While it may not be for the post many Southerners had hoped, Bill Hawks, a farmer from Hernando, Miss., will be going to Washington to serve as undersecretary of agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs.
Nominated to be deputy secretary by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Hawks was instead named by President Bush to the position that oversees all of USDA's animal and crop marketing support and regulatory activities.
The deputy secretary's post went to Jim Moseley, the owner of a Clarks Hill, Ind., farm. Moseley was director of the U.S. Forest Service and agricultural advisor to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the first Bush administration. He also worked as director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture.
Midwest senators such as Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., mounted a full-court press on the administration to name a Midwesterner as deputy secretary after Bush nominated Ann Veneman of California as agriculture secretary. As deputy secretary, Moseley will run the day-to-day operations of the Agriculture Department.
Southern senators such as Cochran and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott lobbied for Hawks to receive the position. The National Cotton Council and the Stoneville, Miss.-based Delta Council supported Hawks' nomination.
Hawks, 56, raises cotton, soybeans and grain on a 7,700-acre farm in northern Mississippi. He served as a state senator in the Mississippi Legislature and ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1999.
His wife, Diane, a partner in their farming operation, has been named chairman of the state advisory committee for the Farm Service Agency.
A widely respected agribusinessman and civic leader, Hawks helped organize the Mississippi Feed Grains Association and has long been active in the Mississippi Soybean Association and American Soybean Association.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hawks will oversee:
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which conducts the vital boll weevil and pink bollworm eradication programs and is charged with keeping agricultural pests and diseases out of the country, including mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases;
The Agricultural Marketing Service, which oversees cotton classing services and the cotton research and promotion program.
The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which regulates grain and livestock trade.
“Bill Hawks will bring to this post a personal knowledge of agriculture and the central role it plays in the rural economy,” said National Cotton Council Chairman Jim Echols, a Memphis cotton merchant. “He is a successful farmer, businessman, state senator and politician.”
Kenneth Hood, a Gunnison, Miss., cotton producer who serves as NCC vice chairman, said Hawks is an outstanding agricultural leader with considerable political and legislative experience.
“Bill has a keen appreciation of agriculture's role in government, and his record of distinguished service to agriculture is a testament to his dedication and love of our industry,” Hood said.
President Bush has also nominated J.B. Penn, senior vice president with the Sparks Companies to be undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture services.
A native of Arkansas and graduate of Arkansas State University, Penn held a variety of positions with USDA in the 1970s and 1980s before leaving to help found Economic Perspectives, an independent consulting company.
The undersecretary for farm and foreign agriculture services, formerly international affairs and commodity programs, oversees the Farm Service Agency and Foreign Agriculture Service.
Secretary Veneman still has several undersecretary and assistant secretary positions to fill.
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