Transcript of Remarks of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack before the 11th Annual USDA/USAID International Food Aid Conference
Kansas City - April 7, 2009
SECRETARY VILSACK: Thank you very much. That was a very gracious and kind introduction, and I am not quite sure that all of it was merited, but I appreciate it. If my parents were alive today, they would really appreciate it.
I want to thank all of you for being here today, and I want to tell you how pleased and honored I am to be here at this 11th Annual USDA/USAID International Food Aid Conference. It is appropriate that we meet here and now, especially since the UN just recently declared that for the first time in history, we have over one billion chronically hungry people in the world, hundreds of millions of which are children.
It is fitting, given the time and the economic circumstances, that the theme of this particular meeting is fighting hunger in an era of global economic crisis, and it is also appropriate for us to be here in the Heartland of the United States, a place that reminds us of the extraordinary bounty that is produced in the Heartland by America's farmers and ranchers.
It raises the expectation worldwide that we will share that bounty, and as President Obama has indicated, it is his expectation that we lead in this effort.
I want to start my remarks by, first and foremost, thanking every person who is in this audience for your commitment to International Food Aid. I know that the work that you all do is difficult and challenging and often dangerous, and I will tell you that it is an extraordinary privilege for me to be in your presence today, knowing the work that you all have done and will continue to do, to try to meet this unbelievably great challenge.
Your work started in 1954 in this country with the Food for Peace program, and it continues today. We have served over the course of that 50-plus-year history over three billion people with our efforts. I am proud to say that an Iowan, Gwin Garrett [ph], an ISU grad, was one of the first architects of our first efforts to try to address world hunger.
Since that time in 1954, the United States has provided nearly 55 percent of all global food assistance, and over the course of the next two years, we expect to expend and invest $5.5 billion in this effort.
Let me start by saying that our capacity to meet this extraordinary need must start with a commitment to build a strong economy here in the United States. Without that strong economy, we cannot make a strong commitment to International Food Aid.
That is why it was so important for President Obama when he came into office to begin an aggressive effort to put Americans back to work, doing the work that America needs done. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act is linked to the success of our work here. As we put Americans back to work, as we restore confidence in our economy, it makes it just a bit easier for us to focus outward.
It is also true that the President has focused a futuristic look at an economy with his 2010 budget, an economy that understands that for us to have a strong commitment in the future, we must build a new 21st century American economy that is focused less on pollution and waste and more on creating clean jobs and clean energy, that removes the burden of health care from our companies, and makes sure that our children are as well educated as they possibly can be to meet the challenges of a very difficult world.
Now, despite the difficulties that the President and we face, he has seen fit in his recent visits overseas to commit additional resources in our effort to try to make a difference worldwide. I think he shares our belief that it is time for America to put a different face on itself to the rest of the world. That is why he announced during his recent G20 discussions, a doubling of aid development, focused on three key components. You build a strong economy. Then you begin to share those resources with others, to build short-term financial support for the social safety net that must exist in all countries, better food, better health care, access to quality education, resources to help small businesses and entrepreneurship grow in other countries, and technical assistance to governments to make sure that they create market-based economies. That is what the President has proposed in terms of additional support.
I look forward to traveling to Italy in a couple of weeks to attend the first-ever G8 ag ministerial meeting. It is an opportunity for the ministers, the ag ministers of eight countries to discuss our collective effort at addressing food security issues, and I suspect that we will talk about a long-term strategy.
Here in the United States, our long-term strategy involves the partnership between USAID and its Food for Peace program and the USDA and its Food for Progress program and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. This is a program that everyone with USDA is extraordinarily proud. Over the course of its history, the McGovern-Dole Act has provided opportunities for 22 million children to be fed in 41 countries. It clearly makes a difference. Youngsters who are well fed are better educated, and, in fact, youngsters who are well fed have better attendance records.
We know that as a result of this act, we have seen a 14-percent overall increase in school attendance in the 41 countries, and among young women and young girls, the increase has been 17 percent. It is making a difference in individual lives, and it is an extraordinary program that needs to have continued support.
So, today, I am proud to announce that we are going to invest during this year, an additional $80 million in the McGovern-Dole bill. We are going to provide money for four new projects in Africa, which we hope will help an additional 655,000 children access healthy meals and a great future and a great start.
This is in addition to the recent announcement of 500,000 pounds of non-fat dry milk that we recently made available in an effort to help out our dairy farmers. These two actions underscore what Norman Borlaug, another Iowan, once said, that you cannot build peace on an empty stomach.
