News broke this week regarding the USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services position. This appointment has been long overdue since it was created by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, in 2017. It is now being filled by Iowan Bill Northey, a corn and soybean farmer and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. This is important because his main priorities include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and Risk Management Agency — which are a crucial part of our industry’s success. With the Farm Bill talks continuing, a person in this role has major influence over these programs.
The National Cotton Council is one example of an organization applauding this appointment, with cotton producers stating his great leadership and stewardship toward the agricultural community. The NCC looks forward to working with him on the newly approved seed cotton provisions and has high hopes for the success of the program under the current Farm Bill.
Northey was raised in the farming community, growing up on a farm his grandpa purchased in the 1930’s. He continued farming into adulthood and in the ‘80s, began serving on the Iowa Corn Grower’s Board of Directors, which then led to a presidency on both the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the National Corn Growers Association. He was highly involved in establishment of the ethanol industry and served as a local county soil and conservation district commissioner. He also spent five years with the Iowa State FSA committee. Even while serving as the Iowa State Secretary of Agriculture, he continued to farm — working nights and weekends. This is all evidence of his capability in handling his new title as the third highest ranked position in USDA.
The importance of this position is not to be taken lightly. Northey’s duties will help to shape the programs on the next Farm Bill, such as continuing the seed cotton program. We have discussed conservation as well as touched on loans and risk management in previous articles and understand the importance of each. Northey recognizes, and has the knowledge, to improve these areas of the Farm Bill. His goal in this position is to create better customer service for producers, embrace technologies to improve efficiency, and bring organizations, within USDA or outside of it, closer together to improve, and strengthen, the industry and programs implemented through the Farm Bill. His top priority is ensuring producers get all the assistance they need from USDA.
Here is his testimony regarding his nomination for the USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services position and his goals within that role. He will hopefully be a great asset to the Farm Bill update.
Markie Hageman is a senior, majoring in agribusiness, at Fort Hays State University. She is actively involved in her state Cattlemen’s Association, Young Farmers chapter, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Follow her series exploring various parts of the next Farm Bill.