MR. DON BUHL: Thank you very much. Good evening Mr. Secretary; Mr. Gutknecht, thank you for being here. My name is Don Buhl. My wife Susan and I own Buhl's Ridgeview Farm in Tyler, Minnesota, where we finish feeder pigs, raise corn, soybeans and oats. I'm here tonight in my capacity as president of the National Pork Producers Council. I want to thank you and the Department for holding these series of sessions as part of the 2007 Farm Bill process. I appreciate it. I want to address the competitiveness question, and that one alone. Two major factors affect the competitiveness of our U.S. pork industry. Purchasers must believe that we can deliver the best value compared to other proteins. And second of all, we must give our producers at least as high a return on their investment as they would get if they were invested elsewhere. Two aspects provide a good framework for the Department and Congress to evaluate the best farm policy to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture. We need to control costs, look at how we increase the price and demand, increase the quality and the access to foreign markets. Some key points to consider are regulation, technology, input costs, and prices and demand.
With regulation I agree with the previous speaker-- virtually all regulation increases our costs. And our farm policy should be based to include only regulation that is science-based, affordable and effective. And this applies to a wide host of things such as food safety, environmental regulation, and animal health issues. In the area of technology we need to continue to reinvest in research so that our industries have the advantages to compete on a worldwide basis. Disease prevention, treatment, nutrition and genetics are some of those areas. In the area of input costs, corn and soybeans represent a huge part of our input costs. I want to be very clear that I want my corn and soybean producers that are my friends to be prosperous as well, but when we look at decisions we have to consider the impacts of all of this. And finally I want to applaud you on working tirelessly for access in other markets. It's very important to the demand and the future of the U.S. pork industry, and our ability to be good customers of corn and soybean growers. Thanks so much for being here. [Applause.] MODERATOR: Thank you. Let's go ahead with the next question, please.