Censky: USDA needs Northey, but subcabinet interviews begin
PHOENIX — The Agriculture Department needs Bill Northey, the Iowa agriculture secretary whose nomination for Agriculture undersecretary for farm production and conservation has been put on hold by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, according to Agriculture Deputy Secretary Steve Censky.
“We hope to get Bill Northey freed,” Censky told reporters after a speech to the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau annual meeting last week.
But Censky said as Cruz’s hold on Northey continues, he and other USDA officials began interviewing candidates for the positions that would fall under Northey: the administrators of the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency and the chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
But Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue doesn’t want to make those appointments without an undersecretary in place, he added.
Censky noted Northey is caught up in the battles between ethanol and petroleum, but said he does not think that the issues of Renewable Identification Numbers can be resolved within the debate over Northey.
Perdue has talked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., about moving Northey’s nomination, but “it is tough” for McConnell to go against a member of his own caucus, Censky said.
Meanwhile, Northey faces a decision of whether to continue to be a candidate for the USDA position or to run again for Iowa agriculture secretary.
Mike Naig, Northey’s deputy in Iowa, said he is exploring running for the job, but won’t if Northey decides to run again. Other Republicans have already announced their plans to run on the assumption that Northey would depart.