OMAHA (DTN) -- The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on Thursday moved to a full Senate vote the nominations of Gregory Ibach and Bill Northey to key USDA posts.
Nebraska native Ibach has been nominated as undersecretary of agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, and Northey of Iowa was nominated to be undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services.
During an Oct. 5 hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, senators seemed to find no reasons to oppose either nominee.
If confirmed, Ibach would oversee the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration. Northey would be in charge of three agencies: the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.
As part of the official record on the nominations, Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced a letter they sent to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, regarding Northey's nomination. Once confirmed, USDA planned to have Northey serve as undersecretary for farm production and conservation, as part of a USDA reorganization.
"A question has arisen regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture's authority," the letter said, "pursuant to a recent department reorganization proposed in May to change the duties and title of an official confirmed by the Senate.
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"This confusion arises from the department's suggestion that it intends to have the nominee serve in a different position, that of undersecretary for farm production and conservation, after confirmation."
The letter said that, through the Senate's advice and consent role in the appointment process, "officers serving in Senate-confirmed positions created by law with accompanying designated duties may not be moved to a different office that requires Senate confirmation."
Roberts and Stabenow said they intend to work with USDA on legislation to clarify the duties of the undersecretaries.
Iowa Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst lauded Northey's nomination.
"Five min ago Bill Northey was unanimously approved by agriculture committee," Grassley announced on his Twitter feed. "He will make fine under Secy of Ag at usda now to get him thru Sen8."
Ernst said Northey's agriculture background will serve him well.
"As a fourth-generation farmer, Mr. Northey has an innate understanding of our agricultural community and the obstacles our farmers and ranchers face," she said.
"At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Northey illustrated his extensive knowledge and experience. I'm pleased that our committee sees what a qualified and fitting candidate he is for this position, and I look forward to his full consideration in the Senate."
In a statement following the committee vote, Roberts and Stabenow said they expect the full Senate to take up the nominations soon.
"The Senate Agriculture Committee continues to advance USDA nominees as swiftly as possible, and we expect a quick confirmation in the full Senate," said Roberts and Stabenow.
"Greg Ibach and Bill Northey are qualified and respected public servants who know agriculture firsthand, and they will serve rural America well at USDA."
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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