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)|
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.
The Federal Government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the President, and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
The United States federal executive departments are the principal units of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. They are analogous to ministries common in parliamentary or semi-presidential systems but they are led by a head of government who is also the head of state. The executive departments are the administrative arms of the President of the United States. There are currently 15 executive departments.
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.
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.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people living in the United States. It is a federal aid program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), though benefits are distributed by each U.S. state's Division of Social Services or Children and Family Services.
The current Secretary of Agriculture is Sonny Perdue.
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.
George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III is an American veterinarian, businessman, and politician currently serving as the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture since 2017. He previously served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. He was the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.
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 have been accessed by those experiencing homelessness.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) is an independent federal agency within the U.S. executive branch that leads the implementation of the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. USICH is advised by a Council, which includes the heads of its 20 federal member agencies. The immediate past chair was Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, and the vice chair was Secretary of Education John King. USICH partners with these 19 federal agencies, state and local governments, advocates, service providers, and people experiencing homelessness to achieve the goals outlined in the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, Opening Doors.
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.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance. With a budget of over $27 billion, USAID is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. foreign assistance—the highest in the world in absolute dollar terms.
The Agricultural Act of 1949 is a United States federal law that is known as the "permanent legislation" of U.S. agricultural policy and is, in its amended form, still in effect. The Act was enacted on October 31, 1949. The purpose of the act is "To provide assistance to the States in the establishment, maintenance, operation, and expansion of school-lunch programs, and for other purposes."
The Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 is a United States federal law that established Food for Peace, the primary U.S. overseas food assistance program. The Act was signed into law on July 10, 1954, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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." [ citation needed ]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."
The economy of the United States is a highly developed mixed economy. It is the world's largest economy by nominal GDP and the second-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It also has the world's seventh-highest per capita GDP (nominal) and the eleventh-highest per capita GDP (PPP) in 2016. The US has a highly diversified, world-leading industrial sector. It is also a high-technology innovator with the second-largest industrial output in the world. The U.S. dollar is the currency most used in international transactions and is the world's foremost reserve currency, backed by its science and technology, its military, the full faith of the U.S. government to reimburse its debts, its central role in a range of international institutions since World War II, and the petrodollar system. Several countries use it as their official currency, and in many others, it is the de facto currency. Its largest trading partners are China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, South Korea, United Kingdom, France, India, and Taiwan.
Henry Leavitt Ellsworth was a Yale-educated attorney who became the first Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, where he encouraged innovation by inventors Samuel F.B. Morse and Samuel Colt. Ellsworth also served as the second president of the Aetna Insurance Company, and was a major donor to Yale College, a commissioner to Indian tribes on the western frontier, and the founder of what became the United States Department of Agriculture.
The United States Department of State (DOS), commonly referred to as the State Department, is the federal executive department that advises the President and conducts international relations. Equivalent to the foreign ministry of other countries, it was established in 1789 as the nation's first executive department.
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.[ citation needed ]
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.[ citation needed ]
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. [ citation needed ]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.
The Department of Agriculture was authorized a budget for Fiscal Year 2015 of $139.7 billion. The budget authorization is broken down as follows:
|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. [ citation needed ] 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.NBFA called for all those cases to be reheard.
In 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report highly critical of the USDA in its handling of the black farmers cases. [ citation needed ] 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.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.
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. [ citation needed ] 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.NBFA's John W. Boyd, Jr., attended the bill-signing ceremony at the White House.
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".
According to Food & Water Watch, the Environmental Working Group, AlterNet and others, the USDA has strong ties to the food industry.
...claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm.
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An agricultural subsidy is a government incentive paid to agribusinesses, agricultural organizations and farms to supplement their income, manage the supply of agricultural commodities, and influence the cost and supply of such commodities. Examples of such commodities include: wheat, feed grains, cotton, milk, rice, peanuts, sugar, tobacco, oilseeds such as soybeans and meat products such as beef, pork, and lamb and mutton.
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).
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under the age of five. Their mission is to be a partner with other services that are key to childhood and family well-being The basic eligibility requirement is a family income below 185% of the federal poverty level. Most states allow automatic income eligibility, where a person or family participating in certain benefits programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, may automatically meet the income eligibility requirements. Currently, WIC serves 53 percent of all infants born in the United States.
Food policy is the area of public policy concerning how food is produced, processed, distributed, and purchased. Food policies are designed to influence the operation of the food and agriculture system. This often includes decision-making around production and processing techniques, marketing, availability, utilization and consumption of food, in the interest of meeting or furthering social objectives. Food policy can be promulgated on any level, from local to global, and by a government agency, business, or organization. Food policymakers engage in activities such as regulation of food-related industries, establishing eligibility standards for food assistance programs for the poor, ensuring safety of the food supply, food labeling, and even the qualifications of a product to be considered organic.
