The U.S. Senate Thursday confirmed the nomination of Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to become the next U.S. Agriculture Secretary.

Prior to his confirmation, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., praised Johanns as a champion for U.S. farm exports. "Those export markets are critical to the future survival" of American farms, Chambliss said.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said senators were enthusiastic about Johanns' nomination because "he not only understands agriculture, he understands trade."

In Johanns' confirmation hearings, senators focused on U.S. beef imports and exports. Johanns told senators that a deal with Japan to restart beef trade is overdue and regaining that key market for U.S. exports will be a "top priority" if he is confirmed.