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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

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    On this day Anne Friar Thomas went to be with the Lord and Savior. She waltzed across the human side of life to dance with her angels that have guided her throughout her life. Anne grew up in Cuero, g...

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal executive department responsible for developing and executing federal laws related to farming, forestry, rural economic development, and food. It aims to meet the needs of commercial farming and livestock food production, promotes agricultural trade and production, works to assure food safety, protects natural resources, fosters rural communities and works to end hunger in the United States and internationally. It is headed by the secretary of agriculture, who reports directly to the president of the United States and is a member of the president's Cabinet. The current secretary is Tom Vilsack, who has served since February 24, 2021.

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 United States Forest Service is the largest agency within the department, which administers national forests and national grasslands that together comprise about 25% of federal lands.

The USDA is divided into eight distinct mission areas, each of which have at least one agency dedicated to the theme of the mission area:

  • Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC)
    • FPAC Business Center
    • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
    • Risk Management Agency (RMA)
    • Farm Service Agency (FSA)
    • Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS)
    • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
  • Food Safety (FS)
    • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
    • Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP)
  • Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
    • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
    • Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE)
  • Forest Service (FS)
    • Research, Education, and Economics (REE)
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
    • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
    • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
    • Economic Research Service (ERS)
  • Rural Development (RD)
    • Rural Utilities Service (RUS)
    • Rural Housing Service (RHS)
    • Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBS)
  • Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs (TFAA)
    • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)

Many of the programs concerned with the distribution of food and nutrition to people of the United States and providing nourishment as well as nutrition education to those in need are run by the 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 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.