Highlights from Secretary Veneman's Agricultural Outlook Forum Remarks VENEMAN REVIEWS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE Looks Ahead to New Issues and Opportunities for American Agriculture | USDA Newsroom
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Release No. 0057.02
 
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Highlights from Secretary Veneman's Agricultural Outlook Forum Remarks
VENEMAN REVIEWS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE
Looks Ahead to New Issues and Opportunities for American Agriculture
February 21, 2002

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today provided the keynote address at the 78th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, a two-day conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that discusses key issues confronting America's food and farm sector. Veneman used the opportunity to reflect back on her first year in office and reiterate President Bush's commitment to American agriculture.

"The President is strongly committed to our farmers and ranchers and in fulfilling all of the great potential that lies ahead," said Veneman. "Our record during the past year has demonstrated that strong commitment through the advancement of sound policies and steering programs and services through what have been some very difficult and critical times."

Last year, having been in office for just a month, Veneman outlined USDA's priorities for her first year in office at the Ag Outlook Forum, which included:

FIRST YEAR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Building A Strong USDA Team: Veneman noted that the majority of her subcabinet is in place. She called on the Senate to complete hearings on the remaining nominees. She noted that her team is, "strong, talented and extremely diverse in background and talent." Veneman praised the dedication and service of USDA's career force, particularly during the transition period.

Expanding Trade to Help America's Farmers: In last year's remarks, Veneman pledged to seek opportunities to expand trade. She noted Administration successes this past year which include launching a new round of WTO trade negotiations, achieving passage of Trade Promotion Authority in the U.S. House of Representatives, advancing work on a Free Trade of the America's Agreement, and working to "tear down trade barriers that hurt America's farmers and ranchers."

Estate and Tax Reforms: Veneman said last year that sound farm policy includes the importance of having a market-oriented economic safety net and the need for estate and income tax reforms. During the past year, "the President fought hard for tax cuts. He achieved his goal and got a tax cut for every American. And, he said he would put to death the death tax. And, I'm proud to say that we are well on our way to ending this unfair tax on America's farmers."

Advancing Sound Farm Policies: Veneman also noted that the Administration authorized a $5.5 billion emergency supplemental package to provide producers assistance and that USDA has worked to reduce the paperwork farmers and ranchers must fill out to receive emergency aid.

Most importantly, Veneman said the Administration during the past year has "spent a great deal of time on the Capitol Hill‑‑discussing and debating the next Farm Bill."

She cited the Administration's support the past year for the Cochran-Roberts farm bill and the release of a stock-taking report on food and agricultural policy, "Food and Agricultural Policy: Taking Stock for the New Century."

Veneman went on to reiterate what the Administration hopes to see in the next farm bill, which includes support for adding $73.5 billion to farm program spending spread evenly over the next decade; providing a safety net for farmers without encouraging them to over produce, and thereby depressing prices, which is self defeating; establishing farm savings accounts, supports trade and is consistent with our international obligations; and, advances new conservation measures to help farmers better manage working lands.

Protecting Agriculture Against Pests and Diseases: Last year, Veneman pledged to make strengthening pest and disease programs a priority. "Those very protection systems were put to the test just a few weeks later with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in England," said Veneman. "The events of September 11 brought to the forefront the issue of homeland security and the President has made agriculture an important part of his homeland security plan." Veneman cited the President's FY 2003 budget calls for $146 million in new spending for USDA homeland security efforts and the President's authorization of an additional $328 million as part of the Defense Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Food Safety: Last year, Veneman pledged to ensure that regulations are based on sound science and common sense. "Last year I said that we must maintain consumer confidence in our food supply," said Veneman. "We released two annual budgets that have called for record spending for food safety, fully funding our inspection force and investing in critical research to help safeguard our food supply." USDA also released a comprehensive three-year study on BSE conducted by Harvard University. She said that study showed, "that our efforts to date were strong and the risk of a potential outbreak was extremely low, but regardless, we announced additional measures to continue to strengthen our protection systems." Veneman outlined progress on strengthening BSE prevention systems including doubling testing this year, issuing policy papers outlining additional potential actions, and increased budgets for BSE surveillance and research.

Support Additional Research and Innovative Technologies: Last year, Veneman pledged to encourage technology development through research and to accelerate our search for innovative uses for farm products. She cited energy as a prime example. "I am proud to say that President Bush has a comprehensive energy strategy for this nation. It is the first such plan in more than a generation. And, a strategy that looks to agriculture for energy solutions." Veneman noted strong support for research in critical areas at USDA. "Our FY2003 budget requests $2.3 billion for priority research projects," she said. "The Defense Appropriations Supplemental Act includes roughly another $100 for critical research needs." Veneman has also established a biotech advisory committee that is closely examining efforts to promote and advance the benefits of biotech, value-added and innovation in the food and agriculture sector.

