Scope and Content Note

Memoranda issued by the Secretary of Agriculture, as well as communications issued by agencies both within and without USDA, including memos, bulletins, checklists, circulars, directives, handbooks, instructions, notices, orders, regulations, reports, organization charts, forms, pamphlets, and reprints. Most items are from the 20th century and refer to administrative matters within the department and the work of USDA staff.

There are two subseries in this series.

Subseries 1. Secretary's Memoranda, 1897-1995. 3 cubic ft.

The Secretary's Memoranda are official statements from the Secretary of Agriculture, and provide the legal basis for administrative actions within USDA. They were issued in both numbered and unnumbered formats. The numbered series began in 1913 and was discontinued in 1981. Unnumbered memoranda were issued before, as well as concurrently with, the numbered series, and continue to the present day. Several indexes to the numbered series are filed after the last numbered memo. An index to the unnumbered memos covers only the years 1897-1913.

These memos cover such diverse topics as USDA employee policies and procedures, appointments and establishment of boards, committees, and groups, and fiscal and property regulations. Examples of memo topics include Rules & Regulations governing Leaves of Absence in USDA, Employment of Women, Safety in American Agriculture, USDA Policy on Sale of Surplus Pesticides, and the Cotton Marketing Task Force.

Memos were issued by all Secretaries of Agriculture in the time period covered, including J. Sterling Morton, James Wilson, David F. Houston, Edwin T. Meredith, Henry C. Wallace, Howard M. Gore, William M. Jardine, Arthur M. Hyde, Henry A. Wallace, Claude R. Wickard, Clinton P. Anderson, Charles F. Brannan, Ezra Taft Benson, Orville L. Freeman, Clifford M. Hardin, Earl L. Butz, Bob Bergland, John R. Block, Richard Lyng, Clayton K. Yeutter, Edward R. Madigan, Mike Espy, and Dan Glickman. Memoranda also were issued by individuals in the position of Acting Secretary, including Renick W. Dunlap, Charles F. Martin, K. T. Hutchison, and True D. Morse.

While this collection of memoranda is extensive, it is not complete. Many early memos are missing even though the index may list their dates of issue and topics. Other memos are represented only by transcriptions or summaries from other sources.


The numbered memos are arranged by number, with revisions and amendments that were issued later filed under the original number. Unnumbered memos are filed by date.

Subseries 2. Agency Memoranda, 1939-1991. 27 cubic ft.

This subseries encompasses many types and titles of documents, including bulletins, checklists, circulars, directives, handbooks, instructions, memoranda, notices, orders, regulations, and reports. In addition, some of the memoranda have attachments or exhibits that may include other memoranda, organization charts, forms, pamphlets, reprints from the Federal Register or Code of Federal Regulation, and other documents.

The majority of the memos in this subseries were issued by agencies of the USDA. (See list of agencies below.) They contain directions for staff concerning the mission and programs of the agency, as well as information on a variety of administrative topics such as benefits, personnel assignments, and employee conduct. Among memoranda from over 30 agencies, this subseries includes AMS Instructions and Notices from the Agricultural Marketing Service, 1953-1972; ASCS Notices, Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, 1961-1973; and CSS Memoranda, Commodity Stabilization Service, 1953-1961.

A few memos are included that were issued by agencies outside of the USDA, such as regulations and orders of the National Production Authority, part of the Department of Commerce. These memos are interfiled with USDA materials, under the issuing agency name. A complete list of agency names is included at the end of this scope and content note.

Two other agencies, also not part of the USDA, whose records are included here, are the Office of Price Administration (OPA), which operated during World War II, and the Office of Price Stabilization (OPS), established during the Korean War. The orders and regulations of these offices, along with the records of the War Food Administration (WFA), a WWII agency within USDA, provide a detailed view of the regulation of prices, production and distribution of agricultural products and services during wartime.

The War Food Administration was the product of a series of Executive Orders from 1942-1943. It included both new branches and agencies as well as pre-existing agencies that were subsumed by it during this time. Chief among these were the Food Distribution Administration and Food Production Administration, both of which had been established in 1942, combined in 1943, and ultimately underwent a name change to become the WFA. Other agencies included in the WFA were the Commodity Credit Corporation, the Federal Extension Service, the Farm Credit Administration, the Agricultural Marketing Administration, and the Agricultural Adjustment Agency.


The agency memoranda have been arranged alphabetically, first by the name of the issuing agency, and then by document title or type. Most of the agency memoranda were originally stored in three-ring binders. Some were organized by number, others by date. For the most part, each binder held one kind of document, but in a few instances, document titles such as Notices, Memoranda, Instructions, were interfiled. Documents have generally been arranged either numerically or chronologically according to the way they were found.

In a few cases, clearly distinct document types that had been mixed together were sorted and filed separately. Also, checklists and indexes have been extracted and filed in separate folders (following the records they refer to) so they may be used as guides to the contents of the memos.

Related material:

Similar documents may be found in sections of Series I (Documentary File), dealing with the agencies that issued the memoranda in this series.

List of Agency Names

  • Agricultural Adjustment Agency: see War Food Administration (WFA)
  • Agricultural Economics, Management Operations Staff
  • Agricultural Marketing Administration
  • Agricultural Marketing Service
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
  • Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Division of Farm Management and Costs
  • Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Division of State and Local Planning
  • Business and Defense Services Administration
  • Commodity Credit Corporation: see War Food Administration (WFA)
  • Commodity Stabilization Service (CSS)
  • Consumer and Marketing Service (C&MS)
  • Consumer and Marketing Service, Food Stamp Division
  • Defense Production Administration
  • Defense Transport Administration
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
  • Food and Nutrition Service
  • National Agricultural Mobilization Committee
  • National Finance Center
  • National Production Authority (NPA), Department of Commerce
  • Office of Defense Mobilization
  • Office of Price Administration (OPA)
  • Office of Price Stabilization (OPS)
  • Production and Marketing Administration (PMA)
  • Production and Marketing Administration, Fruit and Vegetable Branch
  • Production and Marketing Administration, Shipping and Storage Branch
  • Rural Electrification Administration (REA)
  • Salary Stabilization Board
  • USDA
  • USDA Library
  • USDA War Board
  • Wage Stabilization Board
  • War Food Administration (WFA)
  • WFA, Agricultural Adjustment Agency
  • WFA, Commodity Credit Corporation
  • WFA, Food Production Administration
  • WFA, Office of Distribution
  • WFA, Office of Price
  • WFA, Office of Production
  • WFA, Office of Requirements & Allocations