U.S. Department of Agriculture

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was founded in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln, which he then called the "people's department." In that era, 90% of Americans were farmers in need of good seed and information about agriculture. Today, approximately 2% of Americans are farmers. However, the USDA remains "committed to assisting America's farmers and ranchers". The agency administers the federal Food Stamp, School Lunch, School Breakfast and the WIC programs. It also manages the 192 million acres of national forests and range lands. The agency is involved in conservation programs, housing, clean water and the needs of rural communities. It is responsible for food inspection and safety of meat, poultry and egg products.

The USDA conducts nutrition, crop technology, water and pesticide use studies and helps to "ensure open markets for U.S. agricultural products" and provide "food aid to needy people overseas." [1]

USDA animal testing

U.S. government agencies that that require and/or conduct animal testing include the USDA. [2] See also animal testing, section 3 on product testing.

Facility information, progress reports & USDA-APHIS reports

For links to copies of a facility's USDA-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Stop Animal Experimentation Now!: Facility Reports and Information. This site contains listings for all 50 states, links to biomedical research facilities in that state and PDF copies of government documents where facilities must report their animal usage. (Search: USDA facilities by state).

USDA inspections

USDA-APHIS AWA reports & facility information

The USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service/Animal Care (USDA/APHIS/AC) is responsible for inspections, reporting and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is the only federal law that regulates animals bred and sold by dealers, animals in entertainment, zoo animals and laboratory animals. [3]

Breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers & laboratories

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Under reporting & lack of protection under AWA

SNBL received no USDA violations for boiling a monkey alive in an automated cage washer. - Kiro News Seattle - May 2008

Over 90% of the animals used in experimentation are excluded from the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the only federal law which over sees animal testing. Rats, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish are expressly eliminated from all safeguards. Species not covered under the AWA do not even have to be reported. [4] At no time have all U.S. laboratories reported in their total animals. The total of non-reporting facilities has varied from 22 to 128 (out of approximately 1100). This does not include animals who are not covered by the AWA, which are not even counted. Additionally, these statistics do not cover animals which are being held in laboratories for conditioning or breeding. For example, while the USDA reports over 57,000 primates in labs, the actual total is closer to 120,000. The AWA places no real restrictions on animal testing, animals are routinely subjected to addictive drugs, electric shock, food & water deprivation, isolation, severe confinement, caustic chemicals, burning, blinding, chemical and biological weapons, radiation, etc. A researcher has only to declare that a procedure is necessary for it to be allowed. [5] See also animal testing, section 2 & SNBL.

Loopholes & non-compliance

Even minimal requirements under the AWA are rarely enforced. [6] Animal suffering in laboratories is pervasive even for the 5% covered under the AWA. Researchers may even obtain permission from their local animal care committee to conduct research that they openly admit is in violation of federal law. Such “exceptions” prevent a USDA inspector from issuing a citation. Never-the-less, the vivisection industry insists that all is well within laboratories and federal laws are being complied with.

As a result of industry lobbying, local and state animal cruelty laws frequently contain an explicit exemption for laboratory animals; therefore it is impossible to be charge in those localities for cruelty to a laboratory animal.[7] Lobbyists have fought every reform from the simple walking of dogs to larger cages for primates. Thanks to vivisection industry lobbying, over 90% of all laboratory animals receive no protection under the law. [8]

See also NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA certified puppy mills

Breeding dogs in puppy mill

These standards and restrictions affect all animals covered under the AWA, including large scale commercial breeders or puppy mills. There are only about a hundred USDA inspectors to monitor 10,000 facilities across the country, ranging from research labs to zoos. Furthermore, "standards" are abysmal. Federal guidelines allow a medium sized terrier to be kept in a cage the size of a clothes drier for its entire life. The AWA is hardly the gold standard for compassion. For example, the act does not say you cannot have 300 dogs confined to cages for their entire lives; never to be taken for a walk or receive any personal attention, let alone be a part of a family. A breeder passes USDA muster as long as the dog has food, water and enough space to turn around. Adhering to USDA standards does not prove that a breeder is not a puppy mill. Even more so since even these standards are not enforced. Many licensed breeders for large chains like Petland, have significant violations. [9]

See also puppy mills & NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA & the Hunte Corporation

