USDA Ag Secretary Mike Johanns has pulled a fellow Nebraskan into his administration.
USDA announced Monday that Merlyn Carlson, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture since 1999, will leave that post to become USDA deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment.
Carlson said at a press conference that his primary focus in Washington will be the conservation title of the next farm bill.
"There is ongoing discussion in Washington of retooling the farm bill," Carlson said Monday. "The World Trade Organization and concerns about production and export-based subsidies will make the next farm bill a greener one."
In response to a question, Carlson said the Conservation Security Program (CSP) will be "a big part" of the farm bill. He also said that he hoped the current CSP timetable of adding only certain watersheds annually can be accelerated.
"Merlyn has been a force for expanding the international reach of our producers, a vital step in this global economy," adds Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman. "He also has worked hard to engage producers in every step of policy and regulation development."
Carlson said he would assume his USDA responsibilities in June.
His move to USDA did not come as a big surprise in Nebraska. "Early on, I indicated to Ag Secretary Johanns that I would be interested in serving in some capacity with USDA."
Carlson has been a strong advocate of promoting export markets for agricultural products. He is past president of the Mid-America International Agri Trade Council and past chairman of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
He was discussion leader in bilateral talks with Mexico as part of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.
Carlson is past president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and had roles with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the USDA animal disease committee.
Carlson is a member of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement and in 2004 was inducted into the Nebraska Cattlemen Hall of Fame.
Until recently, he operated a cow-calf, yearling and feedlot operation near Lodgepole in western Nebraska. He graduated from Colorado State University with an animal science degree.