US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has urged congress to overhaul federal farm policy and invest in food safety programmes, pest prevention, nutrition awareness and environmental issues.

Lawmakers are currently rewriting the laws that govern spending and regulatory programme due to expire next year. Veneman argues that the traditional support programme for grain and cotton farmers needs overhauling before they receive another flow of money.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Veneman explained the grain and cotton account for about 20% of the US' agricultural production, and "if you don't look at the food and farm system today through a more holistic approach you're leaving out much of agriculture and much of our production."

"We really need to look at the whole food system and the agriculture system much differently than we have in the past."

Veneman revealed that the new agricultural bill will emphasize several issues other than farm subsidies; for example food safety programs and the efforts made to prevent the spread of BSE and foot and mouth disease into the US.

The House is expected to consider the new agricultural policy bill during the second week of September.