From 1995 until the change of administration in 1999, Veneman served as Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). She was the first woman to be appointed in this position, directing the state agency that oversees the largest agricultural economy in the nation. With an annual budget of $200 million, the agency employs more than 1,800 people who oversee the safety of the food supply for the citizens of California.
From 1991 to 1993, Veneman served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As the second-ranking person at USDA, she directed and oversaw the activities and policies of the USDA and its 42 agencies, with a budget of more than $60 billion and a workforce of 111,000 employees.
From 1989 to 1991, Veneman served as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs. In this assignment, she managed international issues including trade policy, trade negotiations, and food aid. Veneman joined the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in 1986 and served as Associate Administrator until 1989. She was actively involved in the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations, NAFTA and the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.
Veneman serves on the Board of Directors of the Farm Foundation and the Close-up Foundation. She is a member of the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade, the Bennett Agriculture Round Table, and Food Foresight. Prior to joining CDFA she served on the board of directors of Calgene, Inc., a California biotechnology company.
When not serving in government, Veneman previously worked as a practicing attorney with Patton Boggs, L.L.P. In Washington D.C., and Damrell, Nelson, Schrimp, Pallios & Ladine in Modesto, California. She is a member of the Bar in California and in the District of Columbia, and is admitted before the U.S. Supreme Court. She is also a member of the Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court.
Veneman was raised on a peach farm in Modesto, California. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Davis, a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California at Berkeley, and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
She is currently a partner with the law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott, LLP, where she specializes in food, agriculture, environment, technology, and trade issues.