Contact: USDA Office of Communication (202) 720-4623
Alisa Harrison (202) 720-4623
SECRETARY VENEMAN TESTIFIES IN SUPPORT OF PRESIDENT BUSH'S PROPOSAL FOR NEW HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT
Announces Administration Support for House Agriculture Committee Amendment
WASHINGTON, July 16,
2002--Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today testified before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and offered her continued support for President Bush's proposal to create the Department of Homeland Security.
Veneman called the President's plan "bold and historic" and said the proposal would "better protect, better prepare and better coordinate" the critical responsibilities of homeland protection.
"In putting forth this proposal, the President made clear the important role agriculture and protecting the food supply play in homeland security," Veneman said.
"Including parts of the USDA in the proposal is a clear recognition of USDA's vital mission as it relates to homeland security."
said the House Agriculture Committee worked closely with the Administration to refine the President's proposal that would move specialized border inspection and enforcement functions of USDA, as well as the Plum Island Disease Facility, to the new Department of Homeland Security.
"The House Agriculture Committee's amendment is consistent with the President's goal of unifying the border and transportation security functions of many Federal agencies," said Veneman.
"The Administration supports the amendment and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure the final bill provides the Secretary of Homeland
Security the coordinating authorities required to address the threat of agro-terrorism."
The Secretary listed some of the programs that would remain at USDA under the House Agriculture Committee amendment.
These programs include protecting livestock from predators; eradicating boll weevil, fruit flies, and brucellosis; controlling rabies in wildlife; negotiating with foreign countries on technical requirements for U.S. exports and imports, biotechnology, animal welfare, as well as other programs.
During her testimony, Veneman also praised the leadership of Governor Tom Ridge as the President's Homeland Security Advisor saying, "During the past several months Governor Ridge and I have developed a close working relationship.
He has a strong understanding of agriculture and the important role of it plays in homeland security"
Veneman used the testimony to discuss the role USDA has played in protecting agriculture and the food supply from potential threats.
"Through the President's FY 2003 budget proposal and supplemental appropriations by the Congress, we continue to strengthen our protection systems.
Our border protection personnel levels will be at their highest levels ever, and investments in the areas of research,
laboratory upgrades, security, have enhanced our ability to prepare and respond to potential threats to American agriculture."
Veneman cited examples of
where the USDA has worked with states, academia and stakeholders to strengthen protection systems.
This has included expediting work with U.S. Customs Service to implement an automated inspection targeting system; collaborating with research universities and state agriculture departments to step up the development of rapid detection systems; expanding USDA's network of diagnostic laboratories; strengthening pest and disease surveillance; better securing and strengthening
laboratories; and improving emergency preparedness capabilities.
"While a great deal of work has been done in a very short amount of time,
the job is far from over," Veneman said.
"We cannot let down our guard.
When it comes to protecting U.S. agriculture and our food supply, we must continuously improve and strengthen our protection capabilities"
For more information about the President's Homeland Security proposal and USDA's Homeland Security programs, visit