Sen. Chuck Grassley tried to get unanimous consent Wednesday from his Senate colleagues to confirm Secretary Bill Northey to serve as Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, but Sen. Ted Cruz still won’t give up.
President Donald Trump’s nomination of Northey, the current Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, to serve in this important post has been kept from a vote in the Senate since October 2017 due to an objection from Cruz. Senate approval of the Northey nomination is the last step toward Northey assuming the USDA position.
Grassley has worked to clear the objection of Cruz, saying that it was based on an issue that Northey will not be involved with at USDA, and that putting an outstanding leader like Northey in place is vitally important to American agriculture during debate this year on a new farm bill.
Cruz, apparently has no particular objection to Northey, but is using the nomination as leverage in a dispute over federal ethanol requirements that he says are hurting oil refineries.
“Farmers need Bill Northey on the job at USDA, and Senator Cruz’s hold is harmful to farmers,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and a farmer from North Dakota. “Senator Cruz claims he wants a “win-win” that benefits corn farmers. Corn farmers’ definition of a “win-win” is providing regulatory parity for E15 and higher blends of ethanol, which would increase the supply of RINs to lower RIN values, and improving transparency in the trading system. The only plan Senator Cruz has is to block the confirmation of a well-qualified and much-needed leader at the Department of Agriculture in order to undercut the successful and beneficial Renewable Fuel Standard.”