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Johanns Confirmed As New Ag Secretary

Inaugural day brings Midwesterner to the highest agriculture role in government.

President Bush's first new cabinet member has been approved. The full Senate has confirmed Mike Johanns of Nebraska as the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Saxby Chambliss from Georgia, says the Iowa-native is "extraordinarily well-prepared and qualified for this new challenge."

Johanns grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. He has served two terms as Mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, and is in his second term as Governor of that state. "He has shown outstanding leadership during his tenure as Governor which will serve him well in managing the diverse and important activities of the Department of Agriculture," Chambliss says.

In a floor speech given by Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Tom Harkin from Iowa explained that although the 2002 Farm Bill was successful and Congress stayed within its budget, "agriculture and farm bill funding has been siphoned off since then. Those threats seem certain to intensify." He adds that while food safety and security issues continue to make headlines its certain the new secretary will have to deal with some serious issues very soon.

Johanns is a past-Chairman of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition and serves as Chairman of the Governors' Biotechnology Partnership. Harkin says he is encouraged "Governor Johanns understands the importance of capitalizing on these opportunities, specifically value-added agriculture spanning the range from pork and beef to the great potential to produce energy and bio-based products from farm fields across the country."

Agriculture Committee members voted to approve his nomination by a unanimous 20 to 0 vote.

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