The U.S. Ag Secretary spoke today to pork producers gathered in Des Moines for the World Pork Expo and Secretary Mike Johanns re-stated the agency’s opposition to the idea of forcing “country of origin” labels on meat products. Johanns says making it voluntary makes more sense. “There’s many states out there that are doing that and it just makes more sense,” Johanns says. “The one-size-fits-all mandatory approach, I just don’t think it’s a fit here. (I) feel very strongly about that so, you know, there’s legislation that’s out there relative to that. The current state of affairs is it’s mandatory and if it stays mandatory, we have to implement it.” Johanns also says it’s time for Congress to ratify the free trade agreement with Central America. “It’s really time to get this agreement to a vote,” Johanns says. He says 80 ag groups support the deal, and the secretary says it’s good for agriculture. The main opposition comes from the American sugar industry, but Johanns says there won’t be enough sugar imports from Central America to make much of an impact. “We’ll continue to manage the sugar program that day after CAFTA passes the same way we did the day before,” he says. “It really is time to get the agreement…to the finish line, get it approved. Our farmers and ranchers deserve lower (duties).” On Thursday night, Johanns stopped in the tiny town of Central City to highlight a USDA program that gives home loans to rural residents, loans that do not require a downpayment. Johanns visited the home Tina Wood bought, with a U-S-D-A loan, for her family — four adopted children and her mother. Johanns says the USDA program helped this family realize the American dream — homeownership. Half a billion in rural development loans were handed out in Iowa last year.
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