Bush nominates first woman ag secretary Modesto, Calif.-native Ann Veneman will be moving to Washington, D.C. this year for her third stint in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This time she will be going as the boss. Veneman, former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the daughter of a San Joaquin Valley tree fruit farmer, has been nominated by President-elect George W. Bush as the next secretary of Agriculture.

Veneman, 51, an attorney and a political science graduate from the University of California, Davis, will be the first woman to head USDA and only the second Californian to be secretary of agriculture. The first was Richard Lyng, also of Modesto, who gave Veneman her first USDA job in the Reagan administration.

In the George Bush administration, she ascended to the No. 2 post in the department - deputy secretary. She worked at the department from 1986 until 1993. She became CDFA secretary in 1995 and served until the change of state administration in 1999.

Since then she has been a partner with a Sacramento law firm specializing in food agriculture, environmental and trade-related issues.

She has won high praise on both sides of the political aisle for her work on behalf of agriculture, particularly on trade issues. She devoted considerable effort at CDFA on increasing the sale of California ag products overseas.

Her nomination is expected to be quickly confirmed by the Senate due to her extensive background within the department and with Congress.

Dan Haley, a Washington lobbyist and former head of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service was quoted as saying that "no one in the history of USDA had a better resume going into this job" than Veneman.

National Cotton Council (NCC) President Robert E. McLendon praised Veneman's dedication to agriculture.

"Veneman has a long and distinguished record of service to U.S. agriculture. She is an expert on agricultural trade policy and well-versed in the day-to-day trials faced by farmers."

McLendon, a Georgia cotton producer, added, "Ms. Veneman knows the agency, she works well with Congress, she listens and she has consistently placed U.S. agriculture at the top of her priorities. She is an excellent nominee and will be an excellent secretary of Agriculture."

Cotton producers, ginners and textile manufacturer will discuss how certain agronomic practices and processing techniques can maximize fiber quality in a panel discussion at the 2001 Beltwide Cotton Production Conference, Jan. 10-11.

Moderated by Alabama producer Jimmy Sanford, the panel will talk about how to fine-tune cultural practices, including with what Mother Nature deals out, to turn out optimal fiber quality. Practices such as varietal selection, irrigation/fertilizer volume and timing, weed management, defoliation and harvesting and contamination prevention will be covered.

Panelists also will talk about what field research is needed to help industry members improve and preserve quality.

"We want to encourage a discussion about varietal affect on achieving good yields and fiber quality, what ginning procedures help preserve fiber quality and is there any spinning technology in the pipeline that is more forgiving of natural fibers," said NCC's Anne Wrona, who serves as program coordinator.

Serving on the panel will be producers Wiley Murphy, Tucson, Ariz.; Eddie Smith, Floydada, Texas; Larry McClendon, Marianna, Ark.; Louie Perry Jr., Moultrie, Ga.; ginners Michael Hooper, Buttonwillow, Calif.; and Van Murphy, Quitman, Ga.; manufacturer, Harding Stowe, Belmont, N.C.; and USDA researcher David McAlister, Clemson, S.C.

For more information about the Beltwide Cotton Conferences, Jan. 9-13, Anaheim, Calif., visit www.cotton.org/beltwide or call NCC's Debbie Richter, 901-274-9030.