President Trump’s pick for Undersecretary of Farm Production and Conservation is a man who has pushed for financial incentives for farmers to voluntarily implement sustainable practices. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey (R), picked by Trump for the Agriculture Department’s position, is an advocate of voluntary programs to reduce nutrient runoff from farms, according to Bloomberg BNA.
Should Northey be confirmed, he is expected be a strong voice on conservation issues in the next farm bill, which could be examined next year.
Agriculture and environmental attorney Gary Baise says that Northey would be “a tremendous voice, an articulate voice in agriculture,” adding that Northey could help solve the problem of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in water bodies, he told Bloomberg.
But while the use of cover crops – those plants that keep nutrients in the soil and out of waterways – has grown under Northey, environmental advocates say such programs yield few benefits to water quality.
“Sustainable agriculture and consumer protection will take a huge step backwards as Bill Northey promotes the status quo and industrial agriculture,” Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe told Bloomberg BNA in an email.
President Trump’s appointees have consistently been griped about by environmental advocates. The president’s choice for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was protested even among EPA employees. More recently, his nomination of energy industry attorney William Wehrum to the position of EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation immediately came under fire by environmentalists and Democrats, who say he would weaken regulations and enforcement.