Johanns Confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns

Food safety, mad cow disease and budget constraints will be on the hot list as Mike Johanns steps down as governor of Nebraska to become secretary of agriculture, succeeding Ann Veneman. Johanns, 54, was approved by a unanimous voice vote in the Senate the same day President Bush was inaugurated for his second term. He was expected to be formally commissioned and take over the department by the end of January. He resigned the governorship after the Senate vote.

Another Nebraskan, Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat, reportedly turned down a White House offer of the agriculture job before Bush picked Johanns. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., said Johanns' experience growing up on an Iowa dairy farm and his work on trade, renewable energy and rural development prepare him for the new job, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

Some of his first issues will deal with beef, both importing and exporting it. Pressure already is being applied to stop the reopening of beef imports from Canada following more discoveries of mad cow disease there. Meanwhile, Johanns has said his top priority will be working toward the resumption of beef sales to Japan. That country traditionally is America's largest beef buyer, but Japan banned U.S. beef after the sole U.S. case of mad cow in December 2003.

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