Ann Veneman: Wikis


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Ann Veneman

Assumed office 
May 1, 2005
Preceded by Carol Bellamy

In office
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Daniel Glickman
Succeeded by Mike Johanns

Born June 29, 1949 (1949-06-29) (age 60)
Modesto, California
Alma mater University of California-Davis
Goldman School of Public Policy (University of California-Berkeley)
University of California Hastings College of the Law

Ann Margaret Veneman (born June 29, 1949) is the Executive Director of UNICEF, a position she has held since May 1, 2005. Her appointment was announced on January 18, 2005 by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Previously, Veneman was the United States Secretary of Agriculture, the first and only woman to hold that position. Veneman served as USDA Secretary from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2005, leaving to become the fifth executive director of UNICEF. [1]. A lawyer by training, Veneman has practiced law in Washington, DC and California, including being a deputy public defender. She has also served in other high level positions in U.S. federal and state government, including being appointed California's Secretary of Food and Agriculture, serving from 1995 to 1999. In 2009, Veneman was ranked #46 in Forbes Magazine's List of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Forbes cited Veneman in part because she "played a key role in the joint effort by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank to help accelerate progress on maternal and newborn health in the 25 countries with the highest rates of infant mortality worldwide." [2]


Early life and education

Veneman was raised on a peach farm in Modesto, California. Her father, John Veneman, was former undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare and member of the California State Assembly. She earned her bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Public Policy from the Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She has also been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2001); Lincoln University (Missouri) (2003);Delaware State University(2004) and Middlebury College (2006) .

Legal, political and corporate career

Veneman began her legal career as a staff attorney with the General Counsel's office of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in Oakland, California, in 1976. In 1978, she returned to Modesto, where she served as a Deputy Public Defender. In 1980, she joined the Modesto law firm of Damrell, Damrell and Nelson, where she was an associate and later a partner.

Veneman joined the United States Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service in 1986, serving as Associate Administrator until 1989. During this time she worked on the Uruguay Round talks for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). She subsequently served as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs from 1989 to 1991. From 1991 to 1993, she served as United States Department of Agriculture's Deputy Secretary, the Department's second-highest position. At this point Veneman took a break from political and administrative office to practice with the law firm and lobby group Patton, Boggs & Blow and also served on several boards of directors and advisory groups.

In 1995 Veneman re-entered government, when she was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. From 1999 to 2001 Veneman was an attorney with Nossaman LLP, where she focused her attention on food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade related issues. On 20 January 2001 she was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President George W. Bush, a position she held until January 20, 2005.

She is currently a board member of Malaria No More, a New York-based nonprofit that was launched at the 2006 White House Summit with the goal of ending all deaths caused by malaria.

Reportedly, Barack Obama's representatives mentioned Veneman to members of Congress as a potential Vice Presidential nominee who would appeal to Republicans and independents. [3]

Personal life and distinctions

Veneman has received several awards and distinctions, including: Cal Aggie Alumni Citation for Excellence (1995); National Farm-City Week Award given by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Modesto (1995); Outstanding Woman in International Trade Award (2001); UC Davis Outstanding Alumna of the Year Award (2001); Food Research and Action Center Award (2001); National 4-H Alumni Recognition Award (2002); Dutch American Heritage Award (2002); Junior Statesman Foundation Statesman of the Year Award (2002); United Fresh Fruit &Vegetable Distinguished Service Award (2002); California Council for International Trade Golden State Award (2002); Goldman School of Public Policy Alumnus of the Year Award (2003); California Agriculturalist of the Year (2003); Sigma Alpha Sorority Honorary Membership (2004); Republican Main Street Partnership John Chafee Award for Distinguished Public Service (2004); American PVO Partners Award for Service to People in Need (2004); and U.S. State Department U.S. Afghan Women's Council Honorary Membership (2004).

In a personal capacity, she serves as a board member of the Close Up Foundation, a nonpartisan civic education organization, and has served previously on a number of advisory councils and committees, particularly those involving higher education.

Veneman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and received successful treatment.

Veneman is also a second cousin of Star Wars creator George Lucas.

Record as Secretary of Agriculture

Early in her Cabinet term, Veneman published "Food and Agricultural Policy: Taking Stock for the New Century [4]," the Bush administration vision for the USDA. According to Meatnews, the publication "outline[d] the Administration's priorities for farm sector policy, trade expansion, infrastructure enhancement, conservation and the environment, rural communities, nutrition and food assistance, and USDA program integration."

Within weeks after taking office, Veneman confronted the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Europe, prompting stronger sanitary and phytosanitary measures. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, additional protections were implemented.

Other animal diseases confronted during her term included Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, and avian influenza and exotic Newcastle disease in poultry.

