Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner will lead the U.S. delegation to the 34th Ministerial Conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy, Nov. 17-24. While in Rome, Conner will present the U.S. view of the state of global food and agriculture at the conference's plenary session on Monday, Nov. 19.

"With our continued emphasis on addressing the emerging global challenges facing agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization maintains its commitment as the efficient, forward-looking advocate on behalf of farmers and all who participate and benefit from agriculture worldwide," said Conner. "At one place and time, all 189 member countries under FAO's leadership will confer on the challenges and opportunities facing the world's agriculture in the 21st century. I will also meet individually with agriculture ministers and look forward to discussing the shared benefits of agriculture's valuable participation in the global economy."

Every two years, FAO holds a ministerial conference in Rome, comprised of all 189 FAO member countries, to approve the organization's program of work and budget. This ministerial is the largest meeting of agriculture ministers worldwide. The FAO mission is to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, improve agricultural productivity, promote rural development and, ultimately, provide all people at all times with access to the food they need for an active and healthy life.

While in Rome, Conner will go onsite to review the FAO Crisis Management Center. Under a Framework Agreement with USDA, a Crisis Management Center was formed in 2006, which is operated by the FAO in close collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). It provides animal disease analysis and deploys international resources to prevent and contain animal diseases. The center is currently focused on highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, which continues to spread in parts of the world. Three USDA specialists are currently assigned to the center.