USDA’s staff continues to be filled out, as President Donald Trump made three more selections over the weekend. The president announced Gregory Ibach as undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Bill Northey as undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation, and Stephen Vaden as USDA’s general counsel.
Ibach has been Nebraska agriculture director since 2005 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Dave Heineman, and was maintained in that position when Pete Ricketts became Nebraska governor in 2015.
Northey has been the Iowa secretary of agriculture since he was first elected in 2006. The people of Iowa reelected him in 2010 and again in 2014. He is a fourth-generation farmer from the Spirit Lake, Iowa, area where his family grows corn and soybeans. He started farming with his grandfather Sid Northey after graduating from Iowa State University in 1981.
Since January, Vaden has served as the acting general counsel to the USDA. He formerly was an associate in Washington, D.C., at Jones Day and, earlier, at Squire Patton Boggs. The White House says Vaden focused on litigation, appellate matters, election and administrative law. Vaden, a Yale Law School alum, was part of the “beachhead team” at USDA after Trump’s win.
The undersecretary for MRP oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; the Agricultural Marketing Service; and the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. The undersecretary for FPAC oversees three critical USDA agencies: the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.
USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauds the president’s selection of the three for these key positions within the department.
“I look forward to the confirmations of Greg Ibach, Bill Northey and Stephen Vaden, and urge the Senate to take up their nominations as quickly as possible,” Perdue says. “This is especially important given the challenges USDA will face in helping Texans and Louisianans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.”
Perdue says Ibach “will bring the experience and vision necessary to serve as a first rate undersecretary for MRP at USDA. His exemplary tenure as Nebraska’s director of agriculture places him squarely in tune with the needs of American agriculture, particularly the cattle industry. His proven track record of leadership will make him a great asset to USDA’s customers, the hard working, taxpaying people of U.S. agriculture.”
Perdue looks at Northey’s farming background as an asset to him being named to the USDA team.
“Having served the people of Iowa for the last 10 years as their secretary of agriculture, and as a fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer, Bill has a unique understanding of issues facing farmers across the nation. He will be an invaluable member of the team.”
As mentioned above, Vaden has been a part of USDA since January, and Perdue says his legal experience in the department has already been witnessed. “Stephen Vaden has a keen legal mind, as we have already experienced through his work since he joined USDA as part of the beachhead team on Day 1. He has a firm grasp of the legal issues facing American agriculture, and very importantly, understands the breadth and complexity of the regulatory burdens placed on our producers. Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers will be well served by his counsel.”
Steve Censky, Ted McKinney and Sam Clovis were nominated by Trump in late-July, and they still await their confirmation hearings. It is expected that the Senate Agriculture Committee will take up the hearings later this month for Censky, as USDA deputy secretary; McKinney, as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs; and Sam Clovis, as USDA’s chief scientist.