It is also very consistent with President Obama's Inaugural Address when he said that America will nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.
It is more than just about money and food. It is also about technical assistance, sharing our knowledge and our wisdom. That is why I am proud of the role that USDA has played and will continue to play in providing provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We started this effort in 2003 in Afghanistan and in 2006 in Iraq, providing assistance in terms of agriculture, so that we give technical assistance to folks to understand better how to conserve natural resources, how to make sure livestock remains healthy, and how to become more productive with the agriculture in those two countries. We intend to expand our commitment in Afghanistan, as part of the President's new approach in Afghanistan.
We also work in partnership with others in providing technical assistance. I am proud of the role that our Land-Grant Universities are playing in providing Extension Services in countries all across the globe.
In a recent discussion I had with the Kenyan Ambassador, he emphasized the important role that Extension can play, and our Land-Grant Universities understand that better than anyone else in the world, and their sharing of that experience with those in developing countries is absolutely invaluable.
We also share some of our brightest and best through a series of fellowship programs, the Borlaug Fellows working to expand knowledge of biotechnology and the extraordinary opportunity it has to provide the resources necessary to feed an ever-growing population in the world. It is fairly clear to me and I suspect to many in this audience that it is going to become increasingly difficult for us to manage the needs of a growing population when the amount of land available for production continues to shrink with developing cities and towns. We will have to use science in a creative way to expand food supplies.
I am proud of the role that the Cochran Fellowship is playing with Land-Grant Universities and the commodity groups and industry groups that are represented here to ensure that there is a basic understanding of what it takes to create a market-based system. 13,000 folks have participated in that Fellowship Program, and as we include more each year, it becomes important for us to establish the systems that will allow agriculture to be more productive in developing countries, an understand of seed technology, an understand of how to market seeds, an understanding of how to distribute seed technology to ensure that countries have the capacity to grow their own food.
All of this is being done and more, and we will also begin at USDA to address long-term threats to global food security, threats represented by climate change. This is an issue we take quite seriously at USDA. It is an issue that the Obama administration is taking quite seriously. We recognize that America again is being looked upon by the world to lead in this effort, and we also recognize that if we fail to act, it could very well threaten the capacity of the world to grow enough food and to have enough food supply and water resources for the population.
So all of this, resources, food, money, we are also beginning the process under the farm bill of providing additional resources in a pilot project program where up to $5 million of USDA money will be made available to countries. That amount will grow over the course of the next couple of years. We intend to use this as a pilot to learn more about how to use resources, financial resources in addition to our food resources to try to meet this need. It is a comprehensive approach, more food, more aid, more people, more knowledge, more commitment, bolstered by a stronger American economy based on what the President has proposed in the stimulus program and his budget.
Let me tell you in conclusion, before I answer questions, that at a time of difficult, economic difficult, it often is human reaction to look inward, to be concerned about what you have, be concerned about holding onto what you have, and being unwilling to share because you are so uncertain about the future.
This was brought into a good light for me when I was in church not too long ago when the priest from my faith came out and decided to explain the gospel he was going to read during the church service to the children who were in the congregation. I must say that I perked up when he said that because oftentimes I don't understand his sermons, and so I thought this might be an opportunity for me to better understand what he was saying.
He came out, and he told the wonderful story of the loaves and fishes. Regardless of your faith, tradition, it is a wonderful story. It is a story of Jesus speaking to the multitudes, and he sees that they are hungry. He says to his disciples, "Go feed the people," and the disciples looked around, and they saw five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. They said to themselves, "We can't possibly feed the multitude with such a meager amount."
Jesus, recognizing their hesitation, basically said to them, "Have faith. Pass the baskets." Indeed, they did pass the baskets. All 5,000 were fed. When they brought the baskets back, they actually had more food than when they started.
The priest explained it this way in the story. He said, "What Jesus did in that story is he removed the fear of sharing," and I would suggest to you that that is what community does, whether it is a small community in a small town or a community or sense of community in a nation or an international sense of community, that what we can do together collectively with small acts is create a sense of community that removes for all of us a fear of sharing, and when that fear is removed, we become more generous with what we have. As we become more generous with what we have, we actually receive more than what we give.
It is a powerful story at this point in time when the world faces an economic crisis, and in a land of plenty, in a land where there is so much potential, it is appropriate for us to lead this effort, to remove that fear of sharing, to create a greater sense of connection and community, to allow all of those billion people who are hungry today, the knowledge and the hope that there are people who care and people who are working each and every day to try to reduce that number.
