On 31 October, much to the surprise of farm lobbyists and lawmakers, President Bush nominated former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer (R) to be Secretary of Agriculture. If confirmed by the Senate, Schafer would replace Mike Johanns, who resigned from the post in September to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Bush’s nomination of Schafer surprised many Washington, DC-insiders who assumed Acting Secretary Charles F. Conner would continue to hold the post. In his capacity as Deputy Secretary under Johanns, Conner played an instrumental role in constructing the Administration’s farm bill proposal.
Schafer served as North Dakota governor from 1992-2000 where, according to President Bush, “He was a leader on agricultural issues.” Schafer is currently the chief executive of a startup wireless communications company, Extend America.
Agriculture Committee leaders in both the House and Senate appeared to welcome Schafer’s nomination. According to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), “I look forward to working with him and to learning his views on the new farm bill.”
The Senate will continue its deliberations of the 2007 farm bill following the Veterans Day holiday. Progress on the measure stalled during the first scheduled week of floor debate (5-9 November 2007) over partisan disagreements about the amendment process. The five-year $288 billion measure covers programs including nutrition, research, energy, conservation, rural development, and crop commodity payments. Agricultural producers are anxious for passage of the 2007 legislation since the previous farm bill (PL 107-171) expired in September.
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