Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and three other Bush Cabinet members have submitted their resignations to the President. The others are Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
Just last week, Veneman, the first woman to ever head USDA, had indicated during her weekly press conference that she was interested in continuing as Ag Secretary for the second Bush term, if the President chose to retain her.
A California native, Veneman has served during a tumultuous four years punctuated with a series of ag disasters. A long-term drought has plagued large portions of the central and western U.S., and hurricanes have ravaged the Southeast. Meanwhile, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, followed by the discovery of BSE in Japan and Russia's ban on U.S. poultry exports in 2001, and the discoveries of BSE in Canada in 2003 and in the U.S. in December 2004, have kept U.S. ag balanced on a high wire.
Nonetheless, U.S. ag, particularly the livestock sector, has recorded strong demand and record prices during Veneman's tenure. She did, however, encounter much criticism for certain aspects of USDA's response to the discovery of BSE in the U.S.
Reuters reported today that possible replacements include Allen Johnson, a negotiator with the U.S. Trade Representative's office, White House ag advisor Chuck Conner, or Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm. Stenholm is a Democrat and farm policy expert who lost his seat this month after a 26-year career in the House.