Ag Committee Approves Johanns for Ag Post

Johanns says resuming trade with Japan is number one priority. Jacqui Fatka

President George W. Bush's nominee for Secretary of Agriculture underwent a wide-ranging review of his views on many topics Thursday. In an early move to vote, the Senate committee unanimously approved Gov. Mike Johanns fit for the job. Johanns, who will leave his post as governor of Nebraska, was quizzed on everything from national animal identification to food safety to trade.

During the hearing, Johanns said his number one priority once approved by the Senate would be opening up beef trade with Japan and other Asian countries. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., urged Johanns to work with the Commerce and State Departments and the President and Vice President to find leverage to force Japan to end its current beef import ban. Baucus also said he hopes to see Johanns lead countries worldwide in developing recognized scientific standards through the OIE.

Johanns says he's very committed to trade, beyond just the beef market. During his tenure as Nebraska's governor he led five delegations oversee to encourage opening markets to U.S. agricultural products. When returning home from one trade mission he said publicly that he supports moving towards a national animal identification system. As Secretary of Agriculture he says he'll pursue a system that the department has an idea on, but also that the private sector has the opportunity to define a system that works.

In the hearing, Johanns also reiterated his support of renewable fuels. Ranking member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, questioned him on the delayed biobased procurement program included in the 2002 Farm Bill. The program still has no rules, a frustration to Harkin. Johanns promised to make it a priority of his in his term.

Other important issues to Johanns include rural development, plant science research and food safety.

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