Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman spoke on the changes occurring in agriculture and provided insight into what areas she will focus on in a speech at the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., last week.

“A global food system has emerged which encompasses everything from production to processing to consumption,” she said. “The combination of globalization, technology, and ever-demanding consumers means a more tightly connected food chain with stronger linkages among producers, processors and retailers. Evolution of the new food system may be viewed in different ways, but ultimately, requires new relationships and new thinking.”

Veneman called for members of commodity food chains to strengthen this new relationship by working together to develop the 2002 farm bill. This echoed sentiments expressed by agriculture committee members in Congress who desire producers, processors, retailers and consumers to work together to find consensus on policy issues.

Veneman also praised groups of farmers whose outside-of-the-box thinking resulted in value-added products. She sited examples, including Tennessee pork producers developing products for a Hispanic market, dairy producers purchasing a cheese plant, North Dakota farmers forming the North Dakota Pasta Company, and small producers catering to organic markets across the country.

In the coming years, the new Secretary of Agriculture said her focus would be the following areas:

1. Trade. “U.S. agriculture needs more trade, not less, ” she said. Veneman reported projections of $53 billion in exports in fiscal 2001. That’s an increase of $4 billion from 1999, but lower than the peak of $60 billion in 1996.

Specifically, she called for the passage of presidential trade negotiating authority, to increase market-opening agreements, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and an ambitious agenda for the next round of global trade talks.

2. Technological developments. Veneman said agriculture needs to discover new products, increase productivity and find ways to farm in an environmentally-friendly manner through research, education and extension as well as accelerate our search for innovative uses for agricultural products – such as ethanol’s role in providing clean energy.

3. Regulate with sound science. The USDA needs to find ways to regulate our environment without placing undue expenses on the farming community. Veneman also noted that agriculture needs to continue food safety efforts to keep the consumer’s confidence in agricultural products.

4. Provide a safety net. Veneman said that producers must have an “adequate economic safety net, which is consistent with a market-based farm economy.” And, find tax relief from estate taxes and income taxes.

To review the entire speech, given by Veneman, visit the following web address: www.usda.gov/news/releases/2001/02/0031.htm