Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture provides an array of subsidies for farmers and imposes extensive regulations on agricultural markets. It operates the food stamp and school lunch programs, and administers numerous subsidy programs for rural areas. The Forest Service is within the Department of Agriculture.

The department will spend $156 billion in 2019, or $1,220 for every U.S. household. The department operates 278 subsidy programs and employs 90,100 workers in about 7,000 offices across the country.

Department of Agriculture Spending in Billions of Constant Dollars
Downsize This!
  • Agricultural Subsidies. The department provides up to $30 billion annually to farmers of corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, wheat, and other crops. It also aids farmers with research, loan, and insurance programs.
  • Agricultural Regulations and Trade Barriers. The government regulates domestic markets for products such as sugar and milk, and it imposes trade restrictions on various farm products.
  • Rural Subsidies. The department runs numerous subsidy programs for businesses and individuals in rural areas.
  • Food Subsidies. Most of the department’s budget goes toward food subsidies, including the food stamp and school lunch programs.
  • Forest Service. The Forest Service oversees 193 million acres of forests and provides subsidies to businesses and state governments.
Timeline of Government Growth
Cato Experts
"Cato is on the right track with its proposals to downsize the USDA. Many of the department’s programs originated in the Great Depression and are completely out of date and no longer needed, if they ever were. Downsizing the USDA would help move American agriculture into the 21st century."

John R. Norton, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, 1985-1986

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