Trump taps ag policy veteran for USDA deputy secretary post

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017

President Trump selected a Washington, D.C., veteran of agriculture policy to be deputy secretary at the Department of Agriculture.

The White House said yesterday that Trump intends to nominate Stephen Censky, CEO of the American Soybean Association (ASA) for the past 21 years, to the post.

The appointment requires Senate confirmation.

In addition to his work for soybean producers, Censky has a background working at USDA, where he was administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service during the George H.W. Bush administration. He also worked at the department during the Reagan administration and was a legislative assistant in the Senate.

In his role at USDA, Censky helped craft the 1990 farm bill, a process he would relive for the 2018 farm bill if confirmed.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised the announcement.

“Our work has only just begun in delivering results for the people of American agriculture, and the experience and leadership skills of Stephen Censky will only enhance our efforts,” Perdue said in a statement. “He will bring enthusiasm and a dedication to this country which will be great assets to USDA’s customers.”

The ASA, representing growers of the second most plentiful crop in the United States, touted his potential move to the administration.

“Nobody in agriculture is better equipped to assist Secretary Perdue in meeting the needs of farmers with practical solutions than Steve. He is a perfect fit for this role and we give him our strongest endorsement,” Ron Moore, ASA president, said in a news release.

In the years since Censky worked at USDA, soybeans have transformed into a major commodity, serving not only as a feed for livestock but as a major food ingredient, a source of exports for U.S. farmers and a feedstock for alternative fuel.

Farmers grow about 20 million acres more soybeans now than they did when he joined the ASA in 1996, according to the association.

USDA’s role in biofuels has grown in that time, as well, and the ASA noted the change in a news release. Soybeans’ use in fuel was almost zero when Censky joined the association, but the crop is now a significant source for biodiesel, the association said.

Censky grew up on a soybean farm near Jackson, Minn., and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from South Dakota State University, as well as a master’s degree in agricultural science from the University of Melbourne in Australia, according to the ASA.

He and his wife live near St. Louis and have two daughters in college.

His pending nomination is the second announced for USDA after Perdue, who has been waiting for White House action on names he submitted for posts.

His nomination is likely to attract public praise across commodity and farm groups. Mary Kay Thatcher, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said he’s highly organized and well-suited for a job that essentially runs the department’s day-to-day activities.

Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, welcomed the news last night.

“His longtime experience in agriculture and dedication to bettering the lives of all farmers make him an excellent fit for this position,” Goule said.