I am proud of the work that USAID and USDA have done in the past, and I challenge all of us to do an even better job in the future. This is a difficult time for all of us, but it is not a time to look inward. It is a time for us to share, and when we do, we will be better off for it as a nation and as a world.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY VILSACK: This is always the scary part of the program. Remember when you ask questions that I have only been on the job for eight weeks, and all of you are experts. I am a generalist and ombudsman on the job for one day. So I am more of an expert than he is, but he is really a generalist, and if we really get in trouble, we will ask Mike who has only been on the job for a couple of weeks. I will be happy to try to answer questions or receive your comments.
I can't see very well. So you will all have to kind of just speak up. Yes.
MS. LEVINSON: My name is Ellen Levinson, and I am here on behalf of the Alliance for Food Security. It is a group of NGOs, private voluntary organizations and cooperatives that conduct International Food Aid programs around the world. I mean, the partnership in this room, we feel has been powerful not only in the sense of what we have been able to give to the world, but it has been very educational for Americans because here we were bringing in agriculture, we are bringing in shipping, transportation, people who really now feel very connected up to the people we are serving. So we are grateful to that and also to be able to use this program to serve the people overseas, both for chronic needs and emergency.
I want to thank you for mentioning that USDA does more than just food aid. Many people in this room are also very supportive of the concept that there needs to be a global food security strategy, and in that regard, through the White House, a coordinator to kick-start it, get it going, get the strategy organized, and we really hope that USDA will be a player in that and look at all of its options and what it can do. So I am really glad to hear that.
I am not going to ask anything difficult, but there is one thing I want to mention. For the P.L. 480 program, which is really the back bone of our food aid program worldwide, the law says $2.5 billion is the amount for authorization. So it authorizes $2.5 billion, and of that, a certain amount goes to development programs.
The President in his budget this year was not explicit when breaking out how much in his budget is for different items in the international assistance arena, and this falls in the international assistance budget, but one of the good things that was in there was a greater commitment to food security, to agriculture development, and also to ask for sufficient money up front for some of these humanitarian programs rather than just relying on supplementals, so there will be better planning and forward thinking, but we really don't know what the number is.
The President never came in with a request. $2.3 billion is what was spent on P.L. 480, Title II in FY08, and honestly, the prices were very high, and so that is not unexpected, but this year, we would love to know what will be asked and if you have any clues on that.
SECRETARY VILSACK: Well, let me see if I can -- I am not going to be able to give you a specific number, but let me explain to you why the situation is as you have outlined.
First of all, the President was very clear about his priorities at the beginning of this administration. He wanted one of the values to be to advance transparency in government, and so, when he put the budget together, he really decided to bring all of those things that were sort of off budget, that were not being calculated as part of the deficit, into this budget calculation, so the American people would see a clear understanding and picture of precisely how much money was being spent in a variety of government programs.
So, for example, the war in Iraq, financing for Afghanistan, which was off budget, was brought into the budget, which is what increased in part the deficit.
We had really four weeks to do what normally takes four months to do. In a transitioning administration, you usually have several months to put your budget together. Congress was anxious to get to work, and so what the President did was to create a framework of that budget, with very large global numbers and a focus on education, health care, and energy as the critical domestic components of his budget.
We will in the latter part of this month, in the early part of next month, furnish to Congress more line-by-line item numbers, which will address your concern and your issue as to precisely how much money is going into various programs. So, today, I can't give you that number because we are still working on those numbers.
I can tell you that one thing that I urged, which I think the President and the OMB adopted, was a need for us to put additional resources into the McGovern-Dole program. The reason for that is it had been fairly static for an extended period of time. We welcome the announcement today of an additional $80 million, and we recognize that that is a complementary program to P.L. 480, which we will continue to work on.
I can't give you the number today, but we are very cognizant of the needs, and we know that there are significant needs out there, and with rising food costs, it becomes even more critical that we provide resources.
We are also looking forward to the pilot project of actually using resources and cash as opposed to commodities. We know that that is an issue. We are going to try to learn from these experiences what works outside of the United States and what doesn't work, how can we administer these programs more effectively, and we see the possibility in the future of a combination of continued promotion of commodity assistance and providing resources.
The President, I think, was also quite clear in his trip overseas that it is important and necessary for the United States to really focus on putting a different face on America to the rest of the world, first and foremost, a face that doesn't suggest that America has all the answers. That we are willing to listen, which I think is an important message to send.
