United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
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 government policy on farming, agriculture, 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 abroad.
Programs and Services
Assisting Rural Communities
This program is designed to provide loans for funding, on a technology neutral basis, for the costs of construction, improvement, and acquisition of facilities and equipment to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.
Natural disaster is a constant threat to America's farmers and ranchers and rural residents. USDA provides assistance for losses that result from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, pest infestation, and other calamities.
Grants and Loans
To help users better understand crop and livestock insurance, USDA provides critical tools and policy and reinsurance agreement information and details the insurance cycle from the application process to the claims process.
The Office of Environmental Markets (OEM) supports the Secretary in the development of emerging markets for carbon sequestration, water quality, wetlands, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services. OEM was established in response to the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, America's Farm Bill.
Conservation programs within USDA assist owners of America's private land with conserving their soil, water, and other natural resources. Certain programs also provide financial assistance for agricultural producers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and pests.
The Forest Service manages wildland fire to protect human life, welfare, and property. The Agency also manages wildland fire to restore and maintain the health of ecosystems on which Americans depend for clean water, oxygen, carbon sequestration, recreation, forest products, biodiversity, beauty, and other resource benefits.
Education and Research
Advances in agricultural productivity have led to abundant and affordable food and fiber throughout most of the developed world. The major goals of this ARS research program are to quantify productivity improvements, and the sources of improvement, and to investigate the direction and efficiency of the public and private sectors in enhancing the stock of agricultural knowledge and in developing new technologies.
A collection of data, analysis, and statistics from the Economic Research Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Economic Research Service is a primary source of economic information and research in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ERS conducts a research program to inform public and private decision making on economic and policy issues involving food, farming, natural resources, and rural development.
Food and Nutrition
Child Nutrition Programs
USDA announced a proposed rule that would increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; and reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fat in meals. Implementation of this proposed rule would result in more nutritious school meals and help improve the nutrition and health of children across the country.
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)
EFNEP operates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 6 U.S. territories and targets limited-resource adults with young children and limited-resource youth. It uses an evidence-based, peer-educator interactive teaching model, which makes learning relevant and meaningful for participants. EFNEP consistently leads to improved food choices and physical activity behaviors.
USDA's National Organic Program regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.
SNAP helps put food on the table for some 31 million people per month in FY 2009. It provides low-income households with electronic benefits they can use like cash at most grocery stores. SNAP is the cornerstone of the Federal food assistance programs, and provides crucial support to needy households and to those making the transition from welfare to work.
WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.
Marketing and Trade
To promote and assist exportation, USDA offers a variety of valuable tools, services, policies and research to assist new and experienced exporters in all the stages necessary for getting their product out to their desired market.
USDA conducts and provides research on food security and hunger in U.S. households and communities. This research facilitates informed public debate regarding food security, and its impact on the well-being of children, adults, families, and communities, as well as its relationship to public policies, public assistance programs, and the economy.
While foreign regulatory systems need not be identical to the U.S. system, they must employ equivalent sanitary and health measures that provide the same level of protection achieved domestically for imported goods.