Agriculture Secretary nominee Mike Johanns will draw sharp questions from Midwestern lawmakers about the U.S. decision to reopen its borders to Canadian beef despite a second case of mad cow disease in Alberta, according to Dow Jones Newswires.



The Senate Agriculture Committee scheduled his confirmation hearing for Thursday morning. Johanns, the governor of Nebraska, visited several committee members Wednesday.



"I told him to go slow because I don't believe we know enough about the safety of Canada's beef supply to open the border up again," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. "The risks are just too great. I'm suggesting to the administration that we slow this process down and use only sound science as a guide, not politics on one side of the border or the other."



Iowa Sen. Tom Harken, the senior Democrat on the panel, said, "One of the questions is: Are the requirements as strong on imported meat and meat products as they are even in the U.S.?"



Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas is concerned about persuading other countries, Japan in particular, to reopen their borders to U.S. beef. "One of the questions that I think farmers are asking is, 'Why are we reopening our borders to Canada when we can't ship to Japan yet?"' Roberts said.



"I don't think from a scientific standpoint that poses problems, but the timing of it -certainly, he'll get questions about that. And reopening the market to Japan is absolutely crucial to us."



Johanns wouldn't talk to reporters who stopped him Wednesday in a Senate office building. But he did joke, after entering and quickly exiting one office, "When you make the sale, you quit selling."



Senators also plan to press Johanns on food security, country-of-origin labeling, protecting agriculture from budget cuts and promoting ethanol and biodiesel fuels.