to the Secretary of Agriculture
|Department of the Interior|
|Department of Commerce|
|Department of Energy|
|Department of Agriculture|
|Department of Homeland Security|
|Department of Health |
and Human Services
|Department of Defense|