Agriculture, United States Department of, federal executive department established in 1862, whose head was made a cabinet member in 1889. The department administers federal programs related to food production and rural life. The department's principal duty is to aid farmers, but it also serves consumers through its food assistance and food inspection programs. The department is responsible for many different programs, including research, food aid such as food stamps and school meal supplements, the promotion of conservation, and the administration of the national forests and grasslands. It also stabilizes commodity markets through price supports, diversion of acreage to conservation use, and the disposal of commodities. Its Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services division includes the Farm Service Agency, which provides farmers credit at favorable rates, and its Rural Development division includes the Rural Utilities Service, which extends telephone, electrical, water, and sewer services (see Rural Electrification Administration); finally, its regulatory functions include inspections of meat, dairy, and poultry products, the administration of animal quarantines, and the eradication of animal diseases. The department also runs a graduate school for government employees. The publications of the department are of great value to farmers, horticulturists, and others.
See U.S. Department of Agriculture, Century of Service (1963); study by J. U. Terrell (1966).
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