A large crowd gathered at this year’s Iowa Agriculture Leaders banquet in Des Moines  Tuesday night to see Bill Northey, Iowa’s long-time Secretary of Agriculture, finally sworn in for his new USDA post by U.S.Agriculture Secretary,Sonny Perdue.

“After months of waiting, I’m thrilled to finally have Bill on board at USDA,” Perdue stated. “We’ve waited a long time for a good man.”

The Spirit Lake, Iowa, farmer heads to Washington this week to begin his role as the USDA’s Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service. But there will be some uncertainty about his title and responsibilities for a while. Under USDA’s reorganization plan, he’s intended to serve as the newly-named Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC), overseeing the USDA’s domestic-facing agencies: The Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.

Northey was nominated for the position nearly seven months ago, but was held up by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, over his concerns about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  When questioned by reporters if any compromises had been made on the RFS to secure Northey's confirmation, Perdue said that was "fake news." However, Perdue did comment on their continued work in Washington to secure a deal for ethanol producers.

“My bottom line immutable, inviolate proposals, are no less than the minimum RVO of 15 billion gallons, as well as extending the RVP waiver for 15 percent, building that by the time the statutory limit goes away in 2022. I want America to be used to E-15 rather than E-10, and that will grow the volume; and I think the RINs will take care of themselves,” Perdue said.

Perdue also said while he now has Northey – whom he described as another “gem” -- in Washington, there are still many USDA positions waiting to be filled.

“It’s taken way too long. We are over a year after President Trump’s inauguration and, really, Bill just makes kind of half of the undersecretaries. We’ve got at least four others to go,” Perdue said. “We’ve got forestry, food nutrition, food safety, and we’ve got research and education. So we are getting a great team together; it’s going much slower than I like, but we’re going for a quality,” Perdue said with a chuckle. referencing standing Northey next to him.

Perdue also discussed the new potential trade threat looming ahead for the United States’ economy, and more specifically agriculture.

“Obviously his (President Trump’s) words today to Canada and Mexico regarding NAFTA, vis-a-vis the steel tariffs and the aluminum tariffs, we think there may be an opening there. President Trump is a unique negotiator and sometimes he keeps people off balance, even his own staff sometimes, and he certainly did that this last week” said Perdue.

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