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New Ag Secretary Outlines Top-Level Tasks

WASHINGTON, DC - Newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, in his first address to USDA staffers here this week, outlined several top-level tasks that the Department of Agriculture will undertake under his leadership, including nutrition and food safety.

Emphasizing that he expects the department to function as a team, Johanns, who has had agricultural experience having not only grown up on a dairy farm in Iowa but also served as governor of Nebraska, said his short list of priorities includes BSE, reauthorization of the Farm Bill, revising the food guidance system, concluding trade agreements, implementing conservation program and civil rights.

"We can help farmers and ranchers better compete in a world economy. We can ensure the safest, most affordable, and abundant food supply. We can support healthier lifestyles for Americans. We can conserve our natural resources. We can strengthen our rural communities. We can continue to use sound science in our decisions, and we can do all that we possibly can to treat each other with dignity and respect and equality," Johanns said.

The 28th USDA chief noted in his statement that the department was established as the People's Department by President Lincoln and pledged that he would treat all visitors with respect, dignity and equality.

"It's a standard that I intend to set at the top, and of course I have every expectation that that will be a standard we will all embrace," he said.

Johanns recognized the accomplishments of his predecessor, Ann Veneman, specifically citing her work in building a strong farm economy, guiding farm trade and protecting the food supply.

He also expressed keen interest in furthering the department's school lunch program, which benefits 29 million children, the nutrition assistance program which touches one in five Americans, and protection of federal land and conservation.

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