Mike Johanns

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Mike Johanns is the former Secretary of Agriculture and is currently serving as a Senator from Nebraska

Michael Owen Johanns, a Republican, has represented the state of Nebraska in the Senate since 2009. Johanns, formerly Governor of Nebraska, was nominated to replace Ann M. Veneman as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on December 2, 2004, by President George W. Bush.[1] Johanns later resigned to run as the Republican candidate in the 2008 congressional elections for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska.

Positions, record and controversies

Jobs, Taxes and Spending

Johanns pledges to create jobs by investing in rural development, research, technology and infrastructure. He supports making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent, ending the death and marriage penalty taxes, creating a permanent tax credit for research and development, and fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax to inflation. Johanns also supports reducing government spending by eliminating ineffective programs and reforming the earmark process. He vows to bring transparency to the earmark process by making them open to the public. [2]

Energy Policy

Johanns supports increasing use of alternate and renewable energy sources, investing in cellulosic ethanol research, expanding domestic oil and natural gas exploration, and expanding energy supplies through nuclear power. He also supports decreasing regulation for oil refineries,and increasing car efficiency to promote conservation. [2]

Iraq War and Terrorism

Johanns opposes leaving Iraq under "artificial deadlines", but supports withdrawing slowly as the situation gets better. He proposes that Iraq pay for more of the reconstruction and security with its oil revenues, and that America should look for a stable resolution to win the war on terrorism. He supports doing so while maintaining strong civil liberties in the U.S. [2]


Johanns supports updating the housing, education, medical and long term benefits of veterans. He wants the update to include the ability of a family member to use the education benefit if the veteran does not, and expanding survivor benefits. [2]


Early life

Johanns was born on an Iowa dairy farm. During the press conference announcing his nominated as USDA head, Johanns said, "I'm very, very proud of my ag background. I do feel that those years on that dairy farm did much to define who I am as a person. In my campaign for governor, as a matter of fact, we ran a radio ad and it said, 'After growing up on a dairy farm, the son of John and Adeline Johanns, everything in life has seemed easy after that.'" [1]

Johanns received a law degree from Creighton University in Omaha, and worked for two Nebraska law firms, Cronin & Hannon in O’Neill and Nelson Johanns Morris Holdeman & Titus in Lincoln. He has held elected office at many levels of government, including as a member of the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners and the Lincoln City Council, and as the Mayor of Lincoln. His list of "major enacted initiatives" as Nebraska Governor includes "an emphasis on value-added agriculture, especially ethanol," "tougher penalties for drug dealers," an extension of "Medicaid coverage to the treatment of breast and cervical cancer for low income women," and and increase in "state funding for K-through-12 and special education costs." [2] Johanns was a Democrat for the first part of his political life; he switched parties in 1988. [3]

Governor of Nebraska

Johanns' official bio notes that he has served as the Governor of Nebraska since 1999. It has been widely noted that Johanns was the "first Republican to be reelected governor of Nebraska since 1956." During his tenure, "he has promoted an agenda of tax relief, less government, building the economy, protecting families, and ensuring the health, safety, and success of Nebraska’s children," reads his biography. [4] In 2000, Johanns "drafted the Meatpacking Industry Workers Bill of Rights. The document covers health and safety issues, including the right to organize labor unions, the right to work in a safe place, the right to adequate equipment the right to information, and a right to training." [5]

Some "Democratic critics in Nebraska" describe Johanns as "too much of a go-along, get-along guy, reluctant to take stands or to make waves on controversial issues and consequently reluctant to show leadership." But one "defining moment for him," according to Nebraska Farmers Union president John K. Hansen was Johanns' strong support of a measure that would have allowed him to appoint a panel to review a 22-year-old, popular, citizen initiative that "prohibits owners of agribusinesses who are not related by family ties to join forces." Hansen said, "It showed he was on the side of big business, not the small farmer." [6]

