Saying it signals a higher profile for agricultural issues, food industry representatives in Washington generally welcome the nomination of Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns to serve as secretary of agriculture in President Bush's second term. He succeeds Ann Veneman, who announced her resignation in November. As a two-term governor from a major farm state, Johanns has led five delegations of government, business and agriculture leaders on trade missions to foreign countries including Japan, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Brazil and Chile.
Born and raised on an Iowa dairy farm, Johanns became a lawyer and served in county and city government before becoming mayor of Lincoln, NE, in 1991. A former Democrat, he won the governor's office in 1998 and in 2002 became the first Republican to win re-election in more than 40 years. One of Johanns' first tasks will be to resolve a growing beef dispute with Canada. New US rules on the beef trade are currently under review. President Bush, in a December visit to Canada, said he wants the US to act as soon as possible. The cattle trade between the two neighbors screeched to a halt in 2003 over issues surrounding mad cow disease.
What's in a name may be public domain
US trade negotiators are rejecting claims before the WTO that only foods originating in specific areas should legally bear the names of those areas. Foods and drinks such as Port, Parmesan, Roquefort, Chianti, and Champaign would have to come from those regions in order to use the names. The Europeans are demanding a global trade agreement that protects at least 41 food and drink names, meaning an end to such things as American-produced "Feta" cheese. US negotiators say most of those names were introduced to America by immigrants decades ago, and have long since passed into the public domain. The WTO is not expected to rule on the matter for several months.