He also tend the message that isn't just about military might. If we are really going to be successful in making all of us, the entire globe, safer by focusing efforts in Afghanistan, it is as much about farming as it is about military. If we can empower Afghan farmers to be able to produce something more profitable and better than what they are currently producing, then we can create a more civil and secure society, which in turn allows the democratic traditions and notions to basically take root.
I went over to Afghanistan in 2006 to visit troops when I was Governor, and I was struck by how important those ag technical advisors were, which is why I am proud of the fact that we are going to work hard to get more of those folks over there, again, another dangerous mission but a very, very important mission.
We have got roving mics. We have one over here. Yes, sir.
MR. HERSHEY: Jim Hershey with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, the WISHH program at the American Soybean Association.
Sir, we applaud the USDA's increased resources devoted to Africa, and particularly McGovern-Dole, that is a wonderful announcement. We have had some success building some public-private partnerships in Africa to work on increasing nutrition and better foods, et cetera.
Could you tell us a little bit about USDA's commitment and particularly the Foreign Agricultural Service to increasing nutrition and health and economic growth in Africa?
SECRETARY VILSACK: Sure. First of all, let me tell you that I have only had one job interview in my life. Bud basically suggested to you that I married the boss' daughter, which doesn't count.
SECRETARY VILSACK: And so the only job interview I ever had was when then-President-Elect Obama asked me to come to Chicago to talk about being Secretary of Agriculture. I will say that I stopped at Starbucks four hours before the interview, and I had about eight cups of coffee. So I was ready for that interview.
SECRETARY VILSACK: At the end of the interview, the President said to me, "You're my guy. I want you to be my Secretary of Agriculture, but there are two things I want you to specifically do," and then he's added a third since I got this job.
The first thing he said is improve the nutritional value of what we feed our children, and I don't think he was necessarily limiting it to America's children. He knew and knows that if we don't attend to the nutritional needs here at home, we have the dual problems in the United States of obesity -- 35 percent of our kids at risk or are in fact overweight and the burgeoning health care problems that that represents with type 2 diabetes -- and the fact that in the most powerful, richest nation in the world still have hungry children, which all of us should deem unacceptable and the President deems unacceptable.
So one strategy is to improve nutrition for America's children, and we are going to do that through the Reauthorization Act for school lunches and school breakfasts, but it would be a little bit disingenuous if we just simply focused on our kids.
If we truly want to make the world safe, then we have to focus on the world's kids, and that means that we have to continue to look for ways. And one of the reasons why I asked Bud to take on the job that he has taken on is because of his work with global volunteers, traveling to over 30 countries, actually being involved in service learning, actually being involved in spending time with people in their villages, in their towns, in their cities, seeing the poverty, seeing the struggle, seeing the concerns, seeing the hungry children. He has seen this personally. This is not something he has read in a textbook or something he has been exposed to in a class at a college. He has actually been there, and I think because of that, speaking for Bud, I think he takes a passion to make sure that we focus on all aspects of this problem, including directing resources to the youngest of children, because if we don't do it right early, early, early -- we know this in America -- then growths are stunted, and it becomes more difficult in the future to take care of these youngsters.
So you will see an effort in this respect on trying to encourage nutritious eating, trying to encourage self-reliance and the capacity to grow their own nutritious food. We just can't be providing commodities. We have to teach. We have to encourage opportunities for them to be more productive.
I think the President understands that if we do that and do a better job of it, that it will make eventually all of us safer because, if these kids are well fed and well cared for at the beginning of life, then they will see that there are boundless opportunities for them.
Economic development is important as well, which is why some of our assistance goes to education. Some of our assistance goes to micro-enterprise loans and entrepreneurial activities to get people to understand the importance of a business, and while some of it goes to creating the framework, the business framework and the market framework for actually getting this done, working with Land-Grant Universities, developing seed technologies, making sure that the regulations allow for seeds to be developed, allow for seeds to be transported from one village to another, from one country to another, without as many barriers as there exist today, creating that level of confidence in a market-based system becomes extremely important.
There is a lot of work that has to be done. I know this in a very small way from my work prior to taking this job, working with Iowa State in their Seed Science Center and the work that we were doing with Western African nations and Southern African nations to try to help build a seed system, something as basic as being able to know where to get seed and how to distribute it and how to plant it and how to harvest it and what to do with it. All of this is really important, and sometimes I think with this, if you get into it, it looks so enormous, the challenge, but then when you do what Bud's outfit did and what you all do, which is you take it back and focus person to person, village by village, day by day, it becomes more manageable, and you make a difference, a fundamental difference.
