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October 31, 2007   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
October 31, 2007

Ex-North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Stallman said today that Edward Schafer, the man President George W. Bush has nominated to head the Agriculture Department, should have "an understanding of the economic challenges our farmers and ranchers face."

Bush named Schafer, a former two-time governor from North Dakota, to succeed former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who resigned last month to launch a bid for the Nebraska Senate seat being vacated by Republican Chuck Hagel. Since Johanns' departure, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner has headed the department as acting secretary.

According to a report by Fox News, Schafer, the grandson of Danish immigrants who farmed throughout their lives, gained extensive agricultural experience while serving as governor from 1992 to 2000 in a state where nearly 25 percent of its residents work as farmers and ranchers or are employed in farm-related jobs.

Schafer's selection comes at a critical time as the full Senate is expected to begin debate this week on the 2007 farm bill.

"With Ed's leadership, we will work with Congress to pass a farm bill that provides farmers with a safety net, protects our lands and the environment, and spends federal tax dollars wisely," Bush said.

Reacting to the announcement, the AFBF issued a statement from Stallman, which praised the work of Acting Secretary Conner while remaining optimistic of Schafer's selection.

"As Congress moves toward possible approval of a new farm bill, Farm Bureau members believe it is important the Agriculture Department has a strong leader at its helm," the statement read. "The president has nominated Ed Schafer to be that leader. Mr. Schafer hails from North Dakota, a state with a rich agricultural heritage, and we look forward to working with him to strengthen American agriculture.

"Mr. Schafer's background in small business issues should give him an understanding of the economic challenges our farmers and ranchers face. As a former governor of North Dakota, Schafer knows the issues important to rural America. He also knows the importance of communicating with farmers and ranchers, which will be a difficult task given all the work USDA will undertake if the agency needs to implement a new farm bill."

"We would also like to thank Chuck Conner, who has served as Acting Secretary," the statement said in closing. "Mr. Conner delivered a seamless transition after the departure of Secretary Mike Johanns. The Agriculture Department hasn't missed a beat under Acting Secretary Conner's leadership."

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