U.S. agricultural exports in 2004 rose to a record $62.3 billion due to higher commodity prices and aggressive international trade policies.

Veneman has focused on new approaches to help feed the hungry around the world. To help meet the international goal of reducing global hunger by half by 2015, she organized and hosted in 2003 the Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology, which brought together ministers from 120 nations to Sacramento, California, to discuss how science and technology can reduce hunger and poverty in the developing world.

During Veneman's tenure, the Food Stamp Program and child nutrition program were reauthorized. In 2004, paper food stamps were replaced by electronic debit cards in an effort to reduce fraud.

Under Veneman, new Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released, which were the basis for USDA's MyPyramid, which was released in 2005. The Guidelines stress moderation across a wide variety of food groups, as well as exercise.

Veneman led the implementation of legislation such as the 2001 Farm Bill and management initiatives such as the Healthy Forests Initiative, the President's management agenda (PMA) and USDA's eGovernment initiative. She established USDA's "Leaders of Tomorrow" initiative to strengthen agriculture-related education and mentoring programs.

USDA received its first clean financial audit under Veneman.


Mad cow disease

On December 23, 2003, Veneman announced the discovery of a single cow with Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in Washington State. The cow was determined to be of Canadian origin.

In her statement that day, Veneman said: "Even though the risks to human health is minimal based on current evidence, we will take all appropriate actions out of an abundance of caution. ... This incident is not terrorist related nor is it related in any way to our nation's heightened alert status. ... At this time of year many Americans are making plans for the holidays and for food. We see no need for people to alter those plans or their eating habits or to do anything but have a happy and healthy holiday season. I plan to serve beef for my Christmas dinner. And we remain confident in the safety of our food supply."

After taking initial steps in response, one week later, on December 30, 2003, Veneman announced additional protective measures to be put into place. [5] These included a ban on downer (nonambulatory) cattle entering the human food supply; additional food-safety measures in the processing of beef and related products; and an acceleration of "the development of the technology architecture" for a national system to track and identify livestock.

USDA also increased the number of cattle tested for BSE from just over 20,000 in 2003 to more than 176,000 in 2004. [6] More than 708,000 animals were tested between June 1, 2004, and May 7, 2006. [7]

BSE proved to be a complex issue on the international-trade front. U.S. trading partners made sometimes-conflicting demands on the United States, while public-interest, consumer and farm groups called for differing protection measures and responses.

Japan, the leading U.S. beef-export market, had been demanding 100 percent testing of all cattle for export, a position it has since altered.

Public-interest groups also called for the closing of loopholes in the so-called "animal-feed ban," which prevented the feeding of ruminant products back to ruminants, which had been discovered as a key-pathway for BSE transmission. The feed ban falls under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration.

Relations with industry groups

In reflecting on Veneman's record, Meatnews wrote that she "played a key role in eliminating trade barriers and expanding opportunities for American farmers through new export markets. She has worked closely with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, helping lead to the successful launch of a new round of trade negotiations for the World Trade Organization.

The American Meat Institute also had a positive view of Veneman's record. "The last 12 months have presented intense challenges for Secretary Veneman and her department, and she has faced them with vision and commitment," said AMI's Patrick Boyle. "In addition, under Veneman, USDA's food safety efforts have complemented the industry's own food safety initiatives."

Record as UNICEF Executive Director

Since beginning as UNICEF Executive Director on May 1, 2005, Veneman has made the Millennium Development Goals a priority, saying "the Millennium Development Goals should be our guide, because children are at the heart of the MDGs," and emphasizing that UNICEF work with others to achieve "results for children."

Veneman has said UNICEF is "focused on partnerships and leveraging resources. Common goals such as the MDGs can provide a rallying point for partners." She has also made it a priority to improve UNICEF's business and management practices, while working to help achieve better UN system-wide coherence.

Veneman has focused on accelerating "integrated" approaches to the delivery of social services in developing countries, inspired by the initial results of the 11-country Accelerated Child Survival and Development program in West and Central Africa.

The editor of the The Lancet medical journal, Richard Horton, in January 2006 wrote: "UNICEF too has emerged under new leadership as a crucial protagonist for child survival. This commitment was not always assured. Yet UNICEF's new executive director, Ann Veneman, has pledged the agency to what amounts to a second child survival revolution. Her vision is to use 'sound science' to expand dramatically an integrated approach to child health. The latest State of the World's Children report[8] recommits UNICEF to MDG-4, draws attention to the exclusion of children from many of today’s global debates, and presents a powerful analysis of the causes of this systematic exclusion and the ways in which it can be overcome." [9]

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Daniel R. Glickman
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Succeeded by
Mike Johanns
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Carol Bellamy
Executive Director of UNICEF
Succeeded by


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