WASHINGTON – President Bush announced today that he will nominate Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to be secretary of agriculture. If confirmed by the Senate, Johanns, 54, will succeed outgoing Secretary Ann Veneman.

Johanns, the son of Iowa farmers, is expected to continue the focus on trade issues that was begun by his predecessor. Veneman started her USDA career in the Foreign Agricultural Service, moving up through the ranks to become deputy secretary and then secretary in President Bush’s first term.

As governor of Nebraska, Johanns has led trade missions across East Asia to find new markets for his state’s manufacturing and farm products.

Johanns was educated was educated at St. Mary's College in Winona, Minn., and earned a law degree from Creighton University in 1974. Johanns then clerked for Nebraska Supreme Court Judge Hale McCown before joining a law firm.

Prior to being elected Nebraska governor in 1998 (and again in 2002) he served in a variety of state government jobs including a stint as mayor of Lincoln.

Although Veneman appeared to be interested in serving in the second Bush administration, she submitted her resignation on Nov. 12 along with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Education Secretary Rod Paige. Veneman has not announced her future plans.

The Johanns announcement was a surprise to many in Washington who had Deputy Trade Ambassador Allen Johnson and White House Agriculture adviser Charles Connor on the president’s short list.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com