No recommendation, but Iowa agriculture secretary Northey has discussed his replacement with Reynolds

'I certainly will support her choice'

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey speaks during a recent news conference with  then-Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and then-Gov. Terry Branstad. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey speaks during a recent news conference with then-Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and then-Gov. Terry Branstad. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has discussed his replacement with Gov. Kim Reynolds, but has not recommended who should succeed him if his nomination to be a USDA undersecretary is approved.

Northey, 57, a third-term Republican, was nominated in September to be undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Although Northey was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee, he’s in political limbo because Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has placed a hold on the nomination. Cruz is seeking concessions from the EPA on its application of the Renewable Fuel Standard that would be more favorable for oil producers and refiners.

If his nomination is approved, Northey will resign from his current post and Reynolds will appoint someone to serve the remainder of his term, which expires in January 2019.

Although Reynolds’ spokeswoman, Brenna Smith, said until Northey’s nomination has been confirmed, “the governor’s office does not have anything new to say,” Northey said they’ve talked “just a little bit.”

“We talked mostly about the kinds of things I did and what I thought was important ... understanding water quality issues and being able to manage the department in case we get another round of budget cuts,” Northey said.

“She had a great feel for this already. She’s been close to this,” he added, “but it was a chance to talk to her about those things she thinks are important.”

Northey hasn’t recommended who should be his replacement.

“I know there are people out there indicating preferences one way or another,” he said.

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Among them are Sen. Chuck Grassley, a co-chairman of Reynolds’ 2018 campaign. He’s made clear he’d like to see his grandson, State Rep. Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, named to the post. It has been rumored for some time that the younger Grassley would run for the post if Northey didn’t seek re-election. Some people see it as a steppingstone to succeeding his 84-year-old grandfather in the U.S. Senate.

Among the other names that have been mentioned are state Sens. Tim Kapucian of Keystone and Dan Zumbach of Ryan, former Rep. Annette Sweeney of Alden and Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Republican Craig Lang of Brooklyn, a farmer who previously was president of the Board of Regents and the Iowa Farm Bureau, is planning to run for the post in 2018.

For Northey, his successor is “something I want to let the governor be able have her choice on. I certainly will support her choice.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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