President George W. Bush has nominated another former Republican governor, Edward T. Schafer, to be the next secretary of agriculture. Who? You’re not alone if you asked that question.
Schafer, 61, served two terms as North Dakota’s governor; his tenure coincided closely with Bush’s governorship in Texas. As governor, Schafer worked to revive rural towns by using technology to improve their access to education, healthcare, and economic development, and became involved in the initial work of North Dakota’s biofuels industry. Until recently, he was chief executive of Extend America, a wireless communications company based in North Dakota.
Mike Johanns, whose shoes Schafer would fill if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, was also a former relatively unknown governor (of Nebraska) when he was tapped for the position on Dec. 2, 2004 and then confirmed on Jan 20, 2005. Johanns resigned as Secretary of Agriculture in September to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE).
The Schafer announcement won a friendly reception from a key senator, Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), and both of North Dakota’s senators, also Democrats: Byron L. Dorgan, whom Schafer once unsuccessfully challenged for a House seat, and Kent Conrad. Harkin singled out the new five-year Farm Bill and Schafer’s views on it as a top issue in considering the nomination.
Schafer says USDA’s missions include "the preservation of a way of life that I believe is the foundation of this country."