We are challenged. We are challenged with one billion hungry people. I will tell you, I was over in India, and I will finish the answer with this. I was over in India, and I was watching the Prime Minister, and I had a chance to visit with him after dinner. I went up to him, and I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, you have a very interesting country here. You have got the largest middle class in the world, but you also have the largest number of malnourished kids in the world. How does that work?"
He looked at me and he said something which I thought was very profound, and I suspect that everybody in this audience already knows this. He said, "Well, if you are really interested in combating hunger, you have to combat literacy." I said, "What's the connection between hunger and literacy?" He said, "Well, we've done research, and we know that in the poorest areas of our country, if moms know how to read, they will take care of their children. If they don't know how to read, sometimes they don't. They just don't know what to do."
So, if you are interested in combating hunger, you also have to combat at the same time literacy. So that is why what we do in our programs is more comprehensive than just simply providing food. It also provides education, the capacity to learn how to read. It also provides technical assistance, learning how to grow, and it is comprehensive. That is what all the people in this room collectively are doing.
One more question, yes. Did you have your hand up? Okay. We just need a microphone right here.
Sorry. Were you going to ask a question? I will do two. I will do you, and then I will do --
MR. THORN: Mr. Secretary, Eric Thorn from Arizona State.
I agree with you, by the way, very much on this educational push. We in the Tribal Lands of Arizona find if they can read and write, there is a tremendous hope for us.
My question is a bit different, but it is one that impacts everybody here. Clearly, in your past job, bioenergy has been a key part of the future, and as the price of oil has come down, some would say we should abandon that goal that we have set up, while others say no, now is the time to make sure, like Brazil, we are able to move ahead and really substitute for foreign oil. Where do you come down?
SECRETARY VILSACK: Well, that gets me to the second thing that President Obama said to me in my first job interview after he said have more nutritious food for children. He wanted to increase our ability to sever our reliance on foreign oil. He saw it, and I think he's right. It is a national security issue. It is an economic security issue, and it puts us in a much better position relative to negotiations in the Middle East if we are less dependent on foreign oil. Now, to do that requires us to be more innovative and creative.
I think we started the conversation with corn-based ethanol, which was the easiest way to get the process started. I think we will see an evolution by virtue of what Congress has done. The mandates and dictates on the renewable fuel standards, they basically have suggested we have to begin in a few years converting away from our sole reliance on corn-based ethanol and soy diesel to second- and third-generation feedstocks, which will help grow the supply, while not at the same time getting us into this argument about whether or not it is food and fuel. We ought to be smart enough to figure out how to do both.
I would say that when you are talking about feedstocks of woody biomass or you are talking about grasses on less productive land or you are talking about waste product, whether it is municipal waste or agricultural waste, whether you are talking about the conversion of gases that are produced by livestock, there are a multitude of ways that we are working on right now to begin that transition.
My hope is that we continue that effort, that we don't as a result of low oil prices fall back into the same old habit that we have had for the last 30 years of saying, "Well, that problem is over. We've got cheap oil again. Let's just continue doing what we're doing." I hope that we don't fall into what I think is somewhat of a false debate about whether it is food versus fuel. I think we need to realize it is about both, and we need to make sure that we continue to do the research necessary to develop alternative feedstocks and the research necessary to continue to figure out how to be more productive with the land that we have.
An interesting statistic about agriculture, there is an interesting circumstance in this country with the last ag census, 108,000 new farm operations in America in those very, very small farm operations that are producing fruits and vegetables and nuts and sending them to local markets, so that you sort of know your food, know your farmer kind of approach, a very great interest in that. We want to help that grow. We want to help that expand, but at the same time, you have to recognize that production in agriculture, the top 5 percent of producers, about 125,000 farms produce 75 percent of everything we eat, including what we export. So we have to continue to be supportive of those folks as well. It is both ends, and we have to figure out how to stop the bleeding in the middle where we have lost so many of what we would traditionally think of as family farms or mid-sized farm operations.
Fuel, renewable energy is a way of doing this, using rural areas to produce renewable energy, wind energy, geothermal, figuring out ways to use agricultural land to sequester carbon, when we figure that out, to help climate change. Agriculture is an enormous -- it is an enormous opportunity for us to address climate change in a very aggressive way, and we need to see agriculture in that way, not in the United States but globally, tremendous opportunities here to absorb carbon, to reduce nitrous oxide, to reduce methane in terms of what we do with our livestock.
