Hoeven Highlights North Dakota Priorities with USDA Nominees

WASHINGTON – At a recent hearing of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator John Hoeven, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, discussed key priorities for North Dakota with nominees to serve at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Hoeven stressed the importance of trade, crop insurance, agriculture research and other programs, while also urging them to secure additional support for producers facing natural disasters, like the drought in North Dakota this year. The nominees recently considered by the committee include:

Ted McKinney, to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs – This position is tasked with growing foreign markets for American products. Hoeven served as a member of the Senate-House Conference Committee that crafted the final farm bill of 2014, which directed USDA to create the undersecretary of trade position. The senator met with McKinney last month, where he stressed the importance of exports to the nation’s farmers and urged him to push back against unfair trade practices.

Stephen Censky, to serve as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture – Mr. Censky will be the second-highest ranking official at USDA, responsible for implementing the department’s mission and coordinating day-to-day activities across agricultural agencies.

Gregory Ibach, to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs – Mr. Ibach will oversee the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Agriculture Marketing Services (AMS) and the Grain Inspection, Packer and Stockyards Act (GIPSA), which will be merged into AMS.

William Northey, to serve as Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services – Mr. Northey will lead the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

McKinney and Censky were confirmed by the full Senate on Wednesday.

“As we work to fill key positions at USDA, we’re making sure they understand our state’s priorities,” Hoeven said. “That includes not only the farm bill, our counter-cyclical safety net, crop insurance and agriculture research, but also the drought and making sure support is there for our farmers and ranchers. I look forward to advancing the nominations through the Senate and working with these officials to strengthen our agriculture programs and craft the 2018 farm bill.”

This effort aligns with Hoeven’s work to prepare for the upcoming farm bill. Hoeven is using the nomination process as an opportunity to begin working these USDA officials early to help secure needed improvements to the farm bill and ensure agriculture programs are implemented in a way that best serves producers’ needs. The senator continues to meet with farmers and ranchers across North Dakota to gather feedback and outline his priorities for the 2018 farm bill, including:

  • Strong Crop Insurance – The senator is working to strengthen and prevent cuts to the crop insurance program, which is the primary risk management tool for many producers. 
  • Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) – Hoeven secured $5 million for a pilot program in the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill, and funding in the Senate’s FY 2018 Appropriations bill, to improve the fairness of ARC payment calculations, while exploring long-term solutions to the problem for the next farm bill. 
  • Sugar Program – The senator said he will work to extend the sugar program in a bipartisan manner, ensuring that American producers have a level playing field in the world sugar market.
  • Agriculture Research – Hoeven will work to include strong support for agricultural research, like the work done at North Dakota State University and the North Dakota Extension Service, to enhance crop genetics and production.
  • Drought Support – Hoeven continues working to secure all possible support for farmers and ranchers to help them weather the drought. The senator is also working to improve the livestock assistance programs in the next farm bill and ensure they work for ranchers when needed most.