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 Home > News & Policies > September 2007

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 20, 2007

President Bush Announces Resignation of Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns
Rose Garden

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9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Mike Johanns has informed me that he plans to return home to Nebraska, which means that his service as Secretary of Agriculture must come to an end. Mike has been an outstanding member of my Cabinet. I knew he would be when I asked him to become the Secretary of Agriculture. I've known him for a long time. I've admired the fact that he is not only a decent person and an honest person, but he's a person who can get some things done.

President George W. Bush shakes the hand of Mike Johanns, resigning Secretary of Agriculture, after he announced the secretary's decision to return to his home state of Nebraska during a morning statement in the Rose Garden. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian So I accepted his resignation and Laura and I bid Mike and Stephanie a warm farewell. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart for leaving a state he loves to come here to Washington, D.C. to work in an -- to work as the Secretary of Agriculture. You know, Mike brought with him a lot of practical farm experience. After all, he was the proud son of a dairy farmer. He understands the importance of the land. He worked tirelessly on behalf of farmers and ranchers.

And Mike Johanns did an outstanding job as the Secretary of Agriculture. He brought focus and energy to the Department. 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.

He worked hard to put in motion a good farm bill. I remember when Mike came here to the Oval he said to me, he said, what I'm going to do is I'm going to travel the country and reach out to the stakeholders to lay the foundation for farm legislation. And that's exactly what he did. And I got feedback from all around America that Mike Johanns listened, he wisely shepherded the process in such a way that we've got a good farm bill in front of the Congress. He set the framework for success, and I'm confident we can get a good bill passed.

So I want to thank you for your good work getting this teed up.

SECRETARY JOHANNS: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: He's got a good team over at the Secretary of -- at the Department of Agriculture. In other words, Mike understands that you've got to surround yourself with good folks. And so I feel very comfortable asking Chuck Conner, the Deputy Secretary, to serve as the Acting Secretary. And I want to thank Chuck for his good work.

Mike came by the White House here a couple of days ago and he asked for my advice -- and I appreciate it. Everybody likes to have their counsel sought. And during the discussion he told me he was interested in continuing to serve America, but in a different role. And I asked him if this was something he was seriously considering -- in other words, sometimes you get these rumors out there in the political process where somebody feels like they've got to say, yes, I'm interested. But no question in my mind that Mike loves Nebraska and he's serious about going home and possibly serving the nation in a different capacity.

President George W. Bush and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns leave the Rose Garden Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, after the President announced Mr. Johann's resignation and the Secretary's decision to return to his home state of Nebraska. "Mike has been an outstanding member of my Cabinet," said President Bush. "I thank him from the bottom of my heart for leaving a state he loves to come here to Washington, D.C." White House photo by Eric Draper And my answer was -- to Mike was, I support you, and I encourage you to follow your heart. If it's Mike's decision and Nebraska's choice, he would make an outstanding member of the United States Senate. There is no doubt in my mind.

And so I want to thank you for your service, thank you for your friendship, thank you for your commitment to America's farmers and ranchers and our country. And Laura and I wish you all the very best.

SECRETARY JOHANNS: Let me start out today and just say, Mr. President, thank you so very much for those kind words. Also thank you for your support to me and to Stephanie throughout the years. It's been a great honor for me, and, I would add, a great honor for the state of Nebraska to serve you and the American people as the Secretary of Agriculture now for nearly three years.

The decision to leave this post has not been an easy one. I grew up with farmers and ranchers as my childhood heroes and my mentors. Representing them in Washington has been a great privilege.

Mr. President, under your leadership American agriculture is stronger today than at any time in history -- whether you look at farm equity, whether you look at net cash income, whether you look at agricultural exports, records are being set under your leadership and they're being broken each year with a new record. It's your leadership that has made the difference.

I want to mention also that your compassion toward the less fortunate is evidenced by the fact that more people are being fed daily by USDA nutrition programs than at any time in our nation's history. The stewardship of our natural resources is absolutely unprecedented. You've more than doubled the number of acres enrolled in the USDA conservation programs. I often have told people over the last three years that it's great to have a boss who knows as much or more about agriculture than I do. Of course, your steady interest and your engagement has kept me on my toes, but I would not have wanted it any other way.

I'm grateful to the men and the women at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who worked hard every day to ensure I kept pace with you to achieve the goals that you established for us. You can count on their continued dedication. The Department is in capable hands. Chuck is a good man who shares our passion for agriculture.

I do want to say something on behalf of farmers and ranchers across America. 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.

In a sense, I brought Nebraskans with me to every Cabinet meeting, every hearing on Capitol Hill, every negotiating session in faraway countries. I often thought of the wisdom they conveyed to me during my years as governor. I often thought of their decency. And I did my best to remain true to the commonsense, practical approach of Nebraskans.

But even as I look forward to returning to the good life in Nebraska, I look back on what has been truly an opportunity of a lifetime; for me a dream come true for a farmer's son. So I stand here today and I humbly thank the President of the United States -- thank you for allowing me to share this part of the journey with you. Mr. President, may God continue to bless and guide Laura, you and your family.

Thank you very much.

END 9:36 A.M. EDT