updated 4/28/2006 12:33:15 PM ET 2006-04-28T16:33:15

Archer Daniels Midland Co., one of the world’s largest agricultural processors, said Friday it appointed Patricia A. Woertz as president, chief executive and director.

The hiring makes her the highest-ranking woman CEO in terms of company size. ADM ranked No. 56 on Fortune 500’s list of largest U.S. companies with $35.9 billion in revenues last year. The distinction previously was held by Brenda Barnes, head of Sara Lee Corp., the food and household goods company.

She succeeds G. Allen Andreas, who remains chairman. Woertz becomes only its eighth CEO in the company’s 104 years.

Woertz, 53, most recently served as executive vice president at Chevron Corp., where she was in charge of operations for the oil company that included refining, marketing, lubricant, supply and trading businesses in 180 countries. She retired from Chevron earlier this year to seek a CEO job.

Decatur-based ADM is one of the world’s largest processors of oilseeds and corn. Its corn-processing division makes syrups, sweeteners, citric and lactic acids, ethanol and other products. The oilseeds division produces vegetable oils, animal feeds, and emulsifiers.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Woertz said she sees numerous areas for possible growth at the company, citing renewable energy, ethanol, biodiesel and other bioproducts, along with demand for more protein-intensive diets that could boost its animal feed business.

Noting ADM’s recent strong momentum, she said: “This isn’t a turnaround situation, it’s about growing for the future.”

The company is the largest U.S. manufacturer of fuel-grade ethanol, greater demand for which has boosted its earnings and share price in recent months.

Woertz was noncommittal when asked if she’d like to see ethanol account for more than the current 5 percent of company sales, saying “I think it’s going to grow a bit with the market,” she said.

When asked about being the top-ranked women CEO, she said,  “I guess it can symbolize for many people opportunity, and to be recognized and appreciated for that is quite an honor.”

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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