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Johanns Signs Assistance Agreement with FAO

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns signed a Framework Agreement with the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization to coordinate assistance between FAO and USDA.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns and United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf signed an agreement Wednesday to coordinate technical assistance between the two groups.

The agreement aims to pool the groups' resources in dealing with important agriculture-related issues such as hunger, plant and animal diseases such as avian influenza, conservation, genetic technology and renewable energy resources.

"This agreement will facilitate greater international coordination and collaboration on a broad range of agricultural issues and help to protect our agricultural systems," Johanns says. "I believe the benefits will be immediate by enhancing the worldwide response to highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza."

The Framework Agreement was formally signed Thursday, but approved in the fall of 2006. The agreement formed a Crisis Management Center operated by FAO and located in Rome. The center provides animal disease analysis and deploys international resources to prevent and contain animal diseases, and is currently focused on highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza. Three USDA specialists are currently assigned to the center.

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