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.
Fire logs made from lawn clippings offer earth-friendly option
Artificial logs that create a cheerful and welcoming blaze in your fireplace can be made from a perhaps surprising source: grass clippings.
Saving water without hurting peach production
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are helping peach growers make the most of dwindling water supplies in California's San Joaquin Valley.
Sorghum eyed as a southern bioenergy crop
Sweet sorghum is primarily grown in the United States as a source of sugar for syrup and molasses. But the sturdy grass has other attributes that could make it uniquely suited to production as a bioenergy crop, U.S. Department ...
USDA patents method to reduce ammonia emissions
Capturing and recycling ammonia from livestock waste is possible using a process developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers. This invention could help streamline on-farm nitrogen management by allowing ...
No-till could help maintain crop yields despite climate change
Reducing tillage for some Central Great Plains crops could help conserve water and reduce losses caused by climate change, according to studies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Tree nut research may unexpectedly lead to medical advances
Prescription drugs that today help patients fight severe fungal infections might tomorrow be even more effective, thanks to unexpected findings from agriculture-based, food-safety-focused studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture ...
Scientists find aphid resistance in black raspberry
There's good news for fans of black raspberries: A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his commercial colleague have found black raspberries that have resistance to a disease-spreading aphid.
Rearing technique may bolster biocontrol wasp's commercial prospects
Two to three millimeters long, the parasitoid wasp Habrobracon hebetor is a top candidate for use in programs to biologically control Indianmeal moths and other stored-product pests. But despite the prospects for reduced ...
'Pink Lemonade,' 'Razz,' 'Sweetheart,' and 'Cara's Choice': superb blueberries from ARS
As a plant geneticist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service, Mark K. Ehlenfeldt has either developed, or helped develop, a dozen new varieties of blueberries, including "Pink Lemonade." Although not a first of its kind, ...
Scientists use new method to help reduce piglet mortality
To help increase the survival of newborn piglets, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a new method that predicts animals' mortality and nursing ability.