New USDA Head, Ann Veneman, A Cheerleader
for Biotech & Globalization

Ann Veneman Named New USDA Secretary
emphasizes "Free Trade" and Genetic Engineering

by Al Krebs (from Agribusiness Examiner Issue #100)

Ann Veneman, 51, no stranger to "free trade," genetic engineered crops and
corporate agribusiness, has been named by George W. Bush to be his
administration's new Secretary of Agriculture.

Beginning with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 1986, she
rose to deputy undersecretary for international affairs and commodity
programs. She also was one of the early negotiators of the North American
FreeTrade Agreement (NAFTA) and from 1991 to 1993 served as the deputy
undersecretary which at the time was the highest post at the department
ever held by a woman.

In 1995 California Governor Pete Wilson selected the Modesto, California
native to head California's Department of Food and Agriculture, after the
previous director resigned over charges he did not report hundreds of
thousands of dollars in farm income.

Numerous press reports on Veneman's nomation to be USDA Secretary have
claimed that she was the first woman in California to hold that high
position in the state, however, such claims are erroneous and dishonor the
memory of Rose Bird.

Appointed to that position by former Governor Jerry Brown, Bird served with
distinction until being named Chief Justice of the California Supreme
Court. Later, she was denied further service on the court due to a
well-financed corporate agribusiness recall campaign in retaliation, due in
large part for her progressive initiatives while heading the state's Food
and Agriculture department.

While Veneman has considerable experience within the USDA bureaucracy, her
appointment is also a political reward for the Central Valley, where Bush
concentrated his California campaign and received much of his financial
support. She was an early Bush supporter and was among six California
Republicans named in mid-1999 to his exploratory committee in the state. At
the GOP convention last summer, she was on the national steering committee
of Farmers and Ranchers for Bush.

Veneman's parents were peach growers in Stanislaus County in the San
Joaquin Valley south of Sacramento. Her father, John Veneman, was a
Republican state assemblyman and undersecretary of health, education and
welfare in the Nixon administration. Currently she is an attorney with
Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott in Sacramento where she specializes in
food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade related issues.

Regarded by many as a protege of Richard Lyng, who was agriculture
secretary during President Ronald Reagan's second term, Veneman will now
oversee the department's 42 agencies, with a budget of more than $60
billion and a workforce of 111,000 employees.

Between her service with the FAS, during which time she help negotiate the
Uruguay round talks for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),
and California's Department of Food and Agriculture she worked for the
influential lobbying and law firm of Patton, Boggs and Blow. Among her
clients was Dole Foods Co., the world's largest producer of fruits and

She also has served on the board of directors of Calgene, a Davis,
California company, later acquired by Monsanto, which pioneered genetically
altered tomatoes and, in 1987, was the first company to obtain a USDA
permit to field test a genetically engineered crop.

Veneman is a strong advocate of high tech's role in farming, from
e-commerce over the Internet to genetic engineering. She told an
agricultural biotechnology conference this year: "We simply will not be
able to feed the world without biotechnology."

Carol Tucker Foreman, director of the Consumer Federation of America's Food
Policy Institute and former lobbyist for Monsanto, has praised the pick of
Venemen as "a really good start" for the Bush administration. She said
Venemen "will bring a modern view of the Department of Agriculture into
that job."

Veneman's emphasis on trade has drawn strong praise from individuals like
Bill Pauli, president of the 90,000-member California Farm Bureau
Federation. "What we're really encouraged by is not only does she
understand California agriculture, which is really important to us, but she
understands national agriculture," Pauli told the Associated Press.

"When you talk to agriculture people about what government can do to help,
it's `help us open markets that are closed to us,'" Veneman said in a 1995
interview. "I think that's a real legitimate role that we can play."

Veneman is expected to be easily confirmed as the new USDA Secretary owing
to the fact that she enjoys "bipartisan" support in the Congress and
because of her known expertise in international agricultural trade.

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