WASHINGTON -- President Bush announced yesterday his selection of Edward Madigan, a veteran Republican congressman from the Illinois farm belt, to be the new secretary of agriculture.
Mr. Madigan, 55, a popular 19-year veteran of the House, was described by associates as a low-key political moderate adept at bipartisan consensus-building. If confirmed by the Senate, he will succeed Clayton K. Yeutter, who was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee yesterday.
Mr. Bush, introducing Mr. Madigan at a televised news conference, said he had distinguished himself as "an aggressive leader on all agricultural issues" while serving as the ranking Republican member of the House Agriculture Committee.
The appointment drew favorable responses from two of the biggest farm advocacy groups, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, both of which have worked with Mr. Madigan.
"I've known him for a long time," Mr. Bush said of his nominee. "I've known him as a friend, as a leader in our party and as a man who cares deeply about the farm policies of our government and the people from agricultural America."
Mr. Madigan, thanking Mr. Bush for his confidence, replied: "This will be a job that touches everyone in the country. . . . I will work hard for you and for these farmers."
His appointment marked the latest in a series of Cabinet shuffles in recent weeks.
Mr. Madigan campaigned aggressively for the Cabinet post, writing Mr. Bush two weeks ago about his interest in replacing Mr. Yeutter. He said he did so after Republicans told him that the president needed to improve his lines of communication to rural America.
Mr. Madigan's central Illinois district contains some of the richest farmland in the Midwest. Representing a largely prosperous area, he has been a staunch opponent of what he considers overgenerous farm bill provisions. He worked hard to ensure passage of the 1990 farm bill, which cut crop subsidies by 15 percent while giving farmers more flexibility in crop planting.
"As agriculture secretary, he will have a keen interest in ensuring that this legislation is implemented the way Congress wants it to be," said Randy Russell, a prominent lobbyist and agriculture consultant.
Mr. Russell, who served as chief of staff to former Agriculture Secretary John Block during the early years of the Reagan administration, called Mr. Madigan "a very thoughtful and astute politician who is good at building consensus. He works well with Democrats and will have good relations with Congress overall."
Reflecting Mr. Madigan's reputation for considering all points of view, Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the National Farmers Union, said he "always has been somebody that had an open door for us, who we've been able to talk to even though we're not always on the same wavelength."