FORMER agriculture secretary and current Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns has decided he will retire from the Senate after only one term. Johanns was secretary of agriculture during George W. Bush's second term before leaving to run for his current Senate seat.
In an email to supporters Feb. 18, Johanns said at the end of this term, he and his wife Stephanie will have been in public service for more than 32 years.
"With everything in life, there is a time and a season. ... Between the two of us, we have been on the ballot for primary and general elections 16 times, and we have served in eight offices. It is time to close this chapter of our lives," Johanns said.
As secretary, he was able to easily relate to farmers and commonly shared his times growing up on a dairy farm. It's likely that unique farm boy work ethic that speaks volumes for those in the countryside.
During his nearly three-year stint as agriculture secretary, Johanns developed an in-depth farm bill proposal based on listening sessions he conducted across the country, which became the foundation for improvements and reforms adopted in the final 2008 farm bill.
He seems to be ruled by common sense, especially when it comes to keeping congressional intent intact and the Environmental Protection Agency under scrutiny.
Earlier this month, Johanns introduced four bills in the Senate to increase the transparency and oversight of EPA.
"Everyone from mayors to public utility providers to farmers and ranchers has expressed concern with EPA's aggressive agenda and lack of understanding about how our economy works," Johanns said. "It's not simply what EPA is doing that bothers so many of our nation's job creators; it's how EPA is doing it. I've heard countless times that EPA is not transparent or responsive but, rather, shortsighted and arrogant."
Also this year, Johanns joined Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) in introducing legislation to overturn duplicative EPA pesticide permit registrations after similar legislation failed to move in the last Congress.
The Roberts-Johanns bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act to change Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting so that new CWA registrations for use near water are not necessary if the product is already registered with EPA.
He also was a part of the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan group to encourage movement on improving the nation's fiscal station.
Johanns joins a growing list of senators who will not seek re-election in 2014, including Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.) and Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
Johanns said he is "confident" that there will be many more opportunities to serve Nebraska and the nation.
For agriculture's sake, I hope that's true. Johanns is a true friend of agriculture, which seem to be in short supply these days.
With former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry moving to secretary of state, the rash of retirements will hasten a wholesale makeover of a Senate that was once far more stable.