USDA talk on future trends in animal agriculture

WASHINGTON - This article contains the transcript of USDA Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman’s remarks regarding Future Trends in Animal Agriculture
calendar icon 19 September 2003
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USDA talk on future trends in animal agriculture - WASHINGTON - This article contains the transcript of USDA Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman’s remarks regarding Future Trends in Animal Agriculture.

USDA “We are very pleased to join a number of other groups in hosting this comprehensive session related to food animal production. And I want to thank all the members of the Future Trends in Animal Agriculture committee because these are very, very important issues.

“Your unique contributions and viewpoints from a broad spectrum of issues throughout the food chain, whether its research or its livestock health or its animal welfare or the environment, trade—they are all vital to implement good public policy that’s based on sound science and rational regulatory systems.

“Today your program will highlight the diverse and complex issues relating to animal agriculture.

“Animal health came to the forefront, literally in the opening days of this Administration, when we were dealing with the outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Europe and it has remained a high priority.

“Many of us have spent countless hours on issues related to animal and poultry health.

“A brief glance at the food and animal production shows why it is so vital to our country.

“Livestock production in the United States is estimated to be about $101 billion—that’s `B’ for billion--this year.

“This will be our second-largest production year on record in terms of total value.

“There are more than 96 million head of cattle in our current national inventory, which supports more than one million jobs.

“There are about 60 million hogs nationwide which help support more than 800,000 jobs.

“And a billion chickens and turkeys with more than 38 billion pounds of poultry produced last year.

‘As you know, USDA has a number of key activities throughout our Department that relate to animal health and food animal production.

“I’d first like to talk for a moment about our research. As you know, we have a comprehensive research agenda. During this Administration, our Undersecretary Joe Jen has put a real focus on adding to that research agenda on animals—a focus on genomics. So our scientists are mapping genes from cattle, swine, sheep and other species … and they are now involved in the significant task of sequencing the complete bovine genome. What does this mean?

“Emerging advances in genomics hold the key to breakthroughs in broader areas of research including animal health and disease prevention. We are also working to develop vaccines for viruses that cause diseases such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease.

“We are developing diagnostic methods that can detect viruses such as Exotic Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza in less than two hours.

“In addition, we continue to enhance our pest and disease infrastructure. We have a National Animal Health Laboratory Network that consists of 13 state laboratories and two federal laboratories. We have a new Emergency Operations Center in Riverdale, Maryland, that plays a significant role in rapid-response—rapidly responding to the kinds of outbreaks that may occur.

“Of course we’ve had these efforts supplemented by Homeland Security funding last year.

“Now as I mentioned at the outset, we have been confronted with a number of these issues since we have been here at the Department, these last two and three-quarters years or so. We started as I said with Foot and Mouth Disease which took a lot of time and a lot of effort, and in fact at a time when we had very few people here at the Department. I decided in order to deal with that issue we would bring in our state veterinarian from California, Rich Breitmeyer to work through that issue and make sure we had everything in place.

“Well, then came the events of 9-11 and we began to focus more on intentional threats to our food system and particularly animal production, because we had seen what something like Foot and Mouth Disease could do to the economics. Again this is not a food safety issue, but we began to look more broadly at this kind of an event—the intentional introduction of such diseases.

“Then a little over a year ago we got a major outbreak of Avian Influenza in Virginia, one that the state couldn’t handle on its own. So we brought in not only APHIS people but our Forest Service Incident Management Teams to deal with this issue and get it behind us.

And then we had Exotic Newcastle Disease, as you know, in California, which spread to Nevada and Arizona and a couple of other states. But yesterday thanks to the tremendous partnership efforts of our people here at USDA, the states and the producers we were able to announce the end of the final quarantine in Southern California for Exotic Newcastle.

“We believe this is a significant accomplishment just about one year after the verification of the first cases there. But it is not now a time for complacency. We continue to urge poultry producers, bird handlers and private hobbyists to continue to be vigilant and to adhere to proper biosecurity and prevention methods.

“Well then, as you know, on May 20th, we got the dreaded phone call—that they found BSE in Canada. And while this was only a single animal, no other animals have been found, it has really wreaked havoc on our livestock production systems in North America.

“We’ve worked closely with Canada throughout the whole investigation, throughout the time that they have been dealing with this and as a result of all of that and an analytical risk assessment we agreed to modify our actions prohibiting all products from Canada from coming in; to allow low risk ruminant products to enter the United States. That is boneless boxed beef and veal, animals under 30 months of age. We’ve also now started a rule-making process for animals under 30 months of age. That will go through the normal rule-making process and then there will be a separate rule-making process that will take a longer period of time for other products and animals.

