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Keep Bill Northey at USDA

Here’s a great way for Joe Biden to show bipartisanship

The deep divisions between our two major political parties have made it difficult for Congress to function. All too often, needed policy decisions are left unmade because lawmakers find it difficult to work with colleagues with whom they disagree to craft compromise solutions.

President-elect Joseph Biden has pledged to bring a more collaborative approach to Washington.

“In this election, the American people made it clear they want us to reach across the aisle and work together on matters of national concern to get something done,” he said just before the holidays. “And I believed that to be the case from the very beginning of my campaign.”

There’s an opportunity at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Biden to demonstrate that he intends to govern in a genuinely bipartisan fashion.

Biden has nominated Tom Vilsack to head the USDA. A former two-term Democratic governor of Iowa, Vilsack proved a strong champion of rural America during his eight years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of agriculture. He is a good choice to build on that impressive record.

Biden and Vilsack could show that they are serious about bipartisanship by keeping Bill Northey, currently an undersecretary at the USDA, on the job. Northey, who is a Republican, had a distinguished record as head of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. That’s why President Donald Trump picked him for a key role at the USDA. Northey has amply shown that Trump was wise to have tapped him for this leadership challenge.

Northey has a vast knowledge of the agricultural world in Iowa and across the nation. He has learned firsthand from journeys abroad about the agricultural realities in other lands. He knows well that exports are important to the rural economy all across America.

Northey is just about as steeped in farm life as would be humanly possible. Much of his adult life has been spent as a corn and soybean farmer. As a fourth-generation Iowa farmer, Northey developed the kind of appreciation of rural values that is gained by living and loving farm life.

Northey was one of those early visionaries who saw the potential of biofuels. He was a strong advocate of ethanol during his leadership roles in the National Corn Growers Association and other advocacy groups. Impressively, Northey served as president of both the NCGA and its Iowa affiliate.

By teaming Vilsack and Northey, Biden could show that bipartisanship is an achievable goal not just political rhetoric. That’s why The Messenger strongly urges Biden to keep Bill Northey on the job. Some may object to having two Iowans in such crucial positions at the USDA. At this point in their careers, however, both Vilsack and Northey would bring national perspectives to their respective jobs.

“After a year of pain and loss, it’s time to unite, to heal, to rebuild,” Biden said shortly before Christmas. Having Vilsack and Northey working together at the USDA would be very much in that spirit.

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