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.
Scientists identify insect-repelling compounds in Jatropha
A tip about a folk remedy plant used in India and Africa to ward off bugs has led to the discovery of insect-repelling compounds.
Dressing US troops to safeguard against insect attacks
Outfitting soldiers with clothing that effectively repels or kills insects is one of the strategies U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are using to help protect U.S. military personnel deployed overseas against ...
New, cost-cutting approach to formulating pest-killing fungi
Biopesticides containing beneficial fungi are often grown on grains or other solids, but U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have shown a liquid diet can work better.
Sources of E. coli are not always what they seem
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have identified sources of Escherichia coli bacteria that could help restore the reputation of local livestock. Studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Mark ...
Arming US troops with insect-protective gear
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) have joined forces to create effective barriers and gear that help shield deployed soldiers from disease-causing insects.
Study shows trends in public and private agricultural R&D
Analysis published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) in the most recent issue of the journal Science examine the relationship between public and private investments in research ...
Baiting mosquitoes with knowledge and proven insecticides
While one team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists is testing the effectiveness of pesticides against mosquitoes, another group is learning how repellents work.
Better tools for saving water and keeping peaches healthy
Peach growers in California may soon have better tools for saving water because of work by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Parlier, Calif.
Protecting US troops against sand flies
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are helping deployed American troops protect themselves against sand flies, which are major pests in Afghanistan, Africa and the Middle East.
Managing soil copper in crops irrigated with cattle footbath wastewater
Getting a head start on stopping soil copper buildup will now be a bit easier, thanks to studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. This research could help Pacific Northwest farmers develop long-term irrigation ...