Former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns has joined the board of directors of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, bringing his 30 years of experience and expertise in agriculture, banking, commerce, foreign trade, law and governance.
“We’re truly honored to welcome Mike Johanns to the Daugherty Institute’s Board of Directors. His vast experience, both in Nebraska and internationally, brings valuable connections and perspective to the work of the institute. And he shares our excitement about the University of Nebraska’s leadership potential in sustainably feeding the growing global population,” said NU President and DWFI Board Chair Hank Bounds. “When Mike agreed to join the Board, I told him, ‘Let’s change the world.’ Thanks to our visionary advisers, talented faculty and staff, and partners around the world, we’re ready to do just that.”
DWFI works globally, nationally and in Nebraska to find solutions that contribute to water and food security, leveraging the university’s expertise in agricultural research and water management and expanding it through strong local and international partnerships. Johanns will join a prestigious team of advisers on the board, including NU President Hank Bounds, Robert B. Daugherty Foundation Chair Mogens Bay, philanthropist and lecturer Howard W. Buffett and Chancellor of The City University of New York James B. Milliken. Together with more than 120 NU Faculty and Global Fellows, DWFI develops research and policy, enhances education and knowledge sharing, and advances technological innovations to improve the use and management of water in agriculture.
“We are thrilled to have Senator Johanns join our board,” said Peter G. McCornick, executive director of DWFI. “His deep expertise and insights in agriculture and development, and his experience in leading policy development and implementation from Nebraska, to the national and global levels, is especially well aligned with the mission of the institute. This will be invaluable as we re-double our efforts to achieving a water and food secure world.”
Johanns grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa, and feels strongly connected to Nebraska and the institute’s global mission.
“Since 2010, the institute has been a driving force in elevating Nebraska’s work in agricultural water management to the global stage,” said Johanns. “I look forward to working with DWFI’s leadership to build on this momentum — lending my perspective to help advance the institute’s ability to influence change, stimulate global policy dialogue on relevant issues and prepare future leaders to address the challenges ahead of us.”
Johanns is recognized worldwide as a leader in agriculture and development, serving at virtually every level of government and successfully leading large and complex organizations over the past three decades. His bipartisan approach has earned the respect of colleagues and constituents across the political spectrum.
Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, Johanns served in the 111th-113th Congresses as a member of the following committees: Appropriations, Agriculture, Banking, Commerce, Environment & Public Works, Indian Affairs and Veterans’ Affairs.
As Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2005 to 2007, Johanns directed 18 agencies employing 90,000 staff worldwide and managed a $93 billion budget. He opened or expanded access to 40 international markets and accomplished agricultural breakthroughs as a member of the U.S. negotiating team for the Doha Development Round. He conducted 32 international trips to advance trade, aid, food safety and as a representative of the President of the United States. Domestically, Johanns promoted the growth of the renewable fuels industry and advanced cooperative conservation. He guided the country through challenges relating to bird flu, BSE, TB and drought. An unprecedented achievement was the development of a complete farm bill proposal based on 50 nationwide listening sessions, half of which he personally hosted. His proposal became the foundation for improvements and reforms adopted in the 2008 farm bill.
Johanns served as Governor of Nebraska from 1999 to 2005, balancing a $2.6 billion state budget while providing property tax relief. He achieved historic reform of the state’s antiquated mental health system and championed improvements to the state’s child protection system. He expanded value-added agriculture and dramatically increased economic development efforts. Johanns led seven trade missions to eight countries as Governor. He served as the state representative on the Export-Import Bank Advisory Committee; as a member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee; as chair of the Governors’ Biotechnology Partnership and chair of the 25-state Governors’ Ethanol Coalition.
Johanns’ public service began on the Lancaster County Board in Nebraska from 1983 to 1987, followed by the Lincoln City Council from 1989 to 1991. He was elected Mayor of Lincoln in 1991 and reelected in 1995. He is a graduate of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and holds a law degree from Creighton University in Omaha. He clerked for the Nebraska Supreme Court before practicing law in O’Neill and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Johanns currently serves on the Board of Directors for Deere & Co. He also serves on the Board of Managers for Burlington Capital and OSI Group. In 2016, he was appointed by the President and Senate-confirmed to serve a term on the Millennium Challenge Corporation board.