Johanns resigns; Conner to head U.S.D.A.

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — President Bush has announced that Mike Johanns, secretary of agriculture, has resigned. Mr. Johanns is expected to return home to Nebraska and potentially run for the U.S. Senate.

"If it’s Mike’s decision and Nebraska’s choice, he would make an outstanding member of the United States Senate," President Bush said.

Mr. Johanns was sworn in as the 28th Secretary of Agriculture on Jan. 21, 2005. He was born in Iowa as the son of a dairy farmer and went on to serve as Nebraska’s 38th governor before coming to his post at the U.S.D.A.

"He brought focus and energy to the department," President Bush said. "He was a champion of renewable fuels. He expanded the department’s commitment to conservation. He worked endlessly to open up foreign markets for American beef. He provided timely assistance to farmers and ranchers devastated by natural disasters. I couldn’t have asked for a better Secretary of Agriculture."

Before Mr. Johanns took office, nearly 119 countries closed their markets to U.S. beef after one instance of a B.S.E.-infected cow in the United States. During his first year on the job, Mr. Johanns successfully convinced nearly half of those countries to reopen their markets. In 2005, he hosted 21 of 52 farm fill forums held in 48 states to gain insight from producers into how to best reshape the farm bill.

"I do want to say something on behalf of farmers and ranchers across America," Mr. Johanns said. "Thank you for recognizing that rural America is a very special place. One particular rural state has remained especially near and dear to my heart; it is a place where the richness of the land is only equaled by the character of its people. Of course, I’m speaking of the place that Stephanie and I and my family call home, the great state of Nebraska."

President Bush has asked Chuck Conner, deputy secretary, to serve as acting secretary. Mr. Conner grew up on a farm in Indiana and has worked to develop and promote farm policy in his current work. He helped lead farm bill listening sessions around the country with Mr. Johanns.

Before joining the U.S.D.A., Mr. Conner was on the National Economic Council as a special assistant to the president for agricultural trade and food assistance. He also was president of the Corn Refiners Association, Inc. and held several staff positions with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

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