The Hunte Corporation touts itself as the largest puppy dealer in the world, with sales in the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Japan. The company distributes animals through retail chains such as Petland. [10] According to a November 2007 article in the Tulsa World, the company buys and sells 90,000 puppies each year. Hunte is located in Goodman, Mo. and buys and sells purebred puppies for markets in 30 states. [11]

In September 2001, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced that the USDA had approved a $900,000 guaranteed rural development loan for the company to purchase equipment for its McDonald County operations; restructure its debt, and expand its operations. The loan followed a $3.5 million dollar loan from the USDA the previous year. According to Hunte, sales for 2001 would exceed 26 million, up from one million a decade earlier. [12]

Durbin-Vitter PUPS Act: Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act

In May of 2010, responding to scathing report by the USDA Inspector General (IG), critical of the government’s handling of puppy mill investigations, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) called for immediate changes in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS); promising to work with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on administrative and legislative reforms. According to Senator Durbin:

“This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’ ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders. While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes at APHIS, more needs to be done. I will work closely with Secretary Vilsack to ensure these changes address the complaints detailed in the Inspector General’s report. I’ll start today by introducing a bill that will close the loophole that allows large breeders to sell puppies online, escaping inspection and oversight.” [13]


Federal audits of the USDA/APHIS animal care system for 1985, 1995 and 2005 were unfavorable and scathing. [14], [15], [16] In 1992 USDA/APHIS was audited by the USDA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for AWA enforcment regarding animal dealers:

“Our audit concluded that APHIS cannot ensure the humane care and treatment of animals at all dealer facilities as required by the act. APHIS did not inspect dealer facilities with a reliable frequency, and it did not enforce timely correction of violations during inspections.”

According to a 1996 the OIG audit of the USDA/APHIS for animal exhibitors:

“Although APHIS Class “C” exhibitor licenses were intended solely for those who wish to exhibit animals to the public, our visits to 28 APHIS-licensed exhibitors in 3 states disclosed that 18 (64 %) did not actually exhibit their animals, but instead maintained them as pets. Using the regulations broad definition of an exhibitor, individuals obtained exhibitor licenses in order to circumvent state or local laws intended to protect the public by restricting private ownership of wild or exotic animals such as bears or tigers.”

According to a 1995 USDA/APHIS audit by the OIG for laboratories:

“APHIS does not have the authority, under current legislation, to effectively enforce the requirements of the AWA. For instance, the agency cannot terminate or refuse to renew licenses or registrations in cases where serious or repeat violations occur (such as the use of animals in unnecessary experiments, or failure to treat diseases or wounds). In addition, APHIS cannot assess monetary penalties for violations unless the violator agrees to pay them, and penalties are often so low that violators merely regard them as part of the cost of doing business.” [17]

See also Oregon National Primate Research Center & puppy mills for statements from former USDA inspectors.

Product promotion: Got milk? & milk mustache ad campaigns

The Got milk? ad campaign was created in 1993 by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, following a 20 year slump in sales. The slogan has been licensed to dairy boards across the United States since 1995. Got milk? has also been licensed to a range of consumer goods; including toys, teen apparel and kitchenware. Got milk? was licensed to the National Milk Processor Board (MilkPEP) in 1998 to use on their celebrity print ads. [18], [19] This board was established by the USDA's Fluid Milk Promotion Act of 1990 to promote increased demands for fluid milk products. [20] Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is a subsidiary of the Omnicom Group, the world's third largest advertising conglomerate.

The milk mustache campaign [21] began in 1996 with a budget of $110 million, which increased to $190 million in 1998. The force behind the campaign is National Milk Processor Board (Fluid Board) which is administered by the USDA. While the USDA does incur some administrative costs, these are supposed to be reimbursed by industry. The promotional activity consists of generic advertising and a smaller amount funneled into "research and educational activities". Ads have featured the Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Donna Shalala and even President Clinton in major magazines. According to an HHS spokesperson defending the ad against consumer groups, "no money was accepted and no ethics rules were breached." However, the same government agency charged with educating Americans about healthy eating is also promoting industry interests. It was considered a coup for the industry for the highest ranking government health official to endorse their product for free. In 1996, the USDA Economic Research Service reported that generic advertising raised fluid milk sales by approximately one billion pounds (4.4 %) between September of 1993 and August of 1994. [22]

