The wait is over for Bill Northey. Months after he was nominated, the Spirit Lake farmer and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Senate as USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
“It is a tremendous honor for me to be confirmed to serve as an Under Secretary of Agriculture,” Northey said in an official statement. He added that “while this process has taken longer than expected, I remain as excited as ever to work with Secretary Perdue and the staff at USDA to support our nation’s farmers and ranchers.”
Iowa Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans like Northey, said they were happy for Northey and added that his confirmation was good news for farmers.
“I am thrilled to see Bill Northey’s confirmation in the Senate,” Ernst told reporters during a conference call. “His long overdue confirmation to this essential role within the USDA is great news for our state and our country. His experience as a farmer and as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture makes him the ideal candidate.”
The past year has been one of waiting for Northey. Early in 2017 he was rumored to be up for a position in Washington, D.C., but months passed before anything official was announced. Finally, on Sept. 1, the Trump administration announced that Northey would be nominated for the Under Secretary position.
But later in the fall Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, put a hold on Northey’s nomination. The hold had nothing to do with Northey, but instead concerned Cruz’s opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and to the pricing of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) for fuel. In the past several months Cruz connected RIN prices with the bankruptcy of an oil refinery in Pennsylvania.
Cruz had a meeting with ethanol leaders and administration officials in December, but no agreement was made that led Cruz to release his hold on the Northey nomination. Another meeting was held Tuesday, but Grassley and Ernst said no promises were made to change the RFS or the RIN formula. They also both said that Cruz was miss-stating the facts regarding the economic impact of the RFS on the bankrupt refinery.
Meanwhile, Iowa agricultural groups welcomed the move Tuesday to confirm Northey, praising his work at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and saying he would do an outstanding job at USDA.