Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Bill Northey appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary from the farm and foreign agricultural services.
One of those is the conservation reserve program, which pays farmers to take certain lands out of production and maintain them for environmental goals. Northey hedged on whether he would support expanding the amount of acres allowed in the program.
“We need to have conversations with our secretary, [Sonny] Perdue, and be able to understand exactly what the administration’s support is,” Northey says, “but CRP is an important program and it answers many of the natural resource needs that are out there.”
Northey did not waver on his commitment to crop insurance and to promoting voluntary conservation measures to reduce pollution from farm fields flushing into rivers. Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Northey what he’d do for dairy farmers struggling to stay in business in a climate of over-supply and with a safety-net program that many say is not helping.
“If confirmed, I would be very interested in being able to work to see what kinds of programs could work better,” Northey says. “We heard many concerns from many members about the lack of risk management tools for dairy producers.”
Northey appeared alongside Nebraska’s Greg Ibach, who’s up for another undersecretary post. If the committee approves their nominations, they will face a confirmation vote in the full Senate. Agriculture committee chair Sen. Pat Roberts told them he’d advocate for expeditious attention to their nominations.
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