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Senate confirms Northey for USDA post after five months

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to the position of USDA under secretary for farm production and conservation (FPAC).

“It is a tremendous honor for me to be confirmed to serve as an undersecretary of agriculture,” Northey said. “I want to thank President Trump for nominating me and Secretary (Sonny) Perdue for his support and encouragement throughout the confirmation process.

“I want to express my deep appreciation to the people of Iowa for affording me the opportunity to serve in this role for the past 11 years. Working with and learning from the men and women who make Iowa agriculture the dynamic and productive industry that feeds the world has been an honor of a lifetime.”

Northey was nominated last September when Trump tapped him to fill the newly created position, which was approved unanimously by the Senate Agriculture Committee. He was one of the ag advisors for Trump during his campaign.

As FPAC under secretary, he will oversee the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers traditional farm safety net programs; the Risk Management Agency, which manages more than $100 billion of liability for the federal crop insurance program; and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which directs the nation’s conservation programs.

A fourth-generation corn and soybean producer who farms near Spirit Lake, Northey’s nomination for the USDA position was held up by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz due to Cruz’s concerns over efforts by fellow Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (of Iowa) last October to block the EPA from decreasing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate.

“While this process has taken longer than expected, I remain as excited as ever to work with Secretary Perdue and the staff at the USDA to support of our nation’s farmers and ranchers,” Northey said.

Monte Shaw, Iowa Renewable Fuels Assoc. (IRFA) executive director, said, “While it took too long, Senator Cruz finally realized that Northey had no interest in being confirmed on the back of dismantling the RFS.”

Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) president, said Northey “knows farmers’ and ranchers’ heartfelt commitment to protecting our natural resources. Under his leadership, Iowa has become a national leader in conservation, and we know Under Secretary Northey will bring the same innovation and farm-grown work ethic to helping farmers across the country fulfill our commitment to conservation.”

John Heisdorffer, American Soybean Assoc. (ASA) president, and a Keota, Iowa, farmer, added, “The USDA impacts not just farmers but all Americans on so many different levels, but we can’t realize those impacts without good people like Bill in the right spots. As under secretary, Bill will be a great advocate for U.S. soybean farmers and we look forward to working with him in this capacity.”

Donnell Rehagen, National Biodiesel Board CEO, said he “will be an excellent representative of the agricultural economy and a true champion of biodiesel and renewable fuels. We look forward to working with Bill to defend and grow the job-creating Renewable Fuel Standard program.”

Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director, said, “Bill has always been a staunch supporter of renewable fuels like biodiesel, and the Renewable Fuel Standard. With his proven devotion to American agriculture, we know that Bill will keep the interests of farmers at heart as he tackles issues affecting agriculture in Iowa and beyond.”

Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president, said, “It’s important to have someone who truly understands agriculture in this important role, and Northey’s experience as a farmer, success leading the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and strong work ethic makes him a great fit for the position.”

Replacement appointed

On March 2, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig officially announced his campaign for state agriculture secretary. At the same time, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced she would name him to serve out the remainder of Northey’s term when Northey officially resigns upon being sworn in to the USDA, which will occur at a later date.

“It has been a privilege to work hand in hand with Secretary Northey and learn first-hand the value of listening, learning and leading every day,” Naig said. “Iowa has world-class agricultural production and we need to expand opportunities for growth in our livestock, renewable fuels and export markets. I am committed to supporting these important areas of our state’s agricultural industry.”

According to the website Ballotpedia, Iowa is one of 12 states that elects its agriculture secretary rather than the position being appointed by the governor.

On Feb. 8, the Des Moines Register reported four other Republican candidates in the commissioner race include state Sen. Dan Zumbach, a Delaware County farmer; Chad Ingels, who farms in Fayette County; Craig Lang, past president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; and Ray Gaesser, a Corning farmer and chair of the American Soybean Assoc. Democrat Tim Gannon, who worked for eight years at USDA under Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, is also a candidate.

As of March 1, only Lang had officially filed for the June 5 primary election, according to the Iowa Secretary of State website.