The Senate voted 99-0 Thursday to confirm the nomination of Rep. Edward Madigan, R-Ill., as agriculture secretary.

Madigan, the senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, was praised by lawmakers who have worked with him during his 18 years in Congress."I know he's a tough but fair and open-minded legislator," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"Ed Madigan has done more than almost any other member of Congress to bring about American farm policy responsive to changing world markets," said Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

Madigan, 55, will replace Clayton Yeutter, who is taking charge of the Republican National Committee.

Madigan appeared before Leahy's committee this week and pledged to be "meaner than a junkyard dog" in protecting U.S. farmers during international trade negotiations.

He said two immediate issues facing the Agriculture Department are the financial woes of dairy and wheat farmers.

Madigan will also have his hands full implementing the 1990 farm law that sets agriculture policy for five years, a law he helped write in the House.

Leahy said Madigan is qualified for the job, but "obviously there will be areas where we may disagree."

Leahy wants to help dairy farmers through special legislation, but Madigan opposes the move, saying a bill would make the new farm law vulnerable to other changes.

Leahy said interest in agriculture has moved beyond the traditional farm groups.

"Today, Americans are paying closer attention. Consumers are concerned about the safety of their food and the protection of the environment and the nutrition of those in their community," he said.