Veneman said the advance work is being done to ensure programs are available for farmers once a final bill from the Congress reaches the President’s desk. While there will be much work to be accomplished for implementation, and, in some instances, public input, Veneman said early planning is critical to the process.

“We are preparing ahead of time as much as we can even though we don’t have a final bill,” she said in remarks to USDA Farm Service Agency employees attending a training workshop in Savannah, Ga. “While we continue to work with Congress in completing a new farm bill, our team is already working on programming changes that may be required for implementation.”

Veneman thanked the employees for their efforts to implement key programs noting the work of several USDA agencies.

On Aug. 14, 2001, just one day after President Bush signed a bill approving $5.5 billion in supplemental emergency payments, Secretary Veneman initiated the first payments from the Farm Service Agency to 1.4 million producers across the country.

That was accomplished utilizing software developed at USDA’s Kansas City facility. Last year, FSA delivered a dozen new and special programs authorized by the Congress, some with only days to complete before the end of the fiscal year.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is in its second year of delivering an innovative $8.2 billion risk management reform package under the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. RMA has implemented the law in a timely and farmer-friendly way, developing new products, promoting risk management strategies and reinsuring nearly 1.3 million policies covering over 211 million acres.

Secretary Veneman thanked the employees for their dedication and commitment to serving the nation’s farmers and ranchers and the entire food system. “I know that each of you and all of USDA can and will do the job efficiently and effectively. Your hard work is critical to the success of our operations across the nation.”

Veneman noted that the Bush administration has called on the Congress to pass a sound, bipartisan farm bill that provides a solid safety net for farmers and ranchers, expands markets abroad for American agricultural products, and increases resource conservation in ways that enhance the environment.

The Administration has pledged to support additional 10-year program funding of $73.5 billion in accordance with the Congressional Budget Resolution, she said.

The secretary’s visit to Savannah, one of several stops in four states over the next two days, was scheduled as a follow-up to the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com.