In letter, Cruz acknowledges blocking Northey nomination; calls for meeting

Source: By Jason Noble, Des Moines register • Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2017

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday sent a letter to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledging his role in blocking the nomination of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to a senior post in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In the letter, Cruz tells Reynolds he is blocking Northey’s appointment as a USDA undersecretary in an attempt to compel stakeholders from corn-growing states like Iowa to sit down with officials from the oil-refining industry to discuss changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard.

That’s the federal mandate requiring corn-based ethanol and other biofuels to be blended into the national fuel supply.

“I have placed a hold on the nomination of Bill Northey to be the undersecretary for farm production and conservation until and unless we secure the aforementioned meeting where we can bring diverse interests together to try to find meaningful short-term solutions while setting the stage for longer-term policy certainty,” Cruz wrote.

Cruz is a Republican who ran for president last year and won Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, although he voiced opposition to the RFS even as he crisscrossed the state campaigning for president.

Cruz writes in the letter that the current law is being subverted by “fast-talking bankers on Wall Street” who have driven up the price for credits refiners must purchase to meet the federal renewable fuels mandate. Corn-growers and refiners alike have an interest in reforming the system to prevent such speculation, he argued.

A spokeswoman for Reynolds, who’s also a Republican, on Wednesday acknowledged that the governor’s office had received the letter.

Reynolds has not responded to Cruz, although her office released a statement to the Des Moines Register:

“The hold on Sec. Bill Northey’s nomination is unnecessary,” spokeswoman Brenna Smith said. “Sec. Northey is an incredibly qualified candidate and should be confirmed immediately. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was in Iowa last weekend. He expressed his desire for Sec. Northey to be confirmed as quickly as possible to get him on the ground in Washington, D.C., and begin advocating for our nation’s hardworking farmers.”

As Smith’s statement notes, Cruz’s letter comes just days after Perdue visited Iowa. During that trip, he suggested Iowans start a “Free Northey” campaign to push his nomination through the Senate. At her weekly press conference on Tuesday, Reynolds held up a t-shirt bearing the words “Free Bill” and said she would wear it during Republican Governors Association meetings this week in Texas.

Smith added that no meeting like the one proposed by Cruz was necessary to advance Northey’s confirmation.

“He is an exceptional choice, and that’s the beginning and end of it,” she said of Northey.