SETTING PRIORITIES FOR THE COMING YEAR

Highlights from Secretary Veneman's Agricultural Outlook Forum Remarks

Secretary Veneman outlined priorities and key issues the Department will address in the coming year during remarks at the 2002 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Farm Bill Conference/Implementation: " As we look at the priorities that face this Department, and agriculture this year, implementation of a new farm bill stands at the top of the list," said Veneman. "Once Congress passes a new farm bill and it is signed by the President, we need to be ready to move forward with implementation." Veneman pledged to work hard in the Conference Committee to achieve a sound farm bill that will best help a broad range of America's farmers and ranchers.

Homeland Security: Veneman noted in the year ahead, homeland security would remain a top priority at USDA . "The events of September 11th have made us look even more closely at our ability to protect our food supply. We're working with the entire food chain, from production to processing, to transportation, retailing, and everything in between. We want to make sure that we have best management practices, a strong system of checks and balances, and that we will be able to deal with any circumstance - deliberate or accidental -- that might affect our food supply."

Trade: In the year ahead, another priority Veneman outlined is continuing to create trade opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. "We have to continue to open new markets and that means making sure that other countries live up to their trade obligations ," Veneman noted that USDA will work to ensure that phytosanitary and sanitary regulations are based on sound science and, "not allow other countries to restrict products - including the products of biotechnology -- under the banner of protectionism." She said that certain policy initiatives by the European Union, Japan and China, particularly on biotechnology, "are wrong-headed and would move free and open markets backward and would hurt U.S. farmers. " While saying that America needs to stand strong and make sure other countries keep trade open, there needs to be more work done to eliminate unfair trade practices. "Even with these differences, we must continue to have constructive dialogues so we can advance our trade agenda, not create more barriers." Veneman also said that granting Trade Promotion Authority for the President would be a top priority. "Ever since "fast track" authority expired in 1994, the United States has had to sit on the sidelines as other countries have shaped trade agreements beneficial to their industries and people." She praised the agriculture community for being one of the strongest advocates for trade promotion authority.

Food Nutrition Safety Net: In the year ahead, Veneman said we must improve the food assistance safety net for low-income Americans. She pointed to the President's FY 2003 budget proposal, which includes a record $41 billion for domestic nutrition assistance programs. The Bush Administration is also seeking more than $4 billion in additional spending for the Food Stamp Program over the next 10 years. This would include eligibility for legal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. for at least five years, streamline the applications process, and revise eligibility requirements for working families. "Changes in program administration and enhanced funding will ensure that needy households get the assistance they need, while helping States reduce payment errors and costs," said Veneman.

Strong Conservation Programs: The Secretary said there are many opportunities for agriculture when it comes to conservation and the environment , "where imaginative new thinking is creating exciting prospects for our farmers and the Nation ." Veneman noted that the farm bill is a good example of bi‑partisan support in the House and Senate farm bills, which have allocated billions of additional dollars over the next several years to help farmers and ranchers address environmental concerns, particularly on working lands. "I believe this is a momentous change, with strong implication for the future of farm programs and the farm safety net," said Veneman. "This increased funding will provide incentives for farmers and ranchers to adopt conservation practices that reduce soil erosion and reduce fertilizer and manure runoff into our waterways, and enhance wildlife."

Veneman cited examples of programs that are helping producers in these areas including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). She said that these state and local efforts would be assisted at the federal level by the increased funding for the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) authorized in the House and Senate farm bills . " Together these efforts will reduce the conversion of farmland to non‑farm uses and preserve open space for the enjoyment of all," said Veneman.

New Uses/Energy: According to the Secretary, new technology is, "increasing the demand for agricultural products by discovering alternative uses that not only increase returns to producers but also provide consumers with products that are better for the environment." She cited the success of ethanol as an example. "The energy bill, now before the Senate, contains a renewable fuel standard," she said. "If this becomes law, ethanol use would triple over the next decade‑‑a dramatic increase in a domestically produced, renewable fuel that reduces carbon monoxide and toxic air emissions. This Administration is committed to the kind of programs that support agriculture as an energy solution."

Biotechnology: Veneman said that science and technology are changing every aspect of peoples' lives -- the way food is produced, marketed, and distributed in this country and around of world. "Medicine and biotechnology are coming together, spurred on by human genome mapping," she said. "In the not too distant future, we will be producing new crops and products that will help heal and make people healthier. This will create new opportunities for farmers."

Leaders of Tomorrow: The Secretary said one of her initiatives, "Leaders of Tomorrow," would continue to expand this year. "This effort is in support of President Bush's call for Americans to give back to their country and become even better public citizens. " Veneman said she will conduct speaking tours at about a dozen major colleges, talking directly to agriculture students at those schools. In addition, Veneman will be adopting "student leaders" through a mentor program when traveling to different states this year.


A New Era of Resourcefulness and Partnership in Agriculture : " I am very excited about the future of U.S. agriculture," said Veneman., "I continue to be bullish on American agriculture," she said. "I believe we are on the doorstep of a new era of resourcefulness and partnership in agriculture. We're working together to address the age-old and new issues facing producers. These issues range from meeting the increasing and changing needs of consumers, developing new products that add value to what we produce, food safety, and ensuring that our natural environment is protected, preserved and enhanced. We have a lot of work to do, but the future holds enormous promise. But that promise can only be cultivated through a new generation of leaders and an innovative approach to farm and food policy."

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