Government subsidized agribusiness

Ranch subsidies & wild life extermination

Tax dollars subsidize a little known branch of USDA APHIS called Wildlife Services (WS). [23] WS spends much of its time killing "pests," interpreted generally as animals who prey on livestock grazing on public land that has been leased to ranchers for a relatively small fee. A main target of this activity is the coyote. Methods used to kill coyotes include aerial gunning, gassing pups in their dens, traps that eject sodium-cyanide into an animal’s mouth, livestock protection collars filled with poison, steel traps and neck, body and leg snares; despite the availability of non-lethal methods and evidence that lethal control is ineffective. Each year, WS kills tens of thousands of coyotes, as well as hundreds or even thousands of wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats and other animals; sometimes for eating flowers and pet food, digging in gardens or frightening people. [24]

'Commodity foods' subsidies

HSUS investigation of Hallmark Meatpacking Co. in Chino CA reveals downer cows destined for USDA school lunch program. - Fall 2007

On June 16, 1998, Dan Glickman announced eight grants to seven states to develop a wide range of projects for improving the marketing and distribution of agricultural products. [25] Two meat-promoting grants were: $68,161 to the Texas Department of Agriculture $70,300 to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. [26]

In May 1998, Dan Glickman announced that his agency had purchased 8 million pounds of beef and pork commodities at a cost of approximately $9 million. [27] These purchases are part of the USDA's $30 million pork and $30 million beef bonus annual buyouts. At the same time, the USDA announced plans to purchase up to $8 million of lamb products to offset that industry's surplus. "These bonus buys support the livestock industries by bolstering producer prices", announced Glickman. The beef, pork and lamb were to be distributed to the National School Lunch Program and other food assistance programs to increase "high-quality protein". [28] The USDA purchases 73 million pounds of cheese annually to help boost sagging dairy prices. [29]

Under the Dairy Price Support Program, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC, a division of the USDA) buys surplus butter, cheese, and nonfat dry milk from processors to support the dairy industry and maintain market prices. These purchases totaled 500 million pounds in the fiscal year 2000 and 400 million pounds in fiscal year 2001. [30]

Meat recall & lawsuit

In the fall of 2007, a 6 week Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) investigation of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company in Chino, California revealed "downer" or sick and injured dairy cows being processed to enter the food supply. Hallmark is one of the leading suppliers of the USDA's national school lunch program and supplies carcasses to the Westland Meat company. Hallmark is a federally inspected facility and the two companies operate as one entity. [31] The investigation prompted a government meat recall. [32]

On Feb. 27, 2008 HSUS filed suit against the USDA to close a dangerous loophole in its regulations which contributed to the recall of over 143 million pounds of beef; much of which was destined for school lunches in 40 states and the District of Columbia. The investigation documented shocking acts of animal cruelty to non-ambulatory or "downer" cattle at the USDA inspected slaughter house. In February of 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that Hallmark/Westland would likely shut down permanently. Also in February of 2008, two former employees were charged with animal cruelty in an unprecedented legal action. [33]

Other farm animal, meat & dairy issues

Waste products fed to farm animals

In 2003, the USDA described government and industry efforts to safeguard the American public from mad cow disease as "diligent, vigilant and strong". [34] However, the world's authority on these diseases disagrees. Dr. Stanley Prusiner is the scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of prions, the infectious agents thought to cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. The word Dr. Prusiner uses to describe the efforts of the U.S. government and the cattle industry is "terrible". [35] In 1996, in response to the revelation that young people in Britain were dying from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD); the human equivalent of mad cow disease, the World Health Organization issued seven recommendations. [36] Numbers 5-7 were recommendations for further research; however 1-4 were concrete recommendations. The U.S. continues to violate all four guide lines; number one being to stop feeding animals to other other. [37] See also FDA, section 4.1.

High risk meat products

In December of 2003 on NBC Today, USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman insisted:

"all scientific evidence would show, based upon what we know about this disease, that muscle cuts -- that is, the meat of the animal itself -- should not cause any risk to human health." [38]

However, according to a 2002 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), products such as beef stock, beef extract and beef flavoring are frequently made from boiled skeletal remains (including the vertebral column) of the carcass. [39] Spinal cord contamination may also be found in hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza toppings and taco fillings. [40] According to a 2002 USDA survey of high risk meat products, approximately 35% contained central nervous system tissues. [41], [42]

EU ban on hormone treated meat

Since 1995, the European Union (EU) has prohibited the treatment of any farm animals with sex hormones, which includes a ban on hormone treated meat from the U.S. and Canada. [43] EU tested 258 meat sample from the "Hormone Free Cattle program", run by the U.S. beef industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture; whose purpose it is to produce beef which meets European requirements. The test revealed that 12% of hormone free cattle had been treated with sex hormones. EU cites this as evidence that growth hormones are poorly regulated the U.S. According to the E.U.:

"Where scientific evidence is not black and white, policy should err on the side of caution so that there is zero risk to the consumer." [44], [45], [46]

See also EU, section 9.1. and meat & dairy industry, section 4.

