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December 21, 2000
WASHINGTON--On Dec. 20, president-elect George W. Bush nominated Ann Veneman to the position of secretary of agriculture, the first woman to be named to the post. Veneman, a former secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has approximately 15 years of experience in the agriculture industry. With a background in law, Veneman joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in 1986. Afterwards, she was promoted to deputy undersecretary for international affairs and commodity programs from 1989 to 1991 under Bush's father, and then to deputy secretary of the USDA from 1991 to 1993.
In 1995, she was appointed by then-governor Pete Wilson as the first female secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), overseeing a budget of $200 million and a crew of 1,750 employees. Her duties included ensuring delivery of a safe, abundant supply of wholesome food; developing policies and providing assistance in areas such as marketing and exporting; and preventing and eradicating intrusions of harmful pests and diseases.
According to the weekly agricultural paper, AgAlert, one of Veneman's biggest accomplishments was expanding California exports through trade missions, trade talks and trade shows. Her trade experience was further sharpened while she was a negotiator at the Uruguay round of talks on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
"Ann's appointment ensures continued high-level representation for California agriculture in our nation's capital," said Bill Lyons, Jr., Veneman's successor as secretary of CDFA. "I know she'll be an important advocate for California agriculture in the Bush Administration."
Katherine DiMatteo, the executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), noted that Veneman was the assistant secretary of agriculture when the Organic Foods Production Act was passed in 1990, and added that the organic industry may benefit from Veneman's experience in California, which has one of the most recognized organic programs in the United States. Interestingly, the appointment was named the day the final rule for implementation of the National Organic Program was released. "We expect to work with her as Secretary of Agriculture and the newly appointed administration to protect the viability of the National Organic Program," DiMatteo said.
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