USDA Secretary Ann Veneman met Jan. 13, 2004 with leadership of the Iowa Cattlemenâ€™s Association, state ag officials and other distinguished guests at ICA headquarters in Ames, Iowa.
Veneman arrived at ICA headquarters Tuesday afternoon to discuss the BSE (mad cow disease) issue with cattle producers, only 21 days following the announcement of the first BSE case in the United States. This was the first state cattlemenâ€™s association that Secretary Veneman has had a personal visit with since the Dec. 23 announcement of the BSE discovery in a Holstein cow in Washington state.
Venemanâ€™s stop was the first time a U.S. agriculture secretary has visited the ICA headquarters. She was warmly welcomed by ICA President Bob Johnson and Executive Vice President Joel Brinkmeyer.
"We appreciate your support for the cattle industry and USDAâ€™s efforts to maintain consumer confidence in the past few weeks," says Brinkmeyer.
Veneman made some brief remarks to those assembled in the ICA board room.
Protecting food supply is most important job
"Three weeks ago today, we received the dreaded call that confirmed a case of BSE in Washington state. We have worked non-stop since then because the most important thing we do at USDA is protect the food supply, whether itâ€™s from natural disasters, insects or an animal disease," says Veneman.
She says the new safety measures quickly put in place by USDA are designed to protect consumers and assure them that the U.S. beef supply is safe and wholesome.
ICA President Bob Johnson expressed his thanks to Veneman for USDAâ€™s quick actions and coordination with the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Association and the media.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman met with leaders of the Iowa Cattlemenâ€™s Association Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2004 at ICA headquarters in Ames. Pictured from left: Evan Vermeer, Sioux Center; Leon Yantis, Conrad; Joel Brinkmeyer, Ames; Steve Olson, Grand Mound; Jim Pellett, Atlantic; Alan Albright, Lytton; Secretary Veneman; Dave Petty, Eldora; Glen Rowe, Lorimor; Charlie Van Meter, Guthrie Center; Bob Johnson, Andover; Gene Rouse, Huxley; and Scott McGregor, Nashua.
"USDAâ€™s response has helped to maintain consumer confidence, provide solid information for our producers and stabilize the current beef market," says Johnson, a cattle feeder from Andover, Iowa.
Will new regulations hinder re-opening of markets?
A short question-and-answer period followed Venemanâ€™s remarks. The ICA members expressed serious concerns about losses taken in the beef industry and future profitability. The discussion during the meeting focused on implementation of the new USDA regulations and cattle producersâ€™ concerns regarding opening of markets.
Veneman assured producers that USDA is working with other nations to reopen their markets to U.S. beef. She says the Bush administration is working closely with Mexican officials to reopen their border.
The USDA chief was also in town to announce that USDA will provide $178 million to fund the expansion of the National Animal Disease Center in Ames. Congressman Tom Latham, member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, was in attendance at the ICA meeting to further discuss the NADC announcement.
"Secretary Veneman, we greatly appreciate your announcement to fully fund the expansion of the Ames Lab. This is one of the items that we can take off the priority list of the ICA and the NCBA," says Brinkmeyer.
In addition to the ICA leadership who attended the meeting with Secretary Veneman, honorary guests included U.S. Congressman Tom Latham, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge, Deputy Iowa Agriculture Secretary Brent Halling, State of Iowa Veterinarian John Schiltz, USDA-FSA State Executive Director Derryl McLaren, and Iowa Representative Steve Olson.