Former Riceland Foods Leader Named Arkansas' First Agriculture Secretary

AUGUST 16, 2005 - Posted at 7:48 a.m. CDT, updated at 9:40 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Former Riceland Foods leader Richard Bell has been named the first leader of Arkansas' new Agriculture Department.

Bell is also a former assistant U.S. agriculture secretary, a position he held in the Nixon administration.

Bell, of Stuttgart, was chief operating officer of Riceland Foods from 1977 to 1981 and was president of the company from 1981 to 2004.

Bell is also a member of the board of trustees at Arkansas State University, currently serving as the panel's vice-chairman.

He says his focus will be the full range of agricultural products produced in Arkansas, not just rice.

Bell said he will have to organize the new department and get it running smoothly.  He says he does not plan to be in the post for too long.  Huckabee's term concludes at the end of next year.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)