USDA Dietary Guidelines

For information on USDA Dietary Guidelines as well as related lawsuits, secrecy and conflicts of interests, see also USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Government produced 'news'

The USDA's Office of Communications runs the Broadcast Media & Technology Center (BMTC). BMTC produces over 90 Video News Releases (VNRs) a year and over 2,000 Audio News Releases (ANRs), as well as public service announcements. BMTC has eight TV production staff, three radio reporters and two TV reporters on its staff. According to BMTC, its ANRs cover "issues from food safety to international trade in a non partisan manner," while its VNRs cover "mission messages in trade, biotechnology, food safety, conservation, small farms and marketing". In one segment, USDA reporter Bob Ellison opens with a shot of a slowly rotating sign reading "U.S. Premium Beef" at the annual National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) convention in San Antonio, Texas. USDA Secretary Mike Johanns addressed the gathering:

"If we just tangle trade up in any way that isn't based upon risk analysis and science and all of the things I've talked about, then where's our protection with another country? Devastating trade is devastating to agriculture. ..These folks that, that sat in front of me today are the most remarkable, efficient producers we've ever known on the face of the earth. And they produce and produce, and we need to figure out a way to get their product sold."

The two minute segment ignored mad cow disease and the fact that the USDA ignores World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. See also section 8. In a period of 6 months, BMTC produced five VNRs and 29 ANRs on mad cow disease, which ignored safety concerns and focused on trade and USDA "accomplishments." BMTC's coverage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), repeated the Bush Administrations talking points, with a faint nod to opponents. Until February of 2005, the standard sign-off was, "I'm (name) reporting (pause) for the USDA." The pause gave stations a chance to remove the referral to the USDA. PR firms that produce VNRs are fighting efforts to stop fake news. [47], [48]

Agencies & offices

  • Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Wild Life Services (WS) (branch of APHIS)
  • Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
  • Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES)
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
  • Farm Service Agency (FSA)
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
  • Forest Service (FS)
  • Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA)
  • National Agricultural Library (NAL)
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA)
  • Rural Development (RD)


  • Civil Rights (CR)
  • Departmental Administration (DA)
  • National Appeals Division (NAD)
  • Office of Budget and Program Analysis (OBPA)
  • Office of the Chief Economist (OCE)
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO)
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
  • Office of Communications (OC)
  • Office of Congressional Relations (OCR)
  • Office of the Executive Secretariat (OES)
  • Office of the Inspector General (OIG)
  • Office of the General Counsel (OGC) [49]


