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September 20, 2007   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
September 20, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 20 -- President Bush on Thursday announced that Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns is leaving the Cabinet to return to Nebraska, where he is expected to run for the U.S. Senate.

Bush said Johanns "brought focus and energy to the department" but was "serious about going home and possibly serving the nation in a different capacity."

Bush announced Johanns' departure at a Rose Garden ceremony. He said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Charles Conner would take over as acting secretary.

Several state officials said that Johanns is expected to seek the Senate seat being vacated at the end of next year by Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman called Johanns "an ardent advocate for American agriculture's ability to provide renewable energy for our nation."

"He was a bold proponent of giving farmers innovative technologies for food and fiber production. And he was quick to challenge other nations' efforts to unfairly shut our products out of their markets," Stallman said. "Mike Johanns always made it a priority to meet with farmers and ranchers during his tenure as agriculture secretary. He was one of the most accessible secretaries of agriculture we have had in recent memory. We always felt that the Secretary Johanns would take the time to listen."

Johanns led USDA during through an exciting time for American agriculture. He leaves USDA at a time when prices are favorable and demand for farm products is strong, but there is also much work for his successor to tackle as farmers continue to face soaring production costs and barriers to exports.

Conner was sworn in as deputy secretary of agriculture on May 2, 2005.

His love for agriculture goes back to his childhood, growing up on his family's farm in Benton County, Ind. There, he worked with his father and brother raising corn, soybeans, and cattle. Conner's brother, Mike, still operates the family farm.

Since coming to the Agriculture Department, Conner has worked to develop and promote the administration's farm policy. Along with former Secretary of Agriculture Johanns, Conner led farm bill listening sessions around the country, hearing first-hand from farmers and other stakeholders about their likes and dislikes with the current farm bill. He also led the Department's review of over 4,000 comments which were used to develop the policy direction for the future of American agriculture. Conner continues to lead the administration's efforts for farm policy reform.

Prior to his tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Conner served on the National Economic Council beginning in November 2001 as a special assistant to the president for agricultural trade and food assistance, focusing primarily on Farm Bill issues.

From 1997 to 2001, Conner was president of the Corn Refiners Association, Inc., a national trade association representing the corn refining industry. Prior to his tenure with the Corn Refiners Association, Conner held several staff positions with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

Conner served as both the majority staff director (1995-1997) and the minority staff director (1987-1995), of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. He also worked as a professional staff member for the committee from 1985 to 1987. Prior to joining the Senate Committee in Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Conner worked as an agricultural legislative assistant to Sen. Richard G. Lugar.

Conner received a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University in 1980. He is married and has four children.

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