“We are also working to promote an international look at BSE through the OIE and my counterparts in Canada and Mexico and I signed a joint letter to the OIE asking for an early and expeditious review of the international rules relating to BSE focusing particularly on the trade issues that relate.

“Diseases such as BSE have helped demonstrate the importance of the development of another key priority that we are working on here at USDA and that is the development of a National Animal Identification System. This would enhance the speed and accuracy of response to animal disease outbreaks in American agriculture. This is an important goal of USDA.

“Our Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is currently working closely with interested parties and state officials to develop a national ID system that will enhance disease control, surveillance, prevention, and eradication activities. One of the goals is to have an effective traceback system in the event of an animal disease outbreak and the ability to do so within 48 hours. `This is vital not only for disease control and eradication but also for uninterrupted agricultural trade.

“Animal identification is going to be discussed in more detail next month at the annual meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association. “Another area that has been a key focus of USDA has been food safety. And as you know, more and more issues of food safety are being linked to how we produce—the risk of food safety based on animal production.

“While the Food Safety Inspection Service does not have regulatory authority at the production level, it is looking for ways to provide information to producers that will reduce pathogen loads. We are looking at research and other information that will allow us to properly advise producers on pre-harvest practices that improve the safety of our food supply.

“Just last week, FSIS had something called a `Pre-Harvest E. coli O157:H7 Symposium.’ Research data was presented showing that some pre-harvest interventions appear quite promising.

“Using the input from this conference, FSIS will develop a list of best-management practices to help production facilities such as feedlots reduce pathogen loads. On a related note, preliminary data are showing that mitigation efforts are paying off. We will show a decrease this year in samples that test positive for E. coli O157:H7. We will have a press release later this afternoon that will discuss these results.

“Of course, animal agriculture also has impacts on the environment and USDA is working hard to help producers mitigate any adverse impacts. Last week, we released a National Framework for Animal Agriculture Conservation in draft. This National Framework concept is built on state efforts to promote voluntary ways to foster environmentally sound and economically viable livestock and poultry production.

“It calls for the collaboration of all stakeholders including governments, producers, the public and the private sector to commit their skills and resources necessary to support environmental stewardship in animal agriculture.

“USDA also has worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency as they revised the rule for Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or what we commonly refer to as CAFOs.

“We have worked with EPA and the state water quality agencies to ensure that they understand and implement the needs of producers in meeting the CAFO rule’s requirements. We are also providing assistance to producers, to help them make comprehensive nutrient management plans an integral part of their concentrated livestock operations.

“And we continue to meet with EPA to foster communication and cooperation as the CAFO rule continues to be implemented.

“The Administration has also shifted fund allocations for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program toward animal agriculture increasing them from 50 to 60 percent for livestock-related activities. Overall the Administration’s committed to record spending on agricultural conservation with about $3.9 billion in the budget for the coming year.

“Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and we are assisting them with their conservation efforts … with an emphasis on working farm and ranch lands. U.S. producers are also becoming more productive in an environmentally sensitive way. And as those production levels increase, so does the importance of trade. “Total U.S. export sales of livestock, poultry and dairy for next year are estimated at more than $12 billion. Three of the top 10 fastest-growing exports are meats including pork, which ranks number one as well as beef and poultry. “With greater productivity and a growing middle class emerging in countries all around the world access to export markets becomes increasingly important.

“This, of course, was a major focus at the WTO ministerial in Cancun last week. The United States went to Cancun with a high level of ambition to liberalize trade across all areas, including agriculture. As you know, agriculture has been the linchpin of these negotiations but it was not the reason for the outcome.

“We will continue to aggressively pursue new market opportunities for our farmers and ranchers and to keep trade flowing smoothly in the markets we already have.

“So these are just a few of the issues that we are working on as they pertain to animal agriculture. The future for animal agriculture in the U. S. will be one where technology and increased productivity play greater roles in meeting the needs of consumers here and all around the world.

“The global market is bringing a new focus on a broad range of issues around the world such as animal health, food safety and research. These issues are interacting with each other in increasingly complicated ways.

“The Future Trends in Animal Agriculture committee does a wonderful job to help sort it all out by fostering an important dialogue on all the varied aspects of animal production.

“We look forward to continuing these discussions with you and I want to thank you all again for efforts on this conference and your interest in this topic. It is important that we move ahead together. Thank you very much."

USDA - 17th September 2003

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