The United States Department of Agriculture, commonly referred to as the USDA, was established by President Abraham Lincoln as “The People’s Department.” This sector of the United States government oversees education, production, research, and many other areas relating to food, the environment, and farming. While less than 2% of the United States population is employed in the farming industry, they supply food for the United States as well as other countries around the world. The USDA employs over 100,000 people in more than 7,000 locations worldwide.
The main goals of the United States Department of Agriculture include creating and maintaining a model for food production, environmental concerns, and a safe and healthy food supply. The department strives to keep the industry of American food production competitive around the world, while balancing a concern for natural resources and conservation. Under the agency's large umbrella, individual areas focus on specific sectors of the nutrition and food production industry.
The Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services branch of the USDA creates and supervises domestic agriculture programs, humanitarian relief, and expanding global markets. This section attempts to provide relief to other countries through food programs, while the Food Nutrition and Consumer Services branch provides domestic food assistance programs such as the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program, free and reduced school lunches, and dietary guidelines, including the food pyramid diagram.
Another section of the United States Department of Agriculture is Food Safety, which inspects milk, poultry and eggs, but also utilizes science to develop regulations for proper food production. This branch works to ensure a safe food supply, prevent contamination, as well as educate the public on the proper handling of food. Marketing and Regulatory Programs works to market the U.S. food supply domestically and internationally, as well as to research industry practices and to monitor the health of animals and plants.
Natural Resources and Environment supervises the Forest Service and runs programs designed to improve the conservation practices of farmers. The Research, Education, and Economics sector gives support to colleges and other types of educational facilities, and helps agricultural programs such as FFA and 4-H. Research and testing in this area is utilized and applied to many areas including obesity, alternative food uses, genomics, and environmental issues. The area referred to as Rural Development helps communities with energy, infrastructure, business development and ventures, water and sewer, and housing.