At long last, Bill Northey of Iowa was sworn in as USDA Under Secretary Tuesday evening. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue administered the oath at the Annual Iowa Ag Leaders Dinner in Des Moines, allowing the former Iowa Agriculture Secretary to officially join the ranks of USDA in front of a hometown crowd.
Northey is slated to manage USDA’s farm production and conservation programs, but at the moment will officially serve as Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service as the agency waits on Congress to codify realignment of the department. The 2014 Farm Bill created the position of Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Afairs. Former Indiana Director of Agriculture Ted McKinney was earlier appointed to that position.
Northey’s nomination was swiftly supported by the Senate Agriculture Committee in October, but a vote by the full Senate was blocked by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in an effort to push for changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard. Senator Cruz lifted his hold on Northey’s nomination February 27 and the full Senate immediately approved confirmation on a voice vote.
“After months of waiting, I’m thrilled to finally have Bill on board at USDA,” Secretary Perdue said. “The patience he displayed throughout this process is an indicator of what kind of steady leader he will be on our team, and we are eager for him to get to work. Bill comes to us at an important time, as farm incomes are down and expected to fall further. Additionally, with work on the 2018 Farm Bill already underway, Bill will play an integral role in the advice we offer to Congress.”
“As a fourth generation farmer, Undersecretary Northey appreciates the ins and outs of farming,” said Charles Grassley (R-IA), Northey’s home state Senator. “That kind of understanding will prove invaluable as he works to implement critical national agriculture programs. I cannot think of anyone more passionate or better equipped to ensure America’s farm programs are properly administered than Undersecretary Northey.”
Northey was first elected Iowa Agriculture Secretary in 2006. He has also served as president of the National Corn Growers Association.
Northey’s deputy, Mike Naig, was sworn in to serve the remainder of the term which ends later this year.