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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Mike Johanns, Nominee for U.S. Agriculture Secretary - 2004-12-14

Broadcast: December 14, 2004

I’m Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns grew up on a farm. As he likes to say, everything in life has seemed easy since then. Now Mister Johanns is President Bush's choice for the next agriculture secretary.

The president says Mister Johanns knows the needs of farmers. He says his nominee is a strong supporter of fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel that are made from farm products. And Mister Johanns has led farm delegations to a number of countries.

Mike Johanns was born in Iowa. He is fifty-four years old. He was elected governor of Nebraska in nineteen ninety-eight. Voters in the Midwestern state re-elected him in two thousand two. As governor, he has sought to cut property taxes and to expand agricultural trade for his state.

Mister Johanns must be confirmed by the Senate to replace Ann Veneman, who is resigning.

Mizz Veneman has not had an easy time as agriculture secretary. Last December the first, and so far only, confirmed case of mad cow disease was found in the United States. The discovery in Washington state led more than thirty nations to ban imports of American beef.

Also, bird flu spread among some chicken farms in parts of the United States. This was not the severe form of virus that has killed people in Southeast Asia. Still, the outbreak led several nations to ban imports of American chickens.

In recent years, American farmers have also faced greater foreign competition. In fact, next year, the Agriculture Department expects imports of farm products into the United States to equal exports. This has not happened in almost fifty years.

And the next agriculture secretary will have to deal with another threat: the risk of a terrorist attack on the nation's food supply.

The Agriculture Department is responsible for areas of food safety and for agricultural research. It is also responsible for programs including farm loans and development. In addition, the department works to expand markets for American agricultural products. And it supervises national forests and other natural resources.

Congress established the Department of Agriculture in eighteen sixty-two. The department is one of the largest in the government. It has over one hundred thousand employees. Its two thousand five budget is more than eighty thousand million dollars.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter. I'm Gwen Outen.