Agriculture in the United States

Key Agencies Supporting and Regulating Food and Agriculture

All information provided here is the work of the Agriculture Study Committee of the LWV of the United States (LWV) and is underwritten by the LWV Education Fund. This information is provided as unbiased background information for the Agriculture Update Study conducted by the LWV, 2012-2014. All papers are linked to and descriptions of the papers are quoted from this LWV website Please visit that website for complete information about the League's agriculture position update.

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Overview of Key Agencies Supporting and Regulating Food and Agriculture

This paper is a short overview of subject categories covered by the background papers.

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United States Department of Agriculture

This paper discusses the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its agencies.

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USDA’s Role in American Nutrition

This paper discuss the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and it's role in American nutrition.

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

This paper discuss the Environmental Protection Agency and concerns of environmental pollution and reviews and registers toxic materials both at the level of use and as residues in food, air and water.

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Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Food Labeling: FDA and USDA

Food labeling, primarily as a means of consumer protection, is a topic of interest that has evolved from the need to address dynamic challenges stemming from the food industry. In recent years, attention focused on food labeling has exploded with concerns related to nutrition, genetic modification, pesticide and/or additive use, identification of known allergens, product origin disclosure, tracking of products relative to recalls, and more.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), located in the Department of Health and Human Services, have wide-ranging responsibilities for human health including detection, prevention, and monitoring of foodborne illnesses. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) another division of the Department of Health and Human Services, addresses human health and safety through medical research. NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Science), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conducts research on environmental factors contributing to human disease.

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Interaction of Federal Agencies with Food Safety Missions

Responsibility for food safety is shared by a number of federal, state and local agencies. The individual responsibilities of the key food safety agencies at the federal level have already been discussed in the background pieces on the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of overlapping mandates and the complex nature of interaction among all the federal agencies working on food safety, we present a separate overview on how the entire food safety system is organized and what this implies for inter-agency coordination.

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Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Patent law is important to the agricultural sector, which owes a large part of its productivity growth to the introduction of new technologies that might not have been created in the absence of patent protection. While patent laws are passed by Congress, it is the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) in the Department of Commerce that is charged with administering the law–its primary task being the review of patent applications and issuance of patents. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has nationwide jurisdiction over cases involving patent law, also plays a significant role in shaping how the patent law is interpreted as does the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (AT-DOJ), often called on to investigate questions of patent misuse and infringements.

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Antitrust Enforcement Agencies and Legislation

When antitrust legislation surfaced in the 1890s, the agricultural sector was not on the radar screen. During the 20th century, however, public perceptions of diminished competition in agricultural input supply, commodity marketing, food processing, and, to a lesser extent, the retail grocery sector led antitrust enforcement agencies to pay more attention to these agricultural subsectors.

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