According to the United State Department of Agriculture, on Tuesday, USDA Undersecretary Bill Hawks, a Hernando, Miss. farmer, has abruptly resigned from the position.

Hawks has served four years as Undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, overseeing the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which 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; and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, which regulates grain and livestock trade.

USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, in a released statement, said Hawks has agreed to continue to serve in the position until a replacement is chosen.

Johanns praised Hawks’ contributions, saying, “Bill has worked on some of USDA's most challenging issues to protect and promote U.S. agriculture in the areas of animal and plant disease at home and abroad, while also helping the Bush Administration's efforts to break down sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to U.S. exports.”

Originally nominated to be deputy secretary by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Hawks was instead named by President Bush to be Undersecretary. His wife, Diane, a partner in their farming operation, is chairman of the state advisory committee for the Farm Service Agency.

Hawks helped organize the Mississippi Feed Grains Association and has long been active in the Mississippi Soybean Association and American Soybean Association.