The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the American equivalent of the French Ministry of Agriculture, will celebrate its 150th anniversary.
It was in 1862 that President Abraham Lincoln pronounced the law establishing the USDA that he named “the people’s department”, not only because agriculture employed more than 50% of the workforce in the middle of 19th century, but also because it had an impact on the daily life of every American citizen.
If the sector now only employs 1.5% of the workforce, agriculture is still considered a strategic activity even if simply because agricultural policy has a direct impact on the lives of 313 million inhabitants of the United States. Beyond the direct measures that concern the Farmers and their income, the USDA is also responsible for the implementation of food security and nutrition programs, environmental conservation, domestic food aid, food distribution in schools...
This 150th anniversary falls, as the farm bill is in need of reform in a particularly difficult financial context. As Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture reminded us during the Outlook Forum last 23rd and 24th February, budget cuts will be inevitable, necessitating reductions in the funding of certain programs.
While agricultural price volatility reached unprecedented levels, and will continue in coming years, Tom Vilsack nevertheless stressed that “a strong safety net” is still a major priority for the U.S. government. In fact, farmers are not worried: they know that, if necessary, the State will intervene countercyclically to protect ad hoc income levels.
A strategic decision that European policymakers should be inspired by in their work on CAP reform, which faces the same problems.
1 Source : FAO Stat
2 Please see momagri’s « "Doing more with less":
the challenge of the future Farm Bill », http://www.momagri.org/UK/a-look-at-the-news/-Doing-more-with-less-the-challenge-of-the-future-Farm-Bill_1007.html