The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an executive department concerned with federal policies on farming, agriculture, forestry, and food and was formed in 1862. President Lincoln nicknamed it “the people’s department” and charged it with collecting agricultural statistics and improving American agricultural practices. After the 1887 Hatch Act established the federal funding of agricultural experiment stations in every state, the size and scope of the USDA expanded, and it was elevated to the cabinet level in 1889.

The USDA has been involved in poverty remediation efforts in a number of ways, with a special focus on helping rural communities. It establishes specific household income levels, often referred to as the USDA poverty guidelines or USDA poverty lines, for eligibility for its programs.

The Great Depression

When the ...

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