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Farmers Get a Farmer

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Farmers get a farmer
by Senator Larry Craig
Over the past several days, I have been in Cascade, meeting with members of my staff to take stock of the 108th Congress and develop plans for the coming 109th Congress, which begins in January, 2005. During our time there, I received news that President Bush had selected a nominee for Secretary of Agriculture to replace Ann Veneman when she steps down. If the Senate agrees, the new Secretary of Agriculture will be Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

When Secretary Veneman leaves the Department of Agriculture (USDA), she will have plenty to be proud of. Ann had a strong background in agriculture before going to Washington, D.C., and she drew on that experience every day.

She worked tirelessly with Congress to formulate and pass the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, also known as the Farm Bill. This legislation is the current policy guiding American agriculture, and the industry is enjoying record levels of exports of agriculture products abroad.

She moved aggressively when a Holstein cow near Yakima, Washington tested positive for mad cow disease, and her decisive actions successfully avoided a major collapse in the U.S. beef market. Under her leadership, USDA has developed strong new guidelines for testing and tracking livestock in the United States to ensure the integrity of the beef industry and the safety of consumers. She also appointed a special envoy to travel to countries which had banned U.S. beef and worked with them to address their concerns as quickly as possible.

Secretary Veneman has also been instrumental in promoting U.S. agricultural goods in foreign markets. She has helped American farmers and ranchers access new markets in Asia, where demand for high-quality commodities is growing exponentially.

While Secretary Veneman has accomplished much in her time at USDA, many challenges to U.S. agriculture still remain. That is why I am very encouraged by President Bush's choice of Governor Johanns to succeed Ann Veneman.

Nobody doubts that Nebraska is an agriculture state, and Mike Johanns comes from an agriculture background. He grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa, and during his career in public service, he has built up a strong portfolio of experience in a wide range of agricultural issues.

He serves as co-lead Governor for the Western Governors' Association (WGA) on drought issues. He has led five delegations of Nebraska government, business and agriculture leaders on trade missions to Japan, China, Taiwan, Australia, Chile, and several other nations. I might also mention that Nebraska is a sugar producing state, and I will seek opportunities to open a dialogue with Johanns on sugar, grains, potatoes, livestock, specialty crops and many other issues.

Drought, dairies, sugar, ethanol, rural economic development - all of these issues are very important to Idaho agriculture and rural communities, and they are all issues with which Governor Johanns has experience. The White House believes Governor Johanns will continue the President's pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-farmer policies. Looking at his resume, I would agree.

No individual is perfect, and we should keep our expectations of the next Agriculture Secretary realistic. However, I look forward to meeting Governor Johanns and working with him. He was raised with the background and values shared by many Idahoans - on the farm. That's a good start.

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