Senate confirms USDA’s No. 2, top trade posts

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Senate last night approved two nominees for high-ranking positions at the Department of Agriculture.

On voice votes, the Senate confirmed Stephen Censky for deputy secretary of Agriculture and Ted McKinney for undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

The move puts Censky, a longtime leader at the American Soybean Association, into the department’s No. 2 slot, responsible for much of USDA’s day-to-day operations.

McKinney, formerly Agriculture director in Indiana, fills the trade-related position Congress created in the 2014 farm bill, but which is being filled for the first time.

Senate action swiftly followed the Senate Agriculture Committee’s approval of the candidates Monday. Both nominees were widely praised by farm groups.

Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has said quick approval of USDA nominees is important, given the need to work on the 2018 farm bill.

With those nominations completed, the next action will be an Agriculture Committee hearing tomorrow on the nominations of Greg Ibach for undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, and Bill Northey for undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

Ibach is the Department of Agriculture director in Nebraska, and Northey heads the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

Two remaining nominees are awaiting hearings, Stephen Vaden for USDA general counsel and Sam Clovis for undersecretary for research, education and economics.

Vaden is a former lawyer at Jones Day and was a member of the Trump administration’s landing team at USDA.

Clovis, the former conservative radio talk show host and Trump campaign co-chairman, has faced criticism from Democrats for his lack of science experience and provocative comments about racial politics as a radio host.