Mike Johanns New Agriculture Secretary

Bush Nominates Johanns for Agriculture Secretary (WaPo)

President Bush today nominated Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns [R.] to be his new agriculture secretary, turning to a son of Iowa dairy farmers and a man he called “an experienced public servant from America’s agricultural heartland” to replace the departing Ann M. Veneman.
In an announcement at the White House, Bush hailed Johanns as “a faithful friend of America’s farmers and ranchers.” The nomination is subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Johanns, 54, is serving in his second term as governor. The former Democrat previously served as mayor of Lincoln.

Bush also effusively praised Veneman, the first woman to serve as agriculture secretary, who announced her resignation from the Cabinet on Nov. 15. Other possible replacements for Veneman who had been mentioned included Allen Johnson, chief White House agricultural trade negotiator, and Chuck Connor, agricultural adviser to the president. Two Texans, former congressman Larry Combest (R) and Rep. Charles W. Stenholm (D), also were mentioned as potential candidates.

Johanns has been considered a possible challenger to Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D), a freshman whose seat is up in 2006.

If I’ve ever heard of Johanns, I can’t recall.
Tabbing someone considered a viable Senate candidate for the role, though, strikes me as odd., though, since Ag Secretary is hardly a step up the latter from a governorship.

It’s unclear to me why it is we still need an agriculture department, but that’s a story for another day.

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kappiy says:

    Johanns is one of these religious extremists who really didn’t accomplish much as Governor. nebraska is kind of like Texas–weak governor. This is clearly a payback from Rove to Bush’s radical “religious” supporters.

    One thing Johanns is known for, however, is support for Federal dollars on scientific and climatological research. Given the fact that the Bush administration and Congress recently gutted the budget for the National Science Foundation–which funds most of the groundbreaking research projects in the country–it will be interesting to see if Johanns tries to reverse the trend.

    He probably won’t be able to–he is clearly window dressing for Bush’s Sunday school crowd.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Kappiy: I’m not sure that AgSec is in a major position to promulgate religious extremism.

  3. Kappiy says:


    I know–actually that is precisely the point of his nomination. Rove can point to guys like him and say, “hey thanks for helping us out, we’re putting your people in power” and then push them to the background.

    You’re right to suggest that the agriculture department needs to be re-thought. Basically the only function it currently serves is to subsidize large agribusinesses and food companies.

    There may be some pressure to reduce these subsidies given the sorry state of the deficit and the weak dollar.

    What they’re going to do is send Johanns out to talk on PR junkets to show the “committment to the family farmer” and use him as a prop while they gut the estate tax–which really is not a “burden” to most family farmers. The gutting of the estate tax, in turn, will make it more difficult to fund the agricultural subsidies currently offered.

    It will be curious to see how Johanns deals with free trade since the Bush Administration tends to advocate for other countries to adopt free trade policies, but still maintains subsidies for US businesses–a contradiction that many coutnries are arguing is hypocritical. Johanns claims he’s for free trade, but Bush’s past record clearly indicates he is not a proponent–his rhetoric notwithstanding.

    Given the fact that there are significant differences between Johanns and Bush on areas of substance, I don’t think this guy is going to have any power in the cabinet.