Statement of Ann M. Veneman, Designee for Secretary,

United States Department of Agriculture

Before the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

United States Senate

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Lugar and members of the committee. I am honored and humbled to be here as the President-elect's choice for Secretary of Agriculture.

I would like to thank the committee members for the gracious reception you have given me over the past couple of weeks. I have appreciated the opportunity to meet with you and discuss issues of interest. I would also like to thank the staff for their assistance and cooperation in preparing for this hearing.

The issues facing our farmers and ranchers today are complex and challenging. The hard-working men and women who provide our food and fiber have been tested by low prices, bad weather and other adversities. Government has appropriately lent a hand during these trying times, and it is important that we continue to focus our attention on trying to solve the challenges that face producers throughout the country.

In addition to assisting our farmers and ranchers in difficult times, we must also work together to help them seize market opportunities both at home and abroad. With 96% of the world's population living outside the United States, we need to expand trade and eliminate barriers to access for our products in what is an ever-expanding global economy. As we seek market growth, we should continue to search for new and alternative uses for our farm products and find ways to strengthen the competitive position of our producers.

Our producers also need help adapting to changing environmental demands. Regulations should be based on sound scientific principles, and government policies should help, not hinder, the ability of farmers to be good stewards of the land.

Working with Congress, the Department needs to be vigilant in protecting the safety of our food supply and in protecting our agriculture from unwanted pests and diseases. Our research programs should assist us in achieving these goals.

Technology is driving change in every part of the economy, including the food chain.

Advances in technology are leading to new products, increased productivity and more environmentally friendly farming. Research should enhance such technologies and the programs should help farmers take advantage of these new opportunities.

The mission of the Department of Agriculture extends beyond production agriculture. From feeding hungry families and children, to assisting rural communities, to managing our majestic forests, to consumer protection, the Department's responsibility reaches the lives of nearly every American.

If confirmed, I intend to promote cooperative working relationships with other agencies of government to ensure that the concerns of farmers and ranchers are understood and advocated throughout the government. As you know, many of the areas of the Department's responsibility overlap with other parts of government.

If confirmed, I will work to foster an atmosphere of teamwork, innovation, mutual respect and common sense within the Department and focus our delivery systems on quality service to our customers.

Those of you who know me also know that I believe in working cooperatively with Congress. If confirmed, I look forward to renewing old friendships and building new ones, particularly as we work together to craft farm policy in the new century.

As President-elect Bush has said, "The spirit of the American farmer is emblematic of the spirit of America, signifying the values of hard work, faith and entrepreneurship." This is the spirit I hope to bring to the Department of Agriculture and the position of Secretary. I look forward to working with you toward our common objective of helping America's farmers and ranchers continue to be the most productive, innovative and profitable in the world.

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