New Ag Secretary Comes From Nebraska

Published online: Dec 02, 2004 AFB/PGI
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Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns has been nominated by Pres. George Bush to succeed Ann Veneman as the new Secretary of Agriculture.

Johanns took the reins of Nebraska government January 7, 1999, and in November 2002 became the first Republican to be re-elected Governor of Nebraska since 1956.

The governor, known for his "penny-pinching" is expected to take over administration of the USDA in January.

Farm groups, such as the American Farm Bureau, area already hailing his nomination, noting that he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to promoting rural economic development by providing incentives for business growth and job creation in rural and urban areas of Nebraska, with an emphasis on value-added agriculture.

As a lead governor for agriculture for the Western Governors' Association, he helped lead the way for the re-authorization of the 2002 farm bill. Presiding over the fourth largest agriculture exporting state, Johanns recognizes the importance of opening up new export markets for U.S. agriculture products, as reflected in his many agricultural trade missions he led as governor.

A past chairman of the Governors' Ethanol Committee, Johanns understands the importance of furthering the use of ethanol as a renewable fuel. His understanding and support of other important ag issues--such as acceptance of biotechnology and homeland security measures to protect the nation's food supply--and his experience growing up on an Iowa dairy farm, will serve him well in his new position.

In addition, because he comes from a large irrigation state, he understands the water needs of western United States agriculture. This should give a leg up to western water groups struggling with drought and threats to irrigation water.

Johnnns graduated from Osage (Iowa) Community High School, St. Mary's College in Winona, MN, and earned his law degree from Creighton University in Omaha, NE. He practiced law for many years before entering public service.

As governor, he made property tax relief, reducing the size of government, building the state's economy, protecting families, and ensuring the health, safety and success of Nebraska's children his priorities.

As governor he dedicated $85 million in surplus state sales tax and state income tax dollars for direct property tax relief over two years and expanded homestead exemptions for seniors, veterans, and the disabled.

In addition he made many reductions in the size and cost of the Governor's office staff, eliminating the Washington lobbyist, putting restrictions on the use of state cars, an emphasis on e-government and technology applications, and the merger of the Department of Water Resources and Natural Resources Commission into the new Department of Natural Resources.

He also gave incentives for business growth and job creation in rural and urban areas of Nebraska and put an emphasis on value-added agriculture, especially ethanol.