The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was founded in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the USDA. According to the USDA, their mission is to, "Provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management."
The USDA is split into various agencies and offices, and then those agencies and offices are broken down into even more sub-areas, some of which affect organic agriculture more than others. Key USDA areas to be more aware of if you happen to be involved in organics include:
- Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
- National Organic Program (NOP)
- National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
- Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
- Farm Service Agency (FSA)
- Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
The USDA offers many programs and services to the public and to those involved in agriculture, such as:
- Broadband - designed to provide broadband service to eligible rural communities.
- Grants and Loans - literally supplies grants and loans.
- Disaster Assistance - assistance for losses that stem from natural disasters.
- Insurance Programs - critical tools and policy information for individuals in agriculture.
- Restoration and Conservation - conservation programs involving soil, water, and other natural resources.
- Environmental Markets - carbon sequestration, water quality, wetlands, biodiversity, and other ecosystem services.
- Water Resources - offers direct assistance, information, and technology on water-related issues for natural resources conservation.
- Wildfire Prevention - wildland fire management to protect human life, welfare, and property.
- SNAP - provides low-income households with electronic benefits that can be used for food.
- WIC - offers federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care support and more for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children.
- Child Nutrition Programs - supports more nutritious school meals to help improve the nutrition and health of children.
- Organic Program - regulates organic standards.
- Food Security - research on food security and hunger in U.S. households and communities.
- Importing Goods - makes sure that global import standards meet U.S. system standards.
- Exporting Goods - promotes and assists exportation.
- Economic Research - key source of economic information and research in the USDA.
- Agricultural Research - helps quantify productivity improvements, enhances agricultural knowledge and develops new technologies.
- Agricultural Statistics - data, analysis, and statistics from the Economic Research Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, and National Agricultural Statistics Service.