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The Senate unanimously confirmed former North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer to the head USDA post Monday just in time for him to sit in on President Bush's State of the Union Address. After only two days in office, Schafer was caught in the middle of USDA's handling of non-ambulatory cattle. And Monday Schafer and his "wing man" Chuck Conner will deliver remarks during the USDA's FY 2009 budget rollout briefing. And from press reports, he's not 100% behind President Bush on stricter payment limits.
Schafer talked to USDA employees Tuesday, saying he wanted to be called simply "Ed." Schafer also met with President George W. Bush Tuesday, indicating later to reporters that the Administration's stance on revenue raisers in the farm bill hasn't changed, though he is interested in further examination of the USDA adjusted gross income proposal.
Congress is looking to Schafer to ease mounting tensions between the executive and legislative branch over stalled farm bill talks - funding is the main stumbling block.
The administration says subsidies should be cut off to anyone with more than $200,000 in annual income. Schafer hasn't made up his mind yet on what the exact number should be.
"Just saying this number or that number is a simple thing to do, but there is a lot of ramifications deep within that. I need to understand that better and come to my own conclusion," the Des Moines Register reported him saying.
Conner was intimately involved in farm bill negotiations when former Secretary Mike Johanns was in town. And there is no indication that the former Senate staffer will back down from fighting for a "reform" farm bill from Congress. But a statement from President Bush stated Schafer will also be involved in those discussions.
Schafer served as Governor of North Dakota from 1992 until 2000, during which time he advocated for agriculture, diversification of the