LITTLE ROCK — Richard Bell, the state's secretary of agriculture and the only director the department has had, plans to step down at the end of the month, the governor's office announced Tuesday.

LITTLE ROCK — Richard Bell, the state’s secretary of agriculture and the only director the department has had, plans to step down at the end of the month, the governor’s office announced Tuesday.

In a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe, Bell said he had accomplished the work he set out to do when appointed to the post seven years ago. He also cited health reasons for his decision to step down.

“Dick Bell has provided steady leadership for the Arkansas Agriculture Department since its inception and through two administrations,” Beebe said in a news release.

Bell, 78, was named agriculture secretary by the 20-member Arkansas Agriculture Board in 2005 to head the newly established department. His selection was later confirmed by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Bell spent 27 years at the helm of Riceland Foods Inc. in Stuttgart before retiring in 2004. He worked for a time in international affairs for the United States Board of Agriculture.

The state Agriculture Board will name Bell’s replacement, who will be subject to confirmation by Beebe. The governor’s office’s said Beebe would make a recommendation to the board.

The agriculture secretary oversees the state Plant Board, Livestock and Poultry Commission and Forestry Commission.