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USDA sweetens food-security spending

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns announced to a roomful of restaurateurs and food processors on Friday that his agency would direct an additional $7 million to protecting the food supply.

Two million dollars, he said, will be "redirected" to the study of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, popularly known as Mad Cow Disease. In addition, said the former Nebraska governor, $5 million will be awarded by USDA facilities with the express purpose of promoting food safety.

The funds would be in addition to the $600 million that USDA is permitted to spend under anti-terrorist legislation, and millions more for other programs that tend to safeguard the food supply.

Speaking at the Food Safety Summit, an annual conference here devoted to the prevention of food contaminations, Johanns also indicated that he favored opening the U.S. border to cattle imports from Canada. Restaurateurs have favored the lifting of the import ban because many believe it would lower beef costs.

Johanns said he'd enjoyed warm relations with the restaurant community during his years as governor of Nebraska, and professed that he expected that situation to continue in his new role. "You have one promise from me today: My door will always be open to you," he told the operators in attendance.

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