George W. Bush's nominee for agriculture secretary, Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska, is a man who liks his pork. Outgoing ag secretary Anne Veneman was unenthusiastic about the 2002 farm bill that gave generous subsidy increases to US farmers. Mr Johanns was a strong advocate for the legislation, leading the issue for the Western Governors' Association during the debate over the legislation. President Bush praised the bill when announcing the nomunation, which led to a 27 per cent increase in farm subsidies last year to over $16bn, as 'critical to the success of our farmers.'
The stance of Governor Johanns is not surprising when one considers that Nebraska, which is the fourth largest agriculture exporting group, was also the fourth most heavily subsidised farm state between 1995 and 2003. According to the Environmental Working Group, the state's farmers (particularly corn, soyabean and wheat growers) received more than $7.5bn in subsidies between 1995 and 2003.
Mr Johanns' appointment received warm support from farm lobbies. Keith Berry, the president of the National Pork Producers' Council, called him a 'top-notch agricultural leader' and praised his involvement in international trade issues.