Pat Grassley could be biggest winner if Bill Northey moves to USDA

A potential federal job for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey may provide a stepping stone for State Representative Pat Grassley.

Northey discussed ethanol policy at the White House on Tuesday during a round-table meeting with President Donald Trump and newly-confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Reports of the event fueled speculation that Northey may soon move to a position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Speaking to Iowa reporters yesterday, Northey emphasized that no job offer is on the table but said of Perdue, “I certainly look forward to working with him. I don’t know what role that might be. […] I certainly would love to work with him as Iowa Secretary of Ag. If there’s another job offered, I’d be very willing to consider that as well.”

Trump put Iowa’s own Sam Clovis in charge of handling USDA appointments in January, after Clovis had served as his surrogate in some agricultural policy discussions during the campaign.

Northey has not clarified whether he plans to seek a fourth term as secretary of agriculture in 2018. He had been widely expected to run for governor next year but ruled that out immediately after Governor Terry Branstad agreed to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

If Northey resigns before the end of his term, Iowa law calls for the governor to appoint a replacement to serve until the next election. The last time that process came into play, Branstad named Mary Mosiman as state auditor in 2013. She was unchallenged for the GOP nomination for that office the following year.

I would expect Grassley to lobby Branstad–or Kim Reynolds, if she is acting as governor by that time–for the secretary of agriculture position. The job would be a good way to increase his statewide profile with a view to running for his grandfather’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022. The elder Grassley wasn’t subtle about lobbying for Northey to get the top USDA job, presumably to clear a path for his grandson.

First elected to the Iowa House in 2006, the younger Grassley just completed his second year leading the House Appropriations Committee. He had previously chaired the House Agriculture Committee for three years and the Economic Growth/Rebuild Iowa Committee for two years before that.

I enclose below the official bios for Northey and Pat Grassley. Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson posted the audio of Northey’s comments about a possible USDA position.

Official bio of Bill Northey from the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s website:

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey is a fourth-generation Iowa farmer that grows corn and soybeans on his farm near Spirit Lake. He started farming with his grandfather, Sid Northey, after graduating from Iowa State University in 1981.

The people of Iowa elected Northey to be Secretary of Agriculture in November of 2006 and reelected him in 2010 and 2014. Northey ran on a platform of expanding opportunities in renewable energy, promoting science and technology to better conserve our air, soil and water, and telling the story of Iowa agriculture.

As Secretary, Northey has committed to traveling to each of Iowa’s 99 counties to hear from farmers and rural residents with a stake in the future of agriculture. These meetings allow him to listen to their needs and better lead the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship as it seeks to serve the people of the state.

On his farm, Northey uses reduced tillage, GPS, grid soil sampling. Besides raising corn and soybeans, the Northey farm has grown alfalfa and raised hogs and cattle throughout the years.

Throughout his career in agriculture, Northey has been a leader in a variety of farm groups. From 1995-96, he served as President of the National Corn Growers Association and was Chairman of the group in 1996-97. He has led a number of Committees for the Corn Growers, as well.

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather E. Howard Hill, who served as president from 1947 – 1963, Northey has also been active in Iowa Farm Bureau. He was named a “Friend of Agriculture” by the Iowa Farm Bureau Political Action Committee in 2006 and 2010 and has served in a number of Farm Bureau offices at the county and state level, including serving as President, Vice President and committee chairman of the Dickinson County Farm Bureau.

Northey has also served on the Iowa USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee, was a Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner and was a board member of Ag Ventures Alliance.

As a result of his involvement in these organizations, Northey has traveled around the world to view agriculture and promote Iowa’s products.

He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Agricultural Business and was a member of FarmHouse Fraternity, serving as its President his senior year. Northey received a Masters in Business Administration from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2004.

Iowa House Republicans bio of State Representative Pat Grassley:

Pat Grassley is serving his sixth term in the Iowa House.

Pat was born on May 26, 1983, in New Hartford. His father, Robin, is a farmer and his mother, Diane, is a Teacher’s Assistant in the Dike‐New Hartford School District. Pat has two younger sisters.

He attended Dike‐New Hartford Schools, graduating in 2002. Pat then went on to Hawkeye Community College where he graduated in 2004. Pat farms the family farm with his father and grandfather. Pat and his wife, Amanda, were married in 2005. She is an RN. They are the proud parents of two daughters, Indee and Reagan, and one son, Chancellor.

Pat and his family attend the New Hartford Methodist Church. They live outside New Hartford.

Pat has been active with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Oak Hill Cemetery Foundation Board in New Hartford. He also supports the Dike-New Hartford community by helping coach area youth sports teams.

Top image: Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey (left) and State Representative Pat Grassley (right).

  • Gaaaaah!

    Thank you for the political reality check, even though it felt like an icy shower with hailstones. What a prospect.

    It has been maddening to watch Bill Northey roaming the state and “telling the story of agriculture,” which means waving pom-poms and spouting carefully-selected statistics to make Iowa’s pathetic water-quality progress look better. (C’mon, Bill, when we start with a measly 10,000 acres of cover crops in this entire 36-million-acre state, a 6000% increase still only means “slightly less paltry.”)

    And I also remember a Nutrient Reduction Strategy meeting in Ames at which the several hundred attendees were not permitted to speak out loud even to ask questions (incredible but true in the Branstad Era), but Bill assured us that Iowa farmers would do what needs to be done for water quality even without regulations or funding, mostly because (essentially) of the goodness of their hearts. Possibly he really believed that, I dunno.

    But Iowa farm conservation statistics indicate that his hopeful fairy tale has not come true. And apparently Bill is not using no-till or cover crops on his own farm(?!) In the year 2017, “reduced tillage,” on the scale of water-protecting farm conservation, is bupkis.

    And yet everything I know about Pat Grassley tells me that he would be worse. Worse. If I am wrong, and I really would like to be wrong, please correct and reassure me, someone.

  • Sigh!

    Please oh powers that be, spare us another Grassley! Haven’t we suffered enough?

  • The latest Northey pom-pom waving

    Bill Northey just released a press release for Soil and Water Conservation Week, which runs April 30 to May 7. There is nothing repeat nothing in that press release about Iowa’s horribly unsustainable soil erosion rate (the average rowcropped Iowa acre is losing topsoil twenty times as fast as it’s being replaced). Nor is there any mention of Iowa’s awful water quality.

    Nor is there even a hint that a lot more conservation work badly needs to be done in Iowa and needs to be done now. Nope, the press release says this week is to “celebrate all the work that has been done and highlight the efforts currently underway to prevent erosion and improve water quality.” Rah rah rah, sis boom bah!

    Although the prospect of Pat Grassley is not a happy one, I do wish Bill would take his rolling pom-pom act out of this state.

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