Neb. Gov. Mike Johanns Named New Ag Secretary

Nominee seen as a strong supporter of biofuels, trade and value-added agriculture.

When announcing the nomination for the next secretary of agriculture, President George W. Bush called Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns an "experienced public servant from America's heartland and a son of Iowa's dairy farms."

Bush added that Johanns will "bring a lifetime of involvement in agriculture and a long record of friendship to America's farmers and ranchers." Johanns is recognized as an advocate for biofuels, trade and value-added agriculture.

The Republican is currently serving his second term as governor for the Midwest state. Prior to the announcement, industry reports indicated a Midwest or South native would likely fill the vacancy left by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman.

Agriculture industry associations, elected officials and even Veneman are lining up in approval for the new nomination and urging the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to hold a hearing on his nomination as soon as possible.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) Vice President of Government Affairs Chandler Keys says Johanns is an excellent choice. "He'll be able to hold his own with Washington's policy-makers, while providing producers across the country with leadership at the USDA," Keys says.

NCGA Corn Board member Bob Dickey, a Laurel, Neb., corn farmer and former state legislator, says Gov. Johanns' leadership significantly strengthened the viability of agriculture in Nebraska. Johanns has led numerous delegations of Nebraska government, business and agriculture leaders on trade missions to eight countries including Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil, and Chile.

During the Japan mission, Johanns spoke on behalf of Nebraska beef producers on the BSE issue, asking Japanese officials to open the doors to U.S. beef. Dickey, who was appointed by Johanns as a state senator in 1999, says the governor has also been a strong advocate for Nebraska agriculture producers during a period of depressed commodity prices and severe drought.

During his tenure as Nebraska governor, Johanns established incentives for business growth and job creation in rural areas of Nebraska, placing an emphasis on value-added agriculture, especially ethanol.

"Governor Johanns has a strong background in both agriculture and international trade issues that are critical for U.S. pork producers, as increasing exports will continue to shape the economic health of our industry," says National Pork Producers Council President Keith Berry, a pork producer from Greencastle, Ind. "President Bush has tapped a top-notch agricultural leader, and we are very pleased with this appointment."

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