Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue traveled to Omaha, Neb., Monday to swear in Greg Ibach as U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
Ibach is the third undersecretary to join Perdue at USDA, although Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey’s Senate confirmation has been placed on hold by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).
In comments at the ceremony, Perdue said he had hoped that the event would be for both Ibach and Northey. He said both are “so clearly not bureaucrats” but instead are “authentic agriculturists” who have learned how to get things done within the bureaucracies of state governments and maintain the “dirt under their fingernails” with agriculture at heart.
Ibach, who has served as Nebraska’s director of agriculture for 12 years, will become undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, which oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Marketing Service and the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration.
Ibach said balance will be a key part of how he addresses his new role, including balancing the regulatory responsibility while also looking for opportunities to expand U.S. agriculture.
“I hope to create a framework consumers can trust in agriculture and in the food supply not only here in the United States but as they look to us as a supplier worldwide,” he said in comments after being sworn in.
Northey, who was elected as Iowa’s secretary of agriculture in 2006 and re-elected in 2010 and 2014, has been cleared by the Senate Agriculture Committee to serve in the new combined mission area as undersecretary for farm production and conservation, which oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.
Cruz has placed a hold on Northey not over his credentials but in retaliation for Sens. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) placing holds on Environmental Protection Agency nominees and pressuring EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s on the Renewable Fuel Standard.
When Perdue was asked about the level of frustration on the hold, he said he couldn’t even express it. He said it is “unfortunate” and hopes it will be resolved soon, explaining, “It is October. We need people to go to work.”
Perdue has changed the undersecretary position Northey will assume, once confirmed, to a farmer-focused agency including farm and conservation programs. “He’ll do a great job there with the heart of a farmer knowing what it’s like to sit across the table,” Perdue said.