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Ed Schafer Sworn In as New Secretary of Agriculture

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

(American Meat Institute)

Ed Schafer has been confirmed and sworn in as the 29th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Schafer succeeds Mike Johanns, who resigned in September to run for the Senate in Nebraska.

Secretary Schafer brings a record as an innovative two-term governor of North Dakota to USDA along with extensive private sector experience as both an entrepreneur and a business executive.

Schafer served as North Dakota's governor from 1992 to 2000 and made diversifying and expanding North Dakota's economy, reducing the cost of government and advancing agriculture his top priorities in office.

He also worked to normalize trading relations with China and develop that nation as an export market for North Dakota farm products. He also led efforts to upgrade North Dakota's communications infrastructure and make high-speed voice and data networks available to farmers, ranchers and rural businesses.

As governor, Schafer managed a state workforce of 12,000 people, oversaw a budget of $4.6 billion, and led the state's response to emergencies such as the severe floods that hit the Grand Forks area in 1997.

As chair of the Western Governors Association, Schafer led regional efforts to demonstrate how technology could improve the efficiency and lower the cost of delivering government services such as health benefits and food stamps. He also worked to make telemedicine more available and affordable in rural areas.

Born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, Schafer graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1969 with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and earned an MBA from the University of Denver in 1970.

Before entering public life, Schafer was an executive with the Gold Seal Company in Bismarck, a successful marketer of nationally-known consumer products such as "Mr. Bubble" bubble bath, "Glass Wax" glass cleaner and "Snowy Bleach." The company had been founded by his father, Harold Schafer.

Secretary Schafer joined Gold Seal after he earned his MBA and held a series of management positions with the company before becoming president in 1978. Under his leadership, Gold Seal's sales climbed to $50 million through acquisitions and new product introductions and its net worth tripled. It was sold in 1986. Schafer then went on to launch several new businesses, including a commercial real estate development company, a fish farm and a classic car dealership.

After leaving office in 2000, he co-founded Extend America, a venture capital-backed company, to provide wireless voice and high-speed data services to commercial and residential customers in five rural Midwestern states.

He also served as a director of the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation that oversees the historic town's operations and became active in leading several other nonprofit and citizens advocacy groups in North Dakota.

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