Government

Report: Iowa's Northey headed to job with USDA

State ag secretary declines to confirm if he's leaving

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey appears May 5 at Couser Cattle Co. in Nevada, Iowa, during a visit by U.S. Secre
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey appears May 5 at Couser Cattle Co. in Nevada, Iowa, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. (Matthew Patane/The Gazette)

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will be named to a newly created position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a farm industry website has reported.

Northey, a Spirit Lake farmer in his third term as state ag secretary, previously has said he’d consider a post in the USDA. Saturday, the Republican wrote on Facebook he would not confirm the report.

“I appreciate the kind comments and support from so many friends here in Iowa and across the country as news has circulated recently about a possible role for me at USDA,” he wrote. “The appointment process can take time to unfold and it is important not to be overly presumptive. I hope you will all understand that I cannot confirm anything or make any formal comment about the rumored appointment at USDA.”

According to an article posted Friday by agweb.com — an online report of the Farm Journal — Northey is expected to become undersecretary for farm production and conservation, one of three positions created under a reorganization by new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. The position oversees the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Agweb.com quoted Jim Wiesemeyer, senior vice president of policy and trade issues for Informa Economics Inc., as saying “you can almost go to the bank” on the appointment. The company specializes in agribusiness analysis.

If Northey were to leave for the federal post, his replacement for the rest of his term would be named by the governor’s office. The position is up for election in 2018.

Northey was among those who advised the Donald Trump campaign on agricultural issues.

In January, before Trump had been sworn in as president, Iowa’s Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted his support for Northey being named to the top USDA job. “Why don’t THEY settle on a gr8 VOICE FOR AGRICULTURE BILL NORTHEY,” he tweeted.

Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, was later named to the job.

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Citing unnamed sources, the political news website Politico reported April 27 that Northey was being considered for deputy secretary, the ag department’s No. 2 spot.

Northey has said he would consider taking a role with the USDA.

“I don’t know what role that might be,” he said on a call with reporters at the time. “I certainly would love to work with him as Iowa secretary of ag. If there is another job that is offered, I would be very willing to consider that.”

Agweb.com also reported that Sam Clovis, an agricultural adviser to Trump during the campaign, is being eyed as undersecretary for research, education and economics. Clovis has been a conservative activist in northwest Iowa.

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