By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After months of speculation, President Trump on Sept. 1 nominated Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey for a top USDA position, saying he “has promoted science and new technologies to better care for our air, soil and water, and focused on telling the story of agriculture.”
“I am honored to be nominated by the President, and I so appreciate the support and encouragement from (USDA) Secretary (Sonny) Perdue,” Northey told Farm World. “I look forward to serving, if
confirmed” by the Senate. As under secretary for farm production and conservation (FPAC), Northey would 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. Established in May, the new position was part of a USDA reorganization. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will appoint a replacement to serve the rest of Northey’s term, if he is confirmed and resigns.
Perdue said aligning the agencies within the USDA that serve farmers will “provide a simplified, one-stop shop for our primary customers.
“Bill Northey will continue his honorable record of public service in leading FPAC,” he explained. “Having served the people of Iowa for the last 10 years as their secretary of agriculture, and as a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer, Bill has a unique understanding of issues facing farmers across the nation. He will be an invaluable member of the team.”
Northey, who is in his third term, was one the agriculture advisors for Trump during his presidential campaign. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he is “an outstanding pick to serve President Trump in the newly-created role.
“Whether you’re a Northeast dairy farmer considering insurance options, a corn farmer in Iowa evaluating conservation enhancements for your farm or a producer in the coastal bend of Texas dealing with disastrous losses of cotton, rice or livestock from Hurricane Harvey, Bill Northey will be responsible for ensuring the USDA is providing the appropriate assistance to your farm,” he said.
Grassley noted Northey’s leadership and passion for agriculture were proven numerous times as he advocated for renewable energy and the adoption of conservation practices such as cover crops.
“He’s an Iowa farmer with dirt under his fingernails who knows firsthand what goes into running a family farm,” he said. “I look forward to working with Bill in his new role. I’ve no doubt he will be an asset to the farmers who utilize USDA programs to ensure the most affordable, safest food supply in the world is available every year for all Americans.”
Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president, said Northey’s years of work improving water quality and conservation make him qualified to lead this new office within the USDA.
“It’s important to have someone who understands production 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 perfect fit for the position,” he said.
He added under Northey’s leadership, the state’s agricultural economy has grown and diversified, and Iowa continues to be recognized as a national leader in conservation. “Secretary Northey has served Iowa farmers well for over 10 years, focusing on a balance between production agriculture and conservation efforts like the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” said Matt Deppe, Iowa Cattlemen’s Assoc. CEO. “His accomplishments in Iowa have prepared him well and we are excited to see him continue his work in Washington, D.C.”
Northey, who also chairs the U.S. Hypoxia Task Force, spearheaded the firstin- the-nation science-based nutrient reduction plan, known today as the Water Quality Initiative (WQI), which provides a road map to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus by 45 percent in Iowa waters. Established during the 2013 legislative session, the WQI has already helped farmers add record numbers of conservation practices to Iowa farms.
“I can’t think of anyone more qualified than Secretary Northey to assist farmers with conservation and production practices in the under secretary position,” said Rolland Schnell, Iowa Soybean Assoc. president. “The fact he’s still raising soybeans and corn, utilizing cover crops and working to improve water quality and soil health on his Spirit Lake farm is proof.”
Northey, 58, a Republican, was first elected Iowa secretary of agriculture in November 2006 and was reelected in 2010 and 2014. Before that, he was active in the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, E. Howard Hill, who was Iowa Farm Bureau president from 1947-63.
Moreover, he served leadership roles in Farm Bureau offices at the county and state levels, including serving as president, vice president and committee chair of the Dickinson County Farm Bureau. In 2006 and 2010, he was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the Iowa Farm Bureau Political Action Committee.
Northey has also served on the Iowa USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee, was a Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner
and a board member of Ag Ventures Alliance. Northey has traveled around the world to view agriculture and promote Iowa’s products.
He has been a leader of farm groups, serving as president of the National Corn Growers Assoc. (NCGA) from 1995-96 and chair of the group in 1996-97.
He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in ag business in 1981and earned a master’s in business administration from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2004. He and his wife, Cindy, have three grown daughtersand five grandchildren.