American Farmland Trust Statement on the Passing of Board Member Bill Northey - American Farmland Trust

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American Farmland Trust Statement on the Passing of Board Member Bill Northey

WASHINGTON, D.C. – American Farmland Trust mourns the passing of its newest board member Bill Northey. As a former USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Northey leaves behind a legacy as a strong farm policy leader.

Northey mastered the ability to understand and simplify the complexities of public policy, particularly when applied to agriculture’s needs in the U.S. He also displayed a deep, personal commitment to agriