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Iowa’s Ag Secretary to Be Tapped for USDA Position Soon, Grassley Says

Bill Northey’s background clearance has held up the nomination.

WASHINGTON - President Trump probably will decide in the next week or two to go forward with the much-rumored nomination of Bill Northey, the Iowa state agriculture secretary, for USDA undersecretary, one step below Secretary Sonny Perdue as a policymaker, said Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) on Tuesday.
Since last spring, Northey has been the leading candidate for undersecretary for farm production and conservation, a newly created post overseeing the farm program and land stewardship.

“It’s just the red tape of doing every step you have to,” said Grassley, referring to the background and conflict-of-interest reviews of potential federal officials, when asked about Northey’s status. “He is in the last stages, the last step of that process and I would imagine that in a week or two, the president will be asked to sign off on it.”

Perdue lamented in June that background checks were moving slowly on half a dozen candidates for senior USDA posts. Since July 13, three nominations have been announced: Steve Censky for deputy secretary, Ted McKinney for undersecretary for trade, and Sam Clovis for undersecretary for research.

Grassley opened his weekly teleconference with farm reporters with a strong endorsement of Clovis, a former professor at Morningside College in Sioux City, and cochair of Trump’s presidential campaign. Since inauguration day, Clovis has been Trump’s top political operative at USDA. Critics say he is not qualified to be the research undersecretary, who doubles as USDA chief scientist, because he has no academic record in the hard sciences. By statute, undersecretary is to be chosen “among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

Clovis has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master's degree in business administration and a doctoral degree in public administration.

“There’s some(thing) said about him not being a scientist, but he’s also an economist,” said Grassley, who credited Clovis with a doctorate in economics and who stressed that Clovis was tabbed for undersecretary for research, education, and economics.

“I have known him for many years and have confidence in him to be a good public servant,” said Grassley.

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