The White House will announce later on Monday the resignation of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, administration sources said.

Veneman submitted her letter of resignation on Friday to President Bush, but will stay in office until her successor can take over.

There was no immediate word on who Bush would nominate to head the department. An official announcement would be made later in the day.

Veneman, a California lawyer, was the first woman to head USDA.  Lobbyists and congressional aides have said possible replacements for agriculture secretary could include Allen Johnson, the current farm negotiator with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, White House agriculture advisor Chuck Conner or Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, a Democrat and farm policy expert who lost his seat earlier this month after serving 13 terms in the House.

“American cattlemen salute the service of Secretary Veneman and her commitment to helping food and agriculture producers across the country," said Jan Lyons, Kansas Cattle Producer and President of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. “Having grown up on a farm in a small rural community, Secretary Veneman knows first-hand the challenges being faced by farmers and ranchers. She has spent her career working to better the lives of those living and working in America’s agriculture communities.

“Over the past four years, Veneman has confronted historic challenges within our industry. On Dec. 23, 2003, she announced the first case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on American soil, and then worked to inform consumers about the safety of the food supply and our commitment to keeping the U.S. BSE-free. She led efforts to promote the BSE safeguards we have in place that make America’s food the safest in the world, and then put in place additional safeguards as dictated by science to further reduce our risk of BSE. 

“Secretary Veneman has been a staunch supporter of international trade, and has made the reopening of our foreign beef markets a top priority. She has also worked to make our food supply safer by fostering increased research efforts on the reduction of foodborne pathogens, and she has worked to keep our livestock healthier and disease-free. A true environmentalist at heart, the Secretary has an unwavering commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship, and she continues to find ways to help farmers and ranchers hurt by drought, hurricanes and other natural disasters. 

“We are looking forward to working with the Secretary for the remainder of her tenure, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors. On a personal note, Ann Veneman has been a solid leader and a trusted friend, and I will miss working with her. As a cattle producer, I know her work will be appreciated for generations to come.”

Reuters, Pork magazine, NCBA