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USDA chief Mike Johanns resigns

US secretary of agriculture Mike Johanns has resigned with immediate effect, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced. Deputy secretary of agriculture Chuck Conner has become acting secretary.

The resignation comes as no surprise, following recent media speculation that Johanns was considering running for the US Senate to represent his home state of Nebraska.

Johanns was secretary of agriculture for nearly three years. He took up his position shortly after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in a cow in Washington state, sending the North American livestock industry into a tailspin from which it is still recovering.

In his resignation letter to the president, Johanns noted that US beef exports had increased 18% over last year, despite continuing international resistance to US beef, particularly from South Korea and Japan.

The newly appointed acting secretary, Chuck Conner, was sworn in as deputy secretary of agriculture in May 2005.

He has a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural economics from Purdue University, Indiana. Before joining the USDA, he worked as an agricultural legislative assistant to Senator Richard G Lugar, and served on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.

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