Cruz Lifts Hold; Senate Confirms Northey at USDA

Feb 27, 2018
Bill Northey
 Bill Northey, headshot
WASHINGTON, DC – The Senate confirmed Bill Northey as USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation today after an extended stalemate surrounding his confirmation.

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted unanimously last October to advance Northey, currently Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, but Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) held up the nominee for months in an effort to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

President Trump met this morning with Cruz at the White House, along with Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to discuss Cruz's issues with the RFS. Cruz then released his hold on Northey’s confirmation, ending a drawn-out standoff leaving several positions unfilled at the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA).

“Undersecretary Northey's confirmation is long overdue and we’re glad to see it finally go through,” said Ben Mosely, USA Rice vice president of government affairs.  “With this leadership role filled, we hope to soon see the administrator-level positions filled so they can get to work on the many issues facing rice farmers.”

While this morning’s meeting at the White House lifted the hold on Northey, a compromise on the RFS was not reached.

Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the RFS mandates that gasoline contain a certain percentage of biofuels, mostly ethanol from corn.  The senators from Iowa, the country’s largest producer of biofuels, have pushed back on Cruz’s criticism of the RFS.  Cruz says the RFS hurts energy jobs, a particular concern for Pennsylvania refineries.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has long supported Northey’s nomination, calling him “a quality candidate” and “an authentic farmer” who is trusted in Iowa.  “We’re anxious to get him up on the job,” Perdue has said.