Former personnel


1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

Information hotline: 202 720-2791

Web address: http://www.usda.gov/

Articles & resources

SourceWatch articles


  1. Cheese Prices/cheddar/www.usda.gov/welcome.html Welcome to the USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, accessed November 2009
  2. U.S. Government Testing Programs, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed December 2009
  3. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, USDA, May 2009
  4. The Animal Care Program and the USDA's Authority Under the AWA: Q & A, USDA, APHIS Fact Sheet, July 2005, page 2
  5. Animal Experimentation in the United States, Stop Animal Exploitation Now! April 2005
  6. Project R&R: Animal Welfare Act, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 2009
  7. Fact vs. Myth: FACT: State and local animal cruelty statutes do not cover animals in labs., Primatelabs.com, accessed October 2009
  8. Jeremy Beckham Vivisectors and Robber Barons, PrimateLabs.com, accessed October 2009
  9. Tim Vanderpool A Dog's Life: Petland stores feel the heat over a puppy-mill protest, Tucson Weekly, April 2009
  10. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  11. Omer Gillham Puppy Showcase: Hunte Opens Doors to Huge Facility, Tulsa World, November 2007
  12. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  13. Durbin-Vitter PUPS Act: Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act Summary, May 25, 2010
  14. Keith B. Richburg Hill Watchdog Faults Animal Welfare, Washington Post, May 22, 1985
  15. APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement Activities Audit Report 33600-1-CH, USDA, January 1995
  16. APHIS Animal Care Program Inspection and Enforcement Activities Audit Report 33002-3-SF, USDA, September 2005
  17. The Betrayal of Animal Protection: The Corruption of the USDA, The Defender Vol. 3, No. 2, Winter 2004-2005
  18. Got Milk?, Americola, accessed February 2009
  19. Douglas B. Holt, Professor of Marketing, Oxford Got Milk?, Advertising Educational Foundation, 2002
  20. USDA Seeks Nominations for National Fluid Milk Board, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Release No. 177-08, September 2008
  21. Drink Well, Live Well, Whymilk.com 2009
  22. Michele Simon Dairy Industry Propaganda: Tale of Two Mega-Campaigns, Vegan.com, April 1999
  23. Wildlife Services (WS): Wild Life Damage Management, USDA APHIS, September 2009
  24. Mark Hawthorn, Spoiler Alert: 10 Things Animal Exploiters Do Not Want You to Know, Oped News, pg 2, February 2008
  25. Andy Solomon, Billy Cox USDA Awards eight grants for Agricultural Marketing, Research, USDA.gov, June 1998
  26. Michele Simon The Politics of Meat and Dairy: How Big Business Influences Government Policy and Our Food Choices, Earthsave News, Fall 1998
  27. Alicia L. Ford, Billy Cox Glickman Announces 9 Million in Meat Purchases, USDA.gov, Release No. 0207.98, May 1998
  28. Connie Crunkleton, Jerry R. Redding USDA Continues Beef Purchases for School Lunches, USDA.gov, Release No. 0442.96, August 1996
  29. Michele Simon Dairy Industry Propaganda: Tale of Two Mega-Campaigns, Vegan.com, April 1999,
  30. Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Agricultural Fact Book, USDA.gov, Chapter 7, 2001-2002
  31. Wayne Pacelle After the beef recall: Exploring greater transparency in the meat industry, HSUS, April 2008
  32. Ed Schafer Statement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer Regarding Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company Two Year Product Recall, Release No. 0046.08, USDA Press Office, February 2008
  33. Investigative Update: Cruelty at Calif. Slaughter Plant, HSUS, April 2008
  34. USDA Release No. 0012.03 15 January 2003, USDA Release No. 0166.03 20 May 2003
  35. Angie Coiro Mad Cow Disease in Canada, KQED, May 23, 2003
  36. Consultation on Public Health Issues Related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, World Health Organization, MMWR 45 (14); 295-6, 303, April 1996
  37. Michael Greger, M.D. U.S. Violates World Health Organization Guidelines for Mad Cow Disease: A Comparison of North American and European Safeguards, Organic Consumers Association, June 2003
  38. US Confident Food Supply Safe Following Mad Cow Announcement, Voice of America, December 2003
  39. Mad Cow Disease: Improvements in the Animal Feed Ban and Other Regulatory Areas Would Strengthen U.S. Prevention Efforts, GAO-02-183, GAO Report to Congress, January 2002
  40. Health and Consumer Groups Urge USDA to Keep Cattle Spinal Cord Tissue Out of Processed Meat, Center for Science in the Public Interest, August 2001
  41. USDA Begins Sampling Program for Advanced Meat Recovery Systems, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service, March 2002
  42. Michael Greger, M.D. USDA Misleading American Public about Beef Safety, Organic Consumers Association, December 2003
  43. Peter Montague The Bad Seed, Environmental Research Foundation, September 1999
  44. Alex Scott Europe's Beef Ban Tests Precautionary Principle, Chemical Week, August 1999
  45. Peter Montague The Bad Seed, Environmental Research Foundation, September 1999
  46. Lynn Truong The Cost of Meat—The Public Health Argument, Wisebread, May 2007
  47. Diane Farsetta A Bumper Crop of Government-Produced "News": The USDA's Broadcast Media and Technology Center, PR Watch, April 2005
  48. David Barstow, Robin Stein Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News, New York Times, March 2005
  49. Agencies & Offices, USDA.gov, accessed October 2009
  50. About USDA: Welcome from the Secretary, USDA.gov, accessed July 2011
  51. Contact Us, USDA, August 2009

External resources

<tdo>resource_id=20750 resource_code=usdoa search_term=United States Department of Agriculture</tdo>

External articles

See also USDA external articles.