Senate Ag holds hearing on Northey, Ibach
October 9, 2017
The Senate Agriculture Committee on Oct. 5 held a hearing on President Donald Trump's nominations of Bill Northey to be agriculture undersecretary for farm production and conservation and Greg Ibach to be the agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
Northey is the Iowa agriculture secretary and Ibach is the director of the Nebraska Agriculture Department.
In an opening statement, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., noted Northey is technically nominated to be agriculture undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services but he expects legislation will shortly change the title to agriculture undersecretary for farm production and conservation.
As part of fulfilling the congressional mandate in the 2014 farm bill, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue split that position and give the responsibility for the Foreign Agricultural Service to the Office of the Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.
Perdue also moved the Natural Resources Conservation Service from the Office of the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment to the Office of the Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
Roberts said Northey and Ibach both have valuable "boots-on-the-ground" experience.
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"They are both farmers. They know what weighs on the minds of farmers and ranchers, the challenges they face on daily basis, and the focus and drive they put into their life's work," Roberts said. "And, significantly, they are both dedicated public servants who have led their home state's agriculture departments."
The nominees have the support of more than 60 farm and conservation organizations, he added.
Under questioning from Roberts, Northey said "crop insurance is the most important part of the farm safety net," and Ibach pledged to address the threat of foreign agricultural diseases and threats.
In her opening statement, senate agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., noted Northey is from Iowa and Ibach is from Nebraska and pointed out the true strength of American agriculture is rooted in "the diversity of what we grow" in states such as California and Michigan.
To Northey, Stabenow said, "We need your commitment to make crop insurance stronger and more accessible to every farmer no matter where they are or what they grow."
Stabenow also told Northey, "I know you personally understand that agriculture needs to be part of the solution in addressing water quality issues. If confirmed for this role, I urge you to continue to prioritize the protection of our land and water."
To Ibach, she said, "Back home, I keep seeing more and more 'Michigan Made' signs in grocery stores all across the state. This is a trend I want to see continue, and I hope you will commit to support our growing local food economy."
After the hearing, Perdue said in a statement, "These two nominees will bring experience and integrity to USDA the moment they walk in the door."
"Greg Ibach's work as Nebraska's director of agriculture has prepared him to address the needs of American agriculture, particularly regarding the cattle industry," Perdue said. "Bill Northey, the Iowa secretary of agriculture, will give us a fourth generation corn and soybean farmer who knows the issues facing producers across the nation.
"I look forward to their speedy passage through the committee and floor votes, and urge the Senate to act on other nominees awaiting approval as well."
A spokeswoman for Roberts said a committee vote on the nominations would be held as soon as possible after the Senate returns from recess next week.