Family Farms Under Attack
In a victory for corporate agribusiness and a defeat for family farmers, President Bush nominated Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to become the next Secretary of Agriculture. Announcing Johanns's nomination yesterday, Bush called the governor "a faithful friend of America's farmers and ranchers." But as governor, Johanns worked persistently to undermine a law, passed by a citizen initiative in 1982, that protects family farmers in Nebraska by banning most corporate agriculture. Johanns used $300,000 from the Bush administration to fund a biased study of the law – called I-300 – produced by a Texas consulting firm. Predictably, the study recommended making it "easier for agribusiness to gobbleup traditional family farm agriculture" in Nebraska. Johanns's study also suggested "more taxpayer financed corporate welfare by 'incenting' the outside corporations that would be gobbling up individual owned farm and rural businesses." As his next step in undermining the law, Johanns pushed a bill in the Nebraska legislature which would "establish a 20-member task force to look at the pros and cons of I-300." (Johanns was to appoint 18 of the 20 members.) The legislature understood the purpose of the task force was "to weaken the state's anti-corporate farm law" and, thankfully, it was defeated. But if Johanns is put in control of federal agriculture policy, his corporate agenda will be much more difficult for the nation's small farmers to overcome.
JOHANNS PROPOSES SCHOOL FUNDING CUTS TO PRESERVE CORPORATE WELFARE: In the face of a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, Johanns adamantly defended the Nebraska's massive corporate welfare program. The state has given away $1.3 billion on the program since 1988 for giant corporations like IBP, ConAgra and Union Pacific. Corporations profited to the tune of $148 million in 2001 alone. Each year, Nebraska spends three times as much on corporate welfare as on the entire University of Nebraska school system. Instead of trimming back corporate giveaways, Johanns "called for 10 percent cuts to higher education and K-12 school aid."
JOHANNS FAVORS LOWER WAGES FOR WORKERS AT SUBSIDIZED COMPANIES: A bill was introduced in the Nebraska legislature that would require workers at companies receiving subsidies from Nebraska to be "paid at least $8.70 per hour if they have health insurance, and $9.57 for those without." Johanns supported an alternative proposal that would pay workers at taxpayer subsidized corporations lower wages, with no increase if the company didn't provide health care.
JOHANNS FAVORS WITHHOLDING MAD COW INFORMATION FROM THE PUBLIC: With Johanns in charge, you'll likely know a lot less about the safety of the food you eat. As governor, Johanns has expressed opposition to the Department of Agriculture's policy of informing the public when the nation's beef supply may be contaminated. Johanns asked the Department of Agriculture to reconsider their policy of announcing when initial tests of cattle show they may be infected with Mad Cow disease, also known as BSE. Johanns's position runs counter to the conclusions of the USDA inspector general, which found the agency isn't doing enough to protect the public from Mad Cow contamination.
JOHANNS AND THE POLITICS OF RELIGIOUS EXCLUSION: Johanns declared May 22, 1999 "March for Jesus Day." Johanns claimed the proclamation did not constitute government preference for a particular religion because he "wouldn't hesitate to sign a proclamation for the Jewish faith or the Hindu faith." But Johanns quickly clarified that he would not issue a proclamation supporting any religion he "personally disagree[d] with."
This guy sounds like a real jewel. If you think at all about the SecAg, think about him while you're eating. Is this the clown you want in charge of your food?