The United States Department of Agriculture (informally the Agriculture Department or USDA) is the United States federal executive department responsible for developing and executing U.S. federal government policy on farming, agriculture, 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. The head of the department is the Secretary of Agriculture, who is a member of the Cabinet. The current Secretary is Tom Vilsack. 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 importation to 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 soon began collecting and distributing new varieties of seeds and plants through members of the Congress and agricultural societies.
Food toxin detector incorporates camera
Each year, about 48 million Americans are sickened by foodborne diseases, and 3,000 die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One factor that limits widespread testing of foods for toxins that ...
New tests count total phenolics in fruits and veggies
Agricultural Research Service investigators have a long history of designing and developing reliable analytical methods for measuring nutrients and other compounds in foods. ARS scientists have now devised new analytical ...
Advance may speed development of seed rot-resistant soybeans
Soybeans have been called the "wonder crop" for all the products that can be made from the versatile legume—including cooking oil, tofu, livestock feed, and biodiesel, to name just a few. But America's second-largest field ...
Plants adapt to drought but limits are looming, study finds (Update)
Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, and their partners have determined that water demand by many plant communities can fluctuate in response to water availability, indicating a capacity for resilience ...
Studying bed bug actions for new management tactics
Learning more about the behavior of bed bugs is one approach being used by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to identify compounds to help control these pests.
ARS scientists test improved stink bug trapping methods
Baited black traps in a pyramid shape attract significantly more brown marmorated stink bugs than other traps, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. Evaluating stink bug responses to different visual ...
Lady beetle diet influences its effectiveness as biocontrol agent
By examining what lady beetles eat, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are learning more about the movement of these beneficial insects in farm fields—and whether they'll actively feed on crop pests.
Beneficial mold packaged in bioplastic
(Phys.org)—Aflatoxins are highly toxic carcinogens produced by several species of Aspergillus fungi. But not all Aspergillus produce aflatoxin. Some, in fact, are considered beneficial. One such strain, dubbed K49, is now ...
Minimizing mining damage with manure
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research confirms that the time-tested practice of amending crop soils with manure also can help restore soils on damaged post-mining landscapes.
Napiergrass: A potential biofuel crop for the sunny Southeast
A grass fed to cattle throughout much of the tropics may become a biofuel crop that helps the nation meet its future energy needs, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist.