WASHINGTON — Mike Johanns, who as Secretary of Agriculture helped reopen international markets for U.S. beef, resigned from his post yesterday to pursue “a new opportunity to serve this great nation,” which is expected to be a U.S. Senate seat representing his home state of Nebraska. In a press conference, President Bush called Johanns “an outstanding member of my cabinet” who brought “focus and energy” to the USDA. Charles F. Conner, who served under Johanns as deputy secretary of agriculture, was named acting secretary by the president. At USDA, Conner focused on the 2007 Farm Bill, a version of which received approval from the U.S. House of Representatives July 27 and is currently before the U.S. Senate. In his resignation letter to the president, Johanns said “American agriculture is stronger than ever before in its history,” citing farm equity of $2 trillion, the lowest debt-to-asset ratio in 45 years and average farm household income of $81,5000 — nearly $20,000 above the average household income in the U.S. He also praised the president for his support in helping to increase agricultural exports. More than 40 key markets have reopened to U.S. beef following mad cow disease scares, Johanns said. U.S. beef exports have increased by 18% over last year.
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