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The Secretary Sez - Dec. 31, 2007

This is a tradition that is now in its 31st year; at the end of the year my Samuelson Sez becomes The Secretary Sez, this year the thoughts of Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner.

“Well Orion, let me just say that this is a tremendous time to be Secretary of Agriculture and I’m honored and humbled in many ways to serve in this capacity.

We have seen some remarkable events over this past year with producers responding to the challenge to produce product not only for our food needs in this country, but also now for a substantial part of our energy needs as well. I have great appreciation for what a lot of our livestock producers are going through with higher feed prices, but at the same time I am quick to point out that we are actually feeding more corn for feed today than we were two years ago. So, despite the tremendous increase in demand, our producers are responding to this.

My natural instinct is to always let producers manage the market; they do a lot better job of managing the market than the Secretary of Agriculture or USDA. If you turn them loose and give them the right price incentive, they will respond in a big way. We are excited about what is happening in rural America.

I’m also excited that in addition to growing more and more of our energy needs, we are exporting more and more of our agricultural products all over the globe. Dairy products are just one example. We didn’t export dairy products five years ago, but today 13% to 15% of our dairy products are exported all over the globe because consumers in other countries discovered American cheese and love it. These are great times for American agriculture around the world.

Our challenge in the future...we want to make sure these times are not a ‘boom and bust’ period where we are going to see things fall off the cliff into recession. A lot of economists still predict a ‘boom and bust’ scenario for today’s farm economy. Our challenge is to make sure that we have a good farm bill in place, a good trade policy in place so that this is not a ‘bust’ later, that these prices are sustainable through a whole generation of farmers. There is nothing I would like to see more than the opportunity for our producers over this period to have good economic times. They deserve it because they do so much for all the American people and I think they should be rewarded accordingly.”

The thoughts of Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner shared with me in his office at the end of 2007.

That’s this year’s Secretary Sez


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