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.
Stopping flies before they mature
An insect growth regulator is one of the latest technologies U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are adding to their arsenal to help fight house flies that spread bacteria to food.
Researchers use 'banker plants' to help battle whitefly pests
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist is showing growers how to combat whiteflies and other crop pests by using plants as storehouses for predatory insects that can migrate to cash crops and feed on the pests ...
Researchers create potatoes with higher levels of carotenoids
(Phys.org)—Potatoes with higher levels of beneficial carotenoids are the result of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies to improve one of America's most popular vegetables.
Gene suppression can reduce cold-induced sweetening in potatoes
(Phys.org)—Preventing activity of a key enzyme in potatoes could help boost potato quality by putting an end to cold-induced sweetening, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
New uses for old tools could boost biodiesel output
(Phys.org)—Tried-and-true techniques could help optimize oilseed yield for biodiesel production, according to studies conducted by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Hormone therapy for fruit flies means better pest control
Released en masse, sterile Mexican fruit flies can undermine a wild population of the fruit-damaging pests so that fewer applications of insecticide are needed. But the irradiation used to sterilize the flies weakens them, ...
Trapping weevils and saving monarchs
Ensuring the monarch butterfly's survival by saving its milkweed habitat could result from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies initially intended to improve detection of boll weevils with pheromone traps.
ARS scientists devising new ways to protect avocados
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are coming up with new strategies to combat a beetle threatening the nation's avocado trees.
A better understanding of the impacts of grazing sheep
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist is giving guidance to growers in Montana and the Dakotas on how grazing sheep when fields are left fallow will affect soil quality.
Chemical trickery explored to help contain potato pest
If left unchecked, the pale cyst nematode burrows into potato roots to feed, obstructing nutrients and causing stunted growth, wilted leaves and other symptoms that can eventually kill the plant. Now USDA and cooperating ...