Friday, March 19, 2010

Merrigan and Lincoln Address Thursday's AgDay Dinner

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, addressed a sold-out crowd at last-night's AgDay dinner at the USDA's Whitten Hall.

Lincoln and Merrigan stressed the importance of ending child hunger and obesity. Merrigan noted that more than 18 percent of American children live today in food insecure households.

In response to this issue, Sen. Lincoln this week introduced the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill making the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs to date.

Lincoln’s bill provides $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, which is a significant increase over previous efforts. The highest previous increase was $500 million over 10 years.

Both leaders mentioned the importance of increasing consumer understanding of production agriculture and the U. S. food system. Merrigan also cited the Agency's commitment to creating pathways for youth to repopulate and reinvigorate rural communities, as well as the Administration's commitment to growing domestic markets and creating additional demand for exports of agricultural products.

Lincoln reported the Senate has worked hard to quickly approve the Ag Disaster Bill, noting that disaster assistance must be provided in a timely manner. She also mentioned the Administration's focus on increasing exports -- noting several pending trade agreements including opening trade with Cuba.

Well-known agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson served as emcee for the evening's festivities.