In the United States, the farm bill is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the federal government. The comprehensive omnibus bill is renewed every 5 years or so and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the purview of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 was a $288 billion, five-year agricultural policy bill that was passed into law by the United States Congress on June 18, 2008. The bill was a continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill. It continues the United States' long history of agricultural subsidies as well as pursuing areas such as energy, conservation, nutrition, and rural development. Some specific initiatives in the bill include increases in Food Stamp benefits, increased support for the production of cellulosic ethanol, and money for the research of pests, diseases and other agricultural problems.
The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the United States. As an association, it serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA's education and advocacy efforts have been focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for black and other small farmers.
John Wesley Boyd, Jr. is a Baskerville, Virginia farmer, civil rights activist and the founder of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA). He owns and operates a 300-acre (1.2 km2) farm where he grows soybean, corn and wheat and currently raises a hundred head of beef cattle. For 14 years Boyd was a chicken farmer in a Perdue Farms breeder program. He was also a tobacco farmer for many years.
Pigford v. Glickman (1999) was a class action lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), alleging racial discrimination against African-American farmers in its allocation of farm loans and assistance between 1981 and 1996. The lawsuit was settled on April 14, 1999, by Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. To date, almost US$1 billion has been paid or credited to more than 13,300 farmers under the settlement's consent decree, under what is reportedly the largest civil rights settlement to date. As another 70,000 farmers had filed late and not had their claims heard, the 2008 Farm Bill provided for additional claims to be heard. In December 2010, Congress appropriated $1.2 billion for what is called Pigford II, settlement for the second part of the case.
The Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade (FACT) Act of 1990 — P.L. 101-624 was a 5-year omnibus farm bill that passed Congress and was signed into law.
Shirley Sherrod is a former Georgia State Director of Rural Development for the United States Department of Agriculture. On July 19, 2010, she became a subject of controversy when parts of a speech she gave – that had been edited to cast her as racist – were publicized by Breitbart News, and she was forced to resign. However, upon review of the complete unedited video in context, the NAACP, White House officials, and Tom Vilsack, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, apologized for the firing and Sherrod was offered a new position.
The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 Pub.L. 111–291, H.R. 4783 is a federal law enacted by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 8, 2010. The act is a response to the Pigford v. Glickman case, where black farmers were found to have been discriminated against from 1983 to 1997 by the United States Department of Agriculture when applying for loans and assistance to start and to maintain farms. The case required a $50,000 dollar settlement to every discriminated farmer. However, many potential victims missed the application deadline for a settlement. The bill sets aside $1.5 billion for the estimated 75,000 farmers who are eligible for a settlement.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is a federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 13, 2010. The bill is part of the reauthorization of funding for child nutrition. The bill funds child nutrition programs and free lunch programs in schools for the next 5 years. In addition, the bill sets new nutrition standards for schools, and allocates $4.5 billion for their implementation. The new nutrition standards have been a point initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama in her fight against childhood obesity as part of her Let's Move! initiative. In FY 2011, federal spending totaled $10.1 billion for the National School Lunch Program. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act allows USDA, for the first time in 30 years, opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and Michelle Obama were a step in transforming the food pyramid recommendation, which has been around since the early 1990s, into what is now known as "MyPlate".
Alexander J. Pires Jr. is an American lawyer and entrepreneur. He is Portuguese, both sides of his family came from the village of Madalena do Mar on the island of Madeira.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) began in 1968. It was an amendment to the National School Lunch Act. Today, the SFSP is the largest federal resource available for local sponsors who want to combine a child nutrition program with a summer activity program. Sponsors can be public or private groups, such as non-profit organizations, government entities, churches, universities, and camps. The government reimburses sponsors for the food at a set rate. There are still communities that have not created a Summer Food Service Program in their community. For those individuals that want to help ensure children have meals during the summer, they can get more information from the USDA or their state government agencies.
The role of African Americans in the agricultural history of the United States is extremely important. Given that the majority of blacks were employed in agriculture in the United States, particularly during the 19th and early 20th century, represents a major part of their history and the economic progress of the nation.
The Agricultural Act of 2014, formerly the "Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013", is an act of Congress that authorizes nutrition and agriculture programs in the United States for the years of 2014-2018. The bill authorizes $956 billion in spending over the next ten years.