Northey and Ibach face Senate panel this week

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 2, 2017

Two nominees for undersecretary posts at the Department of Agriculture will come before the Senate Agriculture Committee this week.

Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) scheduled nomination hearings Thursday for William Northey, up for undersecretray for farm production and conservation; and Greg Ibach for undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

Northey is agriculture secretary in Iowa, and Ibach holds the same post in Nebraska. They’re among three state agriculture directors President Trump has nominated for USDA undersecretary posts.

Both have support from a wide variety of farm and conservation groups, and the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), has called them “mainstream” candidates who should be quickly confirmed.

Northey could face questions about agriculture’s effect on water quality in Iowa and on conservation programs’ potential to reduce pollution of water sources. In Iowa, Des Moines Water Works has sought to have runoff from fertilizer regulated as a pollutant, including filing a lawsuit against rural counties the utility has linked to the problem.

Northey has called the federal lawsuit, which was dismissed in May, a waste of money that could have been used on conservation measures. In August, his office announced that more than 2,600 Iowa farmers had signed up to try cover crops and other conservation measures through a state cost-sharing program.

After a slow start filling posts at USDA, the administration has sent six nominations to the committee, and Roberts told reporters last week he’s working as quickly as possible to schedule confirmation hearings, once the committee reviews candidates’ paperwork and lawmakers meet with the nominees.

Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, Oct. 5, at 9:30 a.m. in 328-A Russell.

Witnesses: Greg Ibach and William Northey.