We are a very small part of the climate change problem but a huge part of the solution. So there are tremendous opportunities here, tremendous opportunities here, but it is somewhat dependent on our knowledge, somewhat dependent on our continued investment and continued confidence in America's capacity to innovate.
You know, if you think about all the difficult times this country has faced, the one constant in previous generations has been our capacity to innovate and create new ways of life for the better, and I think that is what this challenges creates for us is this new opportunity, an extraordinary opportunity to innovate.
I know that Arizona State is doing some wonderful work on climate change, and I know that Land-Grant Universities all across the country are doing wonderful work, and we just need to continue to invest in that.
Last question. I will repeat the question, if you want.
MS. CHILDS: Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. My name is Vineese Childs. I am with Convoy of Hope.
We are an international -- we do domestic and international work, but right now, we currently feed about 22,000 children in four countries, with an additional 50,000-plus family members on a weekly basis with supplements.
My question for you is recently one of my -- my job is international procurement. So I am responsible for securing food for those programs and others as well. We currently work with the McGovern-Dole programs through some grants, but my question for you is recently one of my colleagues brought to my attention a very small article in Ag Week magazine that said that there was 25,000 metric tons of excess dry northern beans in Nebraska, and that the Governor had written you a letter about that, and that you were considering purchasing those for surplus commodities for the USDA program.
My question, forgive my naivety in asking you this question, but what actually happens with those surplus commodities that you purchase or that you buy from them? Does that become available to people like us, or does that go through the grant programs?
SECRETARY VILSACK: Well, first of all, your question gives me a chance to explain to you the closest thing on earth to God that I know of which is OMB.
SECRETARY VILSACK: For those in government service, you know what I'm talking about.
Here is how it works. Mike Michener and Bud Philbrook and Tom Vilsack are in the room at the USDA office in Washington, and we see this problem that the folks in Nebraska are having, and we have this great idea, well, gee, maybe we could use commodity credit, or maybe we could use some other mechanism for purchasing the surplus beans, as we have with pork and lamb and milk and turkey and walnuts recently, to try to help farmers. So we concoct this great idea, and we will take that surplus, and we will either store it, or we will put it through the school nutrition program, or we will give it for international assistance, or we will allow it to be bartered and sold and converted to cash and the cash used for a multitude of great ideas. We are just thrilled with this. We think this is great.
So we say all we got to do is get OMB to bless this. You would think a phone call, maybe an e-mail, maybe even a personal visit. Weeks, sometimes months before it gets approved. Meanwhile, things migrate. More problems get created or different problems get created, and you are trying to balance all this.
So the first part of this equation is to get permission to purchase, which is not easy to do. Even if you have the resource, even if you have the money, even if you have the capacity, it is not easy to do. It has to be gone through, and the reason why OMB does this is they have to track how much money you are spending, and they have to track when you spend it, so that they sort of deal with the cash-flow issues that government has to do deal with. They have got an important job. God bless them for doing it, but sometimes it can be frustrating.
Once you get the permission, then you have to also work with them in terms of how you apportion those resources because what you don't want to do with those resources is you don't want to use them in a way that depresses or distresses the market that you are trying to help. So, if you all of a sudden decide to put them on the market or you decide to do something with them that further depresses the market, then you have sort of counteracted what you are trying to do, which is to help the farmers out. So it is a complicated process.
Once you have decided that you have permission to buy and once you get permission to apportion, that is to say, to divvy up the goods, then you can implement it, but it takes a long time, and it is complicated.
I was told the other day when we did dairy, some help for dairy, which is where we got the 500,000 pounds of non-fat dry milk for McGovern-Dole, I was told that was really quick. I mean, I'm a Governor. I'm used to saying get this done, and the next day it is done. Four weeks to me is not quick. It seemed like an eternity, but I am told in Washington, it's quick. So I am re-calibrating my notion of quickness.
Let me just conclude by again stopping where I started, which is to thank every single person in this room. You know, the greatness of this country and the greatness of humankind is represented in this room. The notion that really smart people, dedicated people, who could probably go in the private sector or in other circles and have a much easier life and a much less stressful life and a lot less worry have made the decision to dedicate their lives to helping the least among us have a shot and have a future.
It is truly inspiring for me to be here today, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do and want you to know that we are going to continue to try to be as good a partner at USDA as we possibly can. We think of USDA as an "everywhere, every time, every place" kind of agency, and we want to be there for you and for the people that you are about and we care about.