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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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The Big Picture of ARS Research
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Agricultural Research Service

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief in-house research agency. It is one of the four component agencies of the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area. Congress first authorized Federally-supported agricultural research in the Organic Act of 1862, which established what is now USDA. That statute directed the Commissioner of Agriculture "... To acquire and preserve in his Department all information he can obtain by means of books and correspondence, and by practical and scientific experiments,..." The scope of USDA's agricultural research programs has been expanded and extended many times since the Department was first created. Today ARS has a workforce of approximately 6,000 employees including 2,100 scientists and post docs representing a wide range of disciplines. ARS has 800 research projects working at 90+ locations, including overseas labs. The National Agricultural Library and the National Arboretum are also part of ARS.

Office of National Programs

The Office of National Programs (ONP) consists of approximately 24 National Program Leaders drawn from different scientific disciplines who are responsible for managing the overall ARS research program to accomplish the agency's mission:

ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provides 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 for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.
To achieve these objectives, ONP identifies critical problems affecting American agriculture, plans and executes the strategies needed to address these problems by: mobilizing resources (both human and financial); fostering multi-disciplinary research; linking research to program and policy objectives; and communicating and interacting with customers, stakeholders, partners, and beneficiaries to insure program relevancy. Currently, ONP has organized ARS research into 17 National Programs which are described in detail on this website. ONP also works to ensure the timely transfer of new knowledge and technologies to potential users. NPS seeks to broaden public understanding of the value of agriculture and agricultural research to ensure the continued primacy of the U.S. agriculture in the 21st century.

Program Cycle


1. ONP, working through multi-disciplinary National Program Teams (NPT), defines and articulates the scope of each program - with input from customers, stakeholders, partners, and ARS scientists. Information on each National Program (NP) is available on this website. The NPT and key scientists organize one or more NP Workshop(s) for each program .

2. NP Workshop(s) include customers, stakeholders, partners, and ARS scientists and managers, identify problems/issues that can be addressed through research.


3. NPT, working with field scientists, define the NP research agenda and develop a detailed 5-year Action Plan for each program. The Action Plan for each program is or will be available on this website.

4. The work of each research project (aligned with this NP) is revised, if needed, to support the NP Action Plan. The Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR) conducts a rigorous peer review for each project in the NP.


5. Research is implemented. The NPT and the Area Directors will provide on-going oversight. If needed, additional location reviews will be conducted. Annual project reports are submitted to NPT.

6. NPT prepares a summary of the major accomplishments for each NP. These NP Annual Reports and the annual project reports are available on this website.


7. Towards the end of the 5-year cycle, the NPT will conduct a retrospective evaluation of the work of each NP.

8. The NPT reevaluates the scope of the NP and begins the planning process for the next 5-year cycle.

Last Modified: 4/1/2014