WASHINGTON (AP) _ Clayton Yeutter may be a household name at the Agriculture Department, but White House guards are pretty fussy about people who don't carry identification.

As secretary of agriculture he breezes in and out of USDA with hardly a glance from the security guards.

But Ron Hall of the department's Office of Information says Yeutter was looked over carefully a while back when he tried to enter the White House Fitness Center for an hour-long workout.

As Hall tells it in the August issue of USDA News, a monthly publication for employees, he accompanied Yeutter, his press secretary Kelly Shipp, and photographer Byron Schumaker to gather background and pictures for an article about Yeutter's physical fitness drill.

Three of the group flashed their USDA identification cards, but Yeutter had grabbed his workout clothes and forgot his I.D.

No problem. His three companions swore that Yeutter was indeed Yeutter and that he was secretary of agriculture. Hall said the guard ''was dubious, the secretary was bemused.''

Finally, Hall remembered that he had an earlier issue of his publication which showed Yeutter being sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, with President Bush looking on.

Hall showed it to the guard, who studied the photo. And studied it some more.

''Uhhh, the secretary is the one in the center of the photo, with his right hand in the air, taking the oath of office,'' Hall said.

Finally, the guard looked up and said to Yeutter, ''Is your first name Clayton?''

''Yes,'' Yeutter replied.

''OK, you can all go in,'' the guard said.

Hall reported that Yeutter ran on a treadmill, pumped iron and performed other physical feats that the 58-year-old Nebraskan uses to blow away the tension of his job.

Yeutter, who is 5-10 1/2 , said that having grown up on a farm he likes meat, potatoes and gravy, as well as dessert, especially anything chocolate.

''That's why I'm here working out,'' he said.

Yeutter said his weight rose to 200 pounds before beginning to work out at the center when he was U.S. trade representative, and he wants to get down to 190. He's at about 195 now.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is still the leading supplier of chicken to Japan but the margin may be narrowing a bit, says an Agriculture Department report.

A strong yen and growing demand among fast-food restaurants pushed Japan's total 1988 chicken imports to a record 280,000 metric tons, the department's Foreign Agricultural Service said.

Imports of U.S. chicken were reported at 118,000 tons, followed by Thailand, with 81,000 tons. Other leading providers included Brazil, 34,000 tons, and China, 21,000 tons.

''Since increased domestic production is unlikely, trade sources forecast chicken imports at 300,000 tons in 1989,'' the report said.

But there is stiffer competition this year.

Japan's total chicken imports in the first four months of 1989 rose about 15 percent from the same period of last year, but the U.S. share declined sharply, the report said.

Bryant H. Wadsworth, U.S. agricultural minister-counselor in Tokyo, said the decline was thought to be due to reduced supplies of bone-in chicken legs. He said U.S. bone-in leg prices didn't decline in the early part of the year as they usually have.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The American Bankers Association says there is further evidence of financial recovery in the nation's farm sector: Profits are up among agricultural banks.

According to the association's analysis, returns on equity at the nation's 4,357 farm banks rose to 9.7 percent in 1988 from 7.94 percent in 1987. That was the highest since 1984 but still below the levels of the 1970s.

Robert Dugger, chief economist for the association, said in a recent report that farm banks ''have been successful in augmenting and preserving a strong capital position'' despite large loan losses and low profits in the mid-1980s.

By contrast, he said, non-farm banks, which continue to be affected by problems in energy related industries, experienced a decline in returns on equity in 1988 for the fourth consecutive year.

Returns for those banks dropped to 8.69 percent from 9.19 percent in 1987 and 11.16 percent four years ago.

The farm bank study was compiled from data provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from 1982 through 1988 by association economist Carlos Veintemillas and was published in the association's Journal of Agricultural lending.