Ag Loses Another Friend with Johanns' Retirement

Common-sense legislator, former ag secretary's departure shows continued changing of guard in U.S. Senate.

Former Secretary of Agriculture and current Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns has decided he will retire from the U.S. Senate after only one term. Johanns was Secretary of Agriculture during George W. Bush's second term, before leaving to run for his current Senate seat.

In an email to supporters Feb. 18, Johanns said at the end of this term, he is his wife Stephanie will have been in public service over 32 years. "With everything in life, there is a time and a season…Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times and we have served in eight offices. It is time to close this chapter of our lives."

As Secretary, he was able to easily relate to farmers as he commonly shared his times growing up on a dairy farm. It likely is that one-of-a-kind farm boy work ethic that speaks volumes for those of us in the countryside.

During his nearly three year stint as ag secretary, Johanns developed an in-depth farm bill proposal based on his listening sessions from across the country, which became the foundation for improvements and reforms adopted in the final 2008 farm bill.

To him, common-sense seems to rule, especially when it comes to keeping Congressional intent intact and Environmental Protection Agency under wraps.

Earlier this month Johanns introduced four bills in the Senate to increase transparency and oversight of the EPA. “Everyone from mayors to public utility providers to farmers and ranchers have expressed concern with EPA’s aggressive agenda and lack of understanding about how our economy works,” Johanns said. “It’s not simply what EPA is doing that bothers so many of our nation’s job creators, it’s how EPA is doing it. I’ve heard countless times that EPA is not transparent or responsive, but rather short-sighted and arrogant.”

Also this year Johanns joined Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in introducing legislation to overturn duplicative EPA pesticide permit registrations after similar legislation failed to see action in the last Congress. The Roberts-Johanns bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act to change Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting so that new CWA registrations for use near water are not necessary if the product is already registered with EPA.

He also was a part of the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan group to encourage movement on improving the current fiscal fiasco. 

Johanns said he is "confident" that there will be many more opportunities to serve Nebraska and the nation.

For agriculture's sake, I hope that's true. Johanns is a true friend of agriculture and we can't seem to keep those around these days.

With former Sen. John Kerry’s, D-Mass., move to secretary of state, the rash of retirements will hasten a wholesale makeover of a Senate that was once far more stable.

Johanns joins a growing list of senators who will not seek re-election in 2014 including Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Jay Rockefeller, D - W. Va., and Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.

In Chambliss' announcement, he said it wasn't fear of losing his seat that led to his decision, but rather about frustration, "both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation’s economic health."

He said the debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff voted "showed Congress at its worst." And said sadly he doesn't see the "legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon."

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