The United States Department of Agriculture develops and executes U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, and food. It is informally referred to as the Department of Agriculture or USDA. The United States Secretary of Agriculture administers the USDA and is head of the Department.
The aims and objectives of the Department include:
- meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers;
- promoting agricultural trade and production;
- assuring food safety;
- protecting natural resources;
- fostering rural communities; and
- ending hunger in the United States and abroad.
The Department of Agriculture was created by act of Congress on May 15, 1862. On Feb. 8, 1889, its Commissioner was renamed Secretary of Agriculture and became a member of the Cabinet.
The USDA’s mission is to provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management. The USDA’s vision is to be recognized as a dynamic organization that is able to efficiently provide the integrated program delivery needed to lead a rapidly evolving food and agriculture system.
The USDA has created a strategic plan to implement its vision. The key activities developed by the USDA in order to implement the plan are:
- expanding markets for agricultural products and support international economic development;
- further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities;
- providing financing needed to expand job opportunities and improve housing, utilities and infrastructure in rural America;
- enhancing food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of food borne hazards from farm to table;
- improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion; and
- managing and protecting America’s public and private lands working cooperatively with other levels of government and the private sector.
The USDA consists of 17 agencies. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $95 billion. USDA employs more than 100,000 employees. The 17 agencies of USDA are:
- Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
- Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
- Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
- Economic Research Service (ERS)
- Farm Service Agency (FSA)
- Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
- Food Safety and 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 Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
- Risk Management Agency (RMA)
- Development (RD)
The offices that function under the Department are:
- Departmental Administration (DA)
- National Appeals Division (NAD)
- Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR)
- Office of Budget and Program Analysis (OBPA)
- Office of the Chief Economist (OCE)
- Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO)
- Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
- Office of Communications (OC)
- Office of Congressional Relations (OCR)
- Office of the Executive Secretariat (OES
- Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
- Office of the General Counsel (OGC)
A major portion of the Department’s budget goes towards the expenditure in mandatory programs that provide services required by law, such as programs designed to provide nutrition assistance, promote agricultural exports, and conserve the environment. The USDA also plays an important role in overseas aid programs by providing surplus foods to developing countries.