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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

Northey Gets His Moment With The Senate Ag Committee

Amy Mayer
Iowa Public Radio
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, pictured at the Greater Des Moines Bontanical Garden in August, appeared before a senate panel Oct. 5, 2017.

Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bill Northey appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary from the farm and foreign agricultural services.

One of those is the conservation reserve program, which pays farmers to take certain lands out of production and maintain them for environmental goals. Northey hedged on whether he would support expanding the amount of acres allowed in the program.

“We need to have conversations with our secretary, [Sonny] Perdue, and be able to understand exactly what the administration’s support is,” Northey says, “but CRP is an important program and it answers many of the natural resource needs that are out there.”

Northey did not waver on his commitment to crop insurance and to promoting voluntary conservation measures to reduce pollution from farm fields flushing into rivers. Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Northey what he’d do for dairy farmers struggling to stay in business in a climate of over-supply and with a safety-net program that many say is not helping.

“If confirmed, I would be very interested in being able to work to see what kinds of programs could work better,” Northey says. “We heard many concerns from many members about the lack of risk management tools for dairy producers.”

Northey appeared alongside Nebraska’s Greg Ibach, who’s up for another undersecretary post. If the committee approves their nominations, they will face a confirmation vote in the full Senate. Agriculture committee chair Sen. Pat Roberts told them he’d advocate for expeditious attention to their nominations.


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Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames. She covers agriculture and is part of the Harvest Public Media collaboration. Amy worked as an independent producer for many years and also previously had stints as weekend news host and reporter at WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts and as a reporter and host/producer of a weekly call-in health show at KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska. Amy’s work has earned awards from SPJ, the Alaska Press Club and the Massachusetts/Rhode Island AP. Her stories have aired on NPR news programs such as Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition and on Only A Game, Marketplace and Living on Earth. She produced the 2011 documentary Peace Corps Voices, which aired in over 160 communities across the country and has written for The New York Times, Boston Globe, Real Simple and other print outlets. Amy served on the board of directors of the Association of Independents in Radio from 2008-2015.