Schafer Comments on USDA Issues Prior to End of Bush Administration

Published on: 05:08AM Jul 15, 2008

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

TOPICS: Farm Bill implementation * U.S.-Korea FTA * Beef to Korea * Doha Round * Biofuels * Labor issues

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Speaking at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Council of Presidents meeting in Washington, USDA Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said his agency is running to the finish line to conclude agriculture’s priority issues before year’s end. Ranking at the top of the list, he said, is implementation of the farm bill.

Other key issues: Successfully completing international trade negotiations, including the Korea free trade agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, are also top priorities.

According to Schafer, USDA’s certification system to ensure Korean consumers that they are receiving U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age has been successful to date.

Regarding increasing food prices and the role of biofuels, Schafer said he was reassured at the world hunger meeting in Rome when world leaders agreed ethanol was not to blame for higher wheat and other commodity prices. Instead, Schafer said ethanol is actually helping to keep gasoline prices down. Further, USDA has committed $1 billion toward research and development of renewable fuels, with a special focus on cellulosic biofuels. But, said Schafer, until those biofuels become available, it is important the country maintains a stable and predictable renewable fuels policy.

“Efforts to waive or repeal the renewable fuels standard would hinder progress toward reducing our dependence on imported oil and greenhouse gas emissions,” Schafer said.

Labor issues. Schafer said he is still very much engaged in finding a solution to the growing labor problem facing U.S. agriculture. USDA estimates that 50 percent to 70 percent of the current farm workforce is undocumented.

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