Agricultural Research Service
Logo of the Agricultural Research Service
|Formed||November 2, 1953|
|Jurisdiction||United States federal government|
|Employees||7,379 employees (September 2017)|
|Annual budget||$1.1 billion (FY14)|
|Parent agency||United States Department of Agriculture|
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the principal in-house research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). ARS is one of four agencies in USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area. ARS is charged with extending the nation’s scientific knowledge and solving agricultural problems through its four national program areas: nutrition, food safety and quality; animal production and protection; natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems; and crop production and protection. ARS research focuses on solving problems affecting Americans every day. The ARS Headquarters is located in the Jamie L. Whitten Building on Independence Avenue in Washington, D.C. and the headquarters staff is located at the George Washington Carver Center (GWCC) in Beltsville, Maryland. For 2018, its budget was $1.2 billion.
ARS conducts scientific research for the American public. Their main focus is on research to develop solutions to agricultural problems and provide information access and dissemination to:
- ensure high quality, safe food and other agricultural products,
- assess the nutritional needs of Americans,
- sustain a competitive agricultural economy,
- enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and
- provide economic opportunities to rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.
ARS research complements the work of state colleges and universities, agricultural experiment stations, other federal and state agencies, and the private sector. ARS research may often focus on regional issues that have national implications, and where there is a clear federal role. ARS also provides information on its research results to USDA action and regulatory agencies and to several other federal regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
ARS disseminates much of its research results through scientific journals, technical publications, Agricultural Research magazine, and other forums. Information is also distributed through ARS’s National Agricultural Library (NAL). ARS has more than 150 librarians and other information specialists who work at two NAL locations—the Abraham Lincoln Building in Beltsville, Maryland; and the DC Reference Center in Washington, D.C. NAL provides reference and information services, document delivery, interlibrary loan and interlibrary borrowing services to a variety of audiences.
ARS supports more than 2,000 scientists and post docs working on approximately 690 research projects within 15 National Programs at more than 90 research locations. The ARS is divided into 5 geographic areas: Midwest Area, Northeast Area, Pacific West Area, Plains Area, and Southeast Area. ARS has five major regional research centers: the Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California; the Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, Louisiana; the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois; and the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. The research centers focus on innovation in agricultural practices, pest control, health, and nutrition among other things. Work at these facilities has given life to numerous products, processes, and technologies.
The ARS also offers the Culture Collection, which is the largest public collection of microorganisms in the world, containing approximately 93,000 strains of bacteria and fungi. The ARS Culture Collection is housed at Northern Regional Research Laboratory (NRRL) ARS’ Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Maryland, is the world’s largest agricultural research complex. ARS operates the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida, and the U.S. National Poultry Research Center in Athens, Georgia. ARS also has six major human nutrition research centers that focus on solving a wide spectrum of human nutrition questions by providing authoritative, peer-reviewed, science-based evidence. The centers are located in Arkansas, Maryland, Texas, North Dakota, Massachusetts, and California. ARS scientists at these centers study the role of food and dietary components in human health from conception to advanced age.
Technology to produce lactose-free milk, ice cream and yogurt was developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service in 1985. The grape breeding program, which dates back to 1923, developed seedless grapes. The ARS Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory in Winter Haven, Florida, is active in work to improve the taste of orange juice concentrate.
ARS had a Toxoplasma gondii research program, which experimented on cats infected with the parasite, from 1982 until 2019. Cats were bred for the program and intentionally infected, and kittens in the program were euthanized after research was completed. Allegedly, cats were also fed raw cat and dog meat for the study, which was called “kitten cannibalism” by the White Coat Waste Project.
A bipartisan bill to eliminate the practice was introduced into the House by Representatives Jimmy Panetta, Brian Mast, Elissa Slotkin, and Will Hurd, with a companion bill introduced into the Senate by Jeff Merkley. The bills, also called the “Kittens In Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act of 2019”, amend the Animal Welfare Act to limit USDA experimentation on cats. The bill has been referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture of the House Committee on Agriculture. While the bills have not passed, the USDA stated they would stop the program.
- Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations
- Agricultural Resource Management Survey
- Germplasm Resources Information Network
- Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging
- National Clonal Germplasm Repository
- National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame
- U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory
- National Interagency Confederation for Biological Research
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- Porch, Kaitlyn (2018-03-16). “ARS Makes Condensed Orange Juice Taste More Like Fresh”. www.federallabs.org. Retrieved 2018-10-26.
- “USDA is turning lab cats into cannibals by forcing them to eat feline meat, watchdog says”. Washington Post. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
The organization alleges that the lab cats, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture houses at a facility in Beltsville, Md., were fed tongues, brains and hearts of cats purchased in at a meat market in China. Dogs purchased from shelters in Colombia and Brazil were killed, the report claims; then their brains, tongues and hearts were fed to the research cats. The goal was to study the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, a flulike disease that can infect humans for weeks or months. … Goodman called the practice “kitten cannibalism.”
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Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Secretary shall not purchase, breed, transport, house, feed, maintain, dispose of, or conduct an experiment on a cat as part of any study or research that would subject that cat to a procedure that may cause pain or stress, including pain or stress that may be mitigated by anesthetics, analgesics, or tranquilizer drugs, unless the pain or stress is a result of a physical exam or training program.
- “Actions – H.R.1622 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): KITTEN Act of 2019”. congress.gov. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
- “After thousands of cats died in experiments, USDA says it will stop controversial research program”. USA TODAY. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
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