The US Department of Agriculture was originally founded by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 when the majority of the population was farmers. The USDA was originally created for farmers to be a source of information of knowledge about farming, somewhere a farmer could turn to obtain general information about farming. It was created to help the farmers. The USDA initiated commodity prices and help continues to provide income to farmers. Its efforts to protect the food supply came later (Feedman and Barnouin, pg. 90-91).
As with every organization, or government entity, one must not forget that it is also businesses. In efforts to help the US farmer the USDA worked with lending institutions to offer different loan programs that are backed by the USDA to farmers or low income residents living rural areas. These loans usually do not require a down payment, do not have maximum loan limits, they have flexible payment plans, and low interest rates. This program enables the borrower to save a large amount of money in the home/farm buying process.
The USDA also has programs in place called buyback programs that are designed to buy the additional surplus the farmer may not be able to sell. For example, due to the recent H1N1 scare, the purchase of pork decreased. The decrease was so dramatic that the USDA issued a buyout plan to help offset losses for the farmers. In the past the USDA has also offered buyback programs on other items, such as: tobacco and peanuts. In fact, the USDA spends millions of our tax dollars each year on beef and pork buyouts. These buyout programs are designed to purchase any surplus items. However they drive prices down, making it harder for the smaller farmers to survive. Then then sell this overstock of food to countries or school systems at a low rate losing money. For example in 1999, a beef plant in Texas failed multiple tests by the USDA for salmonella. The test results showed that the ground beef salmonella levels were 5 times higher than the USDA regulations allow. However, the USDA continued to purchase thousands of tons of meat from this plant to be distributed to various schools. The plant helped provide schools in this country with over 45% of it meats, through the USDA (Freedman and Barnouin, pg. 99).
How can the USDA who was originally designed to help the farmer, be responsible for the safety of the American food supply when they are also acting as a business? It is apparent that the USDA's primary function is not to keep the food supply safe as we believe it should. It is important to have regulations in place, however, why are they allowing farmers to sell tainted meat or allow processers