-- Following the second inauguration of President Bush, the Senate confirmed Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns as the new secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
Johanns replaces Ann Veneman, the first woman to serve as agriculture secretary, who resigned last month.
In serving his second term as governor, Johanns championed property tax relief, business growth, mental health reform, law enforcement and state autonomy from federal control. Born on an Iowa dairy farm in 1950, he has also led several international delegations encouraging agricultural production and trade.
"As a son of Iowa dairy farmers, he grew up close to the land," Bush said in announcing the nomination. "I know firsthand his deep commitment to a strong farm economy."
Ethanol, a fuel source made from corn, has also received considerable promotion during Johanns' governorship. Nebraska is a leading producer of corn and corn-based products.
A Republican and a practicing Catholic, Johanns has run afoul of some civil libertarians for his conservative social policies. In 2001, he vetoed real estate reform legislation because it contained provisions to protect gays from housing discrimination.
In vetoing the legislation, Johanns stated, "My position on the issue of giving separate legal recognition to individuals on the basis of their personal sexual preference is long standing and clear. I oppose such efforts."
Two years earlier, Johanns signed a proclamation declaring May 22 as "March for Jesus Day." Johanns stated he would also consider signing proclamations for other religions. "I wouldn't hesitate to sign a proclamation for the Jewish faith, Hinduism, whatever," he said, "so long as it doesn't require me to sign something I personally don't agree with."
Johanns, 54, who was elected to his second term as governor in 2002, was the first Republican to be re-elected governor in Nebraska since 1956.
He practiced law in O'Neill, Neb., and Lincoln, Neb., before running for the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners, his first political office, in 1982. He was elected to the Lincoln City Council in 1989 and served as mayor of Lincoln from 1991 to 1998.
He is married to Stephanie Johanns, a former Nebraska state senator; the couple has two children.