January 15, 2004
Farm Income and Exports to Remain Strong in 2004
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman reported Dec. 4, 2003, that farm income and agricultural exports should stay strong in 2004, and that consumer prices are expected to remain steady.
?We expect farm income and exports to remain strong into 2004,? remarked Veneman at a Farm Journal Forum. ?Consumer prices are expected to remain steady, so food prices should continue to be a good bargain for the nation?s consumers.?
During her remarks to an audience of food and agriculture leaders, Veneman said that net cash farm income in 2003 will be at a record high, rebounding sharply from 2002 and above long-term averages. Net cash farm income is forecast to be $65 billion, up 33 percent over that of 2002.
?Part of the improvement is due to brighter export prospects,? Veneman said. ?Exports for 2003 are estimated at about $56.2 billion, while the level of agricultural exports for 2004 is forecast at $59.5 billion. This is just short of the all-time record of $60 billion set in 1996.?
?The demand for farm products is being spurred by the President?s tax cuts, low interest rates and inflation and a decline in the value of the dollar,? Veneman said. ?Expanding payrolls and declining unemployment in the coming year are expected to further accelerate food demand.?
During her speech, Secretary Veneman also highlighted key agricultural issues being addressed by the Bush Administration, including:
- Passage of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. ?The President?s Healthy Forests Initiative and the supporting legislation will improve our ability to make our nation?s forests less vulnerable to catastrophic fires,? Veneman said. ?Just as USDA helps farmers and ranchers be better stewards of their land, the Healthy Forests Initiative will give us new tools to better manage lands that are under federal ownership.? Veneman added that USDA and the Department of the Interior treated a record 2.6 million acres of hazardous fuels and funded 1,200 community fire plans while maintaining a wild land firefighting workforce of nearly 18,000 personnel.
- Timely and efficient implementation of the 2002 Farm Bill. ?Timely and efficient implementation of the 2002 Farm Bill has been a contributing factor to the brighter income picture. Government payments will total about $19.7 billion in 2003,? Veneman said. ?USDA has implemented all the major commodity program provisions under the farm bill and we did it in conjunction with implementing major disaster relief.?
- Enhanced meat and poultry safety. ?In July, we released a food-safety vision document that outlines key steps to improve food safety and protect the public health,? Veneman said. ?This includes a research agenda that prioritizes needs to maximize available resources, strategies to improve workforce training, streamlined implementation of technology, identification of best management practices and risk analysis coordination." Veneman added this approach has contributed to a major reduction in foodborne pathogens, including a 66-percent reduction over the past six years in the rate of Salmonella in raw poultry meat; a 70 percent reduction in samples that test positive for Listeria and continued reduction in E. coli O157:H7.
- Aggressively responded to the single case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in Canada. ?In the coming year, we will continue to work with the World Organization for Animal Health to ensure that there is a consistent international response to potential future cases of BSE,? Veneman said. ?We want to ensure that the best and most recent scientific information underpins all our regulations.?
- Hosted a Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Science and Technology to focus on the use of agricultural technology in reducing global hunger. ?We identified priorities for guiding the use of resources and partnerships in key areas,? Veneman said. ?These include making research and technology more accessible to farmers, expanding the local knowledge base around the world, promoting partnerships and facilitating the benefits of technology through supportive policies.?
- Received first-ever USDA clean audit as part of the President?s Management Agenda. ?This is an important reflection of the level of service we provide to American agriculture, our accountability with taxpayer funds and our efficiency,? Veneman said.
- Promoting ?E Government.? ?Agriculture is an enterprise that is constantly evolving, and I want USDA to have the kind of expertise that will help make us more responsive with the programs and services we provide,? Veneman said. ?We are working to better integrate and coordinate information and to make our technology as friendly as possible for end users, whether they be farmers, consumers or our employees.?