During his tenure as governor of Nebraska, the country's third-largest producer of corn, Johanns was a strong proponent of ethanol fuel. "Thanks in part to Johanns, who in 2001 served as chair of the Governors' Ethanol Coalition, Nebraska currently boasts 11 ethanol plants and is the nation's fourth-largest producer of the alternative fuel," wrote Amanda Griscom Little in Grist magazine. Brian Jennings of the American Coalition for Ethanol said Johanns' nomination "definitely bodes well for ethanol. We have confidence that Johanns will do everything necessary to continue growing America's ethanol industry." [7]

Mad cow disease

As governor of the top beef producing state, Johanns was highly critical of USDA's policy of announcing "positive" (or "inconclusive") results from cattle tested for mad cow disease as part of the agency's expanded testing program. "These tests are sensitive, and it's very possible that you put the inconclusive results out and say it could be BSE [mad cow disease] and then find out that it not," he told Associated Press in July 2004, shortly after two "inconclusive" results were announced. "In the meantime, you have had a tremendous impact on the market just like we have been seeing" (Associated Press, July 1, 2004).

Johanns has also stated his opposition to allowing private beef producers do their own testing for mad cow disease - the same position as Veneman's USDA. In response to Kansas meatpacker Creekstone Farms Premium Beef's petition to test all its cattle, Johanns remarked, "The marketplace, in my judgment, must be based on science-based information. Otherwise there just is no end to what you could burden this industry with" (Omaha World Herald, Apr. 4, 2004).

Johanns' initial response to the December 23, 2003 announcement that a cow in Washington state had been confirmed as positive for mad cow disease was also similar to Veneman's USDA - and meat industry groups. "The discovery ... proves the effectiveness of the surveillance techniques that the USDA has in place," he said (Associated Press, Dec. 24, 2003).

In response to the discovery of an infected cow in Canada in May 2003, Johanns "urged Nebraskans to continue eating beef." He said, "I don't have any worries whatsoever when I go to the grocery store, whether I'm buying a head of lettuce or a fillet to put on the grill. ... I certainly would not want this to have any kind of negative impact on this industry or buying habits. There's just no reason for that" (Associated Press, May 20, 2003).

A few months later, Johanns convened "a summit of about 150 ranchers, farmers and policy-makers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to see how Nebraska farmers and ranchers can establish systems to better trace commodities and market them to buyers." Johanns said, "One sick cow in Canada just changed the world. That industry has just been devastated, just annihilated, and we want to make sure we are prepared for what comes down the road" (Omaha World-Herald, Aug. 27, 2003).

Secretary of Agriculture


Bush's selection of Johanns "may reflect the administration's desire to focus heavily on farm trade over the next four years," according to Associated Press. "As governor, Mr. Johanns led a delegation of Nebraska's farm and business leaders on a trade mission to Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore and a half dozen other countries." [8]

Environmental Working Group president Kenneth Cook called Johanns' record as governor "pro-corporate, pro-subsidy, pro-Bush." Johanns was "a huge supporter of the 2002 farm bill," said Cook. "The White House heavily recruited" Johanns, said Gary Blumenthal, a former Bush adviser. "Johanns is very popular in the Midwest," added Blumenthal. "He's shown an ability to please and motivate agrarian voters -- so he'll be very effective for Republicans in the 2006 [congressional] elections." [9]

When announcing Johanns' nomination, President Bush praised his "deep commitment to a strong farm economy." The industry website Meatingplace.com noted, "What Bush may have liked as much as Johanns' experience in agriculture and trade is his allegiance to other parts of the Bush agenda, including bitter opposition to the estate tax." Bush listed as his second term priorities as "stand[ing] behind family farmers by keeping taxes low and ensuring the federal death tax is repealed permanently." [10]

The Washington Post described Johanns as perhaps "the ideal GOP candidate to head the Department of Agriculture," because he "is risk-averse, is committed to Christianity, supports social programs like the Democrat he once was, and, by necessity, knows his beef and corn as leader of one of the nation's largest agricultural states." The paper also noted Johanns' considerable agriculture experience: [11]

Twenty-two percent of his state is employed by farm-related industries, which account for $9 billion of Nebraska's economic base. The state is also one of the largest producers of red meat in the nation and one of the largest exporters of agricultural products, something Johanns has cultivated through trade missions. During his tenure, Nebraska exports to China increased from $51 million in 1999 to $110 million last year.
Industry reactions

Meat industry groups had a "muted, but optimistic" reaction to Johanns' nomination, according to the industry news site Meatingplace.com. A spokesperson for R-CALF USA, the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, noted Johanns' "extensive background in the beef industry." National Meat Association director Rosemary Mucklow said they "look forward to getting to know him." National Pork Producers Council president Keith Berry said they were "very pleased with this appointment." Berry added, "Governor Johanns has a strong background in both agriculture and international trade issues that are critical for U.S. pork producers, as increasing exports will continue to shape the economic health of our industry." [12]

American Meat Institute president J. Patrick Boyle said, "We are confident that Governor Johanns will continue to provide the strong and persistent leadership for America's producers and processors that we've become accustomed to under Secretary Veneman." [13] The National Cattlemen's Beef Association president Jan Lyons said, "Governor Johanns was born and raised on a cattle operation and knows first-hand the needs of producers and rural communities. He has served six years as governor of one of our nation's largest cattle-producing states, and we're enthusiastic about working with him." National Turkey Federation president Dr. Alice Johnson called Johanns' "work aggressively promoting overseas sales of Nebraska agriculture products" the aspect "of greatest importance to our members." [14]

2008 elections

Johanns ran as a Republican replace Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) in the 2008 congressional elections. Johanns defeated Democratic challenger Scott Kleeb in November 2008 general elections. [3]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases.

Campaign contributions

The following is drawn from government records of campaign contributions to Mike Johanns. Campaign contributions are one of the most direct conduits for influencing members of Congress. How to use this information. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00029444&cycle=2008</crpcontribdata>

Committees and affiliations


Senator Johanns is assigned to the following Senate committees:[4]

  • Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
  • Banking, Housing, And Urban Affairs
  • Environment and Public Works
  • Indian Affairs
  • Veterans' Affairs


  • American Legislative Exchange Council: Mike Johanns presented a talk called "Opening Agricultural Markets by Restraining the EPA and Expanding Trade" at the American Legislative Exchange Council's 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC on December 2, 2010.[5]

More background data


Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. "President Nominates Governor Mike Johanns as Secretary of Agriculture," The White House, September 2, 2004.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Mike Johanns| Here Is Where I Stand
  3. "Nebraska 2008 General Election", TheGreenPapers.com, November 4, 2008
  4. Committee Assignments, Accessed July 18, 2011.
  5. 2010 SNPS Presentations, Accessed July 17, 2011.

External resources

External articles

Corresponding article on Wikipedia and Cause Caller. (If Cause Caller link does not work, pick from its list of senators and representatives.)

Current Office: U.S. Senate
111th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

Committees: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
110th Congress
Leadership Position:
Committees Chaired:
Ranking Member On:

Committees: n/a
Congressional Career
First Elected to Current Office:
November 4, 2008
First Took Current Office:
January 3, 2009
Next Election:
November 4, 2014
Term Ends:
Freshman Member?
Previous Political Work?
Lancaster County, NE Board from 1983-1987, Lincoln, NE City Council from 1989-1991, Mayor of Lincoln, NE from 1991-1997, Governor of Nebraska from 1998-2004, Secretary of Agriculture from 2004-2007.
Other Party Membership:
District Offices:
1. 115 Railway Street, Suite C102, Scottsbluff, NE 69361
Phone: 308-632-6032 / Fax: 308-632-6295
2. 4111 Fourth Avenue, Suite 26, Kearney, NE 68845
Phone: 308-236-7602 / Fax: 308-236-7473
3. 294 Federal Building, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, NE 68508
Phone: 402-476-1400 / Fax: 402-476-0605
4. 9900 Nicholas St., Suite 325, Omaha, NE 68114
Phone: 402-758-8981 / Fax: 402-758-9165

Campaign Contact:

Webform Email: / Email:

Campaign Offices:

Phone: / Fax:

Zip Code Affiliations:

Date of Birth: June 18, 1950