Ann Veneman first woman secretary of agriculture

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WASHINGTON – President-elect George W. Bush’s appointment of Ann Veneman will make her the first woman to serve as the secretary of agriculture.

As the nation’s 27th secretary of agriculture, Veneman brings to Washington, D.C., her own familiarity with the workings of the department, having served as deputy secretary of USDA from 1991 to 1993, and previously as deputy under secretary of agriculture for international affairs and commodity programs.

Her work at USDA began in 1986 with the department’s Foreign Agricultural Service as associate administrator.

As the second-ranking person at USDA, she directed and oversaw the activities and policies of the USDA and its 42 agencies, with a budget of more than $60 billion and a workforce of 111,000 employees. That position made her the highest-ranking woman to ever serve at USDA.

She was actively involved in the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, NAFTA and the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.

Veneman serves on the board of directors of the Farm Foundation, the Close-up Foundation, ACDI/VOCA and the Great Valley Center. She is a member of the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade, the Bennett Agriculture Round Table, and Food Foresight.

Veneman is currently a partner with the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott, where she specializes in food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade related issues.

From 1995 until the change of administration in 1999, she served as secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Veneman was also the first woman to be appointed in this position, directing the state agency that oversees the largest agricultural economy in the nation.

Veneman made it a priority to expand global opportunities for California agriculture. She focused efforts on making CDFA more efficient, competitive and common-sense oriented.

She also overhauled the department’s strategic planning process to include a complete review of business practices, organizational structure, and technology integration.

Under her leadership, California was recognized for pioneering partnerships in the development of food safety quality assurance plans.

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