Secretary of Agriculture Reflects on His Tenure

Schafer addresses Farm Bureau convention.

Published on: Jan 13, 2009

At what may well be his last press conference with agricultural reporters, outgoing Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said Monday one of the highlights of his short tenure at USDA was "having the honor to serve, the thrill to be at USDA, the mission, the people." Schafer was in San Antonio, Texas, to address the 90th annual convention of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

He also said the transition to the new administration is "going well. We at USDA started working on that even before the election and I think we have a plan in place for a seamless transition."

On some of the "hot button" issues during his tenure, such as Country of Origin Labeling, Schafer said, "we were able strike a good balance with the COOL legislation. In general, it's a good piece of legislation and I'd like to remind our trading partners around the world that this is a marketing program, not a trade issue and we hope that as it gets put in place it will unfold well.

Speaking to reporters during the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting, US Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer noted that in 1997 as governor of North Dakota, he signed the first COOL legislation in the United States.

"We have labeling in seafood and vegetables that we've been able to live with. Now we are just moving into meat with the same process. As we mark our products proudly, we are just asking other countries to do the same."

Regarding the investigation of the United Soybean Board called for by the American Soybean Association, the secretary said it's the responsibility of USDA to take these types of allegations seriously. "We have a responsibility on all fronts to look at allegations whether it's in meat, food safety, soybeans, whatever it might be, and investigate thoroughly.

"It's important that come to some conclusions as to whether these allegations or true or not and hopefully we can do it in a timely manner so it won't affect the coming referendum on the soybean checkoff.

"Part of the investigation will include interagency interaction and some specific agency oversight. If appropriate changes need to be made at USDA, they will be made."