President Bush on Tuesday nominated rancher Jack Parnell, California’s top farming official, to be deputy Secretary of Agriculture.
Parnell, 53, is the first Californian chosen for a high level job in the Bush Administration. If confirmed by the Senate, he will serve as chief deputy to Agriculturre Secretary Clayton Yeutter.
The nomination ends weeks of speculation over whether the post would go to a westerner, such as Parnell, or another leading candidate from the South. California is the nation’s top-ranking agricultural state.
Parnell, director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture since 1987, said in an interview that he was delighted with the nomination, particularly because of his longtime friendship with Yeutter.
“I have been an admirer of his work,” Parnell said. “I certainly have no other agenda than to be going back (to Washington) to be the best deputy secretary I could be, a team member.”
Republican Sen. Pete Wilson, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called Parnell a “tremendously qualified individual.”
“I am extremely gratified that the President has chosen to name a Californian to the number two spot at the Department of Agriculture,” Wilson said. “I know Jack’s nomination will be met with great support here in Congress, and especially among those of us from California.”
Parnell, who now lives in Auburn, was born in the state of Washington but grew up on a dairy farm just outside Sacramento.
A former pedigree livestock auctioneer and agriculture magazine editor, Parnell began to raise cattle at the age of 10 and continues to ranch and farm more than 4,000 acres east of the state capital. He also owns and operates a restaurant, a meat shop, a golf course and is chairman of the board of a three-branch bank in the Sierra foothills.
Parnell, who is married and has three children, said he plans to turn his businesses over to his children if he is confirmed.
A Republican, Parnell supported Gov. George Deukmejian in his first campaign for the governorship.