The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for overseeing agriculture throughout the country. Agriculture includes not only the production, transportation and marketing of fruits and vegetables, but also dairy products and meats such as beef and poultry. The USDA is also tasked with overseeing the uses of many natural resources. The secretary of agriculture is responsible for ensuring that the agency performs these essential functions.
According to the responsibilities outlined by Title 7 of the U.S. Code, the agriculture secretary is responsible for directing the research of the USDA. This includes determining in which areas more research is needed, delegating officials to collect and process information, and deciding how to proceed once research has been undertaken. Often, Congress or the president will direct the agriculture secretary to conduct research on a specific subject.
Free Trade in Agriculture
Title 7 of the U.S. Code also tasks the agriculture secretary with the responsibility to "conduct, assist, foster, and direct studies and informational programs designed to eliminate artificial barriers to the free movement of agricultural products." To this end, the agriculture secretary is responsible for developing new markets, both foreign and domestic, for agricultural products, and for expanding the markets that currently exist.
Educating the Public
According to Title 7 of the U.S. Code, the Secretary of Agriculture is supposed to "conduct and cooperate in consumer education for the more effective utilization and greater consumption of agricultural products." In other words, the agriculture secretary is responsible for increasing consumer demand for American agricultural products, both at home and abroad, as well as for educating the public about American agriculture in general.
In addition to marketing agricultural products, Title 7 tasks the agriculture secretary with determining how much money the agricultural sector spends on marketing. He is also responsible for taking steps to establish less expensive and more efficient methods of marketing agricultural products.
One of the most basic jobs of the agriculture secretary is to maintain and – if possible – improve the quality of the agricultural products grown in the United States. The Secretary must "encourage uniformity and consistency in commercial practices" to ensure the safety of produce, dairy products and other agricultural products grown in the United States. To this end, Title 7 orders the agriculture secretary to oversee the inspection of agricultural facilities, and to assess, impose and collect fines for infractions.
Like other Cabinet positions, the agriculture secretary is an advisory position. One of his basic jobs is to keep the president aware of any important developments in agriculture. This allows the rest of the government to follow and weigh in on very important developments, but not be bothered by the day-to-day administration of the nation's agricultural sector.