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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 2, 2001

Remarks by the President and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman During Swearing-In Ceremony
The Oval Office

1:44 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's my honor, along with the Vice President, to welcome Secretary Veneman and her sister, Jane, who did a fine job of holding the Bible, and Veneman family members. Welcome to the Oval Office, and thank you all for coming.

Ann is new to the Cabinet, but not to the Department she leads, nor the issues that her Department will face. Having served as California's highest agricultural official, and in prominent posts here in Washington, she comes to the job very well prepared.

Agriculture represents 13 percent of our nation's economy, and remains central to prosperity at home and competitiveness abroad. In many ways, it is the most crucial of all industries and, yet, the most easily taken for granted. American farmers are without rival in their ability to produce and compete. But they face every kind of challenge, from bad weather to closed markets.

This administration is going to be a friend to the American farmer. In times of emergency, they will get the assistance they need, when they need it. We will support tax deferred savings accounts, to help farm families guard against down turns. And to keep family farms in the family, we're going to get rid of the death tax.

For many farmers, the greatest challenge today is finding markets for their products. Americans represent just 4 percent of the world's population. But our farmers have the technology and the skill to feed much of the world beyond.

Ann and I will carry out this equivocal message to the world, markets must be open. The United States will not tolerate favoritism and unfair subsidies. We want to compete, and we want our farmers to compete on level ground. And agriculture will no longer be traded away or ignored when we sit down at international negotiating tables. It will be a top priority of ours.

America's farmers will have a strong advocate in the new Secretary. Today, the number of women-owned farms is the highest ever, and Ann Veneman is the first woman ever to hold this position. I'm confident she'll be one of the most successful leaders that this department has ever had.

Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY VENEMAN: Mr. President, thank you for this tremendous honor. And Mr. Vice President, thank you, as well. I am proud to be working with you and the other distinguished members of this Cabinet, as the 27th Secretary of Agriculture. I am deeply touched by your confidence in me.

Farmers and ranchers are among the nation's best stewards of the land, and I pledge to you to be an equally beneficial custodian of the Department. Mr. President, you are setting a new tone here in Washington, in word and in deed, and I am honored to be part of your team.

We have tremendous opportunities ahead of us, and any challenges will be tempered by the fact that you understand that agriculture is at the heart of the economy, and that it symbolizes some of the finest characteristics of our nation. You know well agriculture's important role in our daily lives, and the contributions that farmers and ranchers make to the fabric of America.

There is no better example of this fact then what is contained in your first budget to the Congress. It sets priorities for our Department, and is responsive to the many needs of the entire food chain, by providing needed tax relief, promoting expansion of markets, emphasizing research, increasing food safety, and assisting those most in need.

I am looking forward to advancing your important agenda. I am extremely proud to again serve our country.

I would like to thank my family and friends who have joined me here today. Many of them have traveled from our native California to witness this very special occasion. And I very much appreciate their support.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, I will work hard with you and your administration, with the Congress and with the talented men and women at the Department of Agriculture, to chart a new, purposeful course for America.

Thank you.

END 1:49 P.M. EST

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