Northey confirmed for USDA post

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to a top post in the USDA, ending a long stalemate in which Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas blocked the nomination.

On a voice vote, the Senate approved Northey?s nomination to become undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

His confirmation came after Cruz, a Republican, lifted his hold on the nomination. And it occurred on the same day that farm- and oil-state lawmakers were meeting with President Trump and other officials over the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Cruz, a critic of the law, has been pushing for changes, as well as a meeting over the matter. He said Tuesday once he got his meeting with the president and the Iowa senators, he removed the hold.

The hold was seen as an attempt to gain leverage in the biofuels dispute, and Iowa Republicans have been pressuring Cruz, the winner of the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses, to lift the hold. Northey was nominated for the job months ago.

After the Senate?s vote, Iowa Republicans and farm industry groups praised Northey.

?Bill Northey is a talented, passionate, hard-working Iowan, and I am excited to see him serve in this new role,? Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement.

?For the past decade, Bill Northey has served admirably as Iowa?s Secretary of Agriculture,? Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill said, pointing to his implementation of Iowa?s voluntary nutrient reduction strategy.

In his own statement, Northey said Tuesday he is honored by the approval.

?While this process has taken longer than expected, I remain as excited as ever to work with Secretary (Sonny) Perdue and the staff at USDA to support our nation?s farmers and ranchers,? he said.

Northey?s exit from the Iowa agriculture department highlights a growing contest to replace him. Several people in both parties have announced their intent to compete for the post or are expected to do so this year.

The governor?s office said Tuesday that she would appoint for Northey fairly shortly after he submits his resignation.

Farm and oil states have been arguing over the Renewable Fuel Standard for years, and Tuesday?s White House meeting was an attempt to iron out differences over the impact of complying with the law. Recently, a Pennsylvania refinery filed for bankruptcy protection, blaming the RFS and the price of credits that prove compliance. The biofuels industry says that other factors were to blame.

Cruz has pushed for changes in the law, but Sen. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Iowa Republicans who took part in Tuesday?s meeting, said the dispute remains with no resolution. ?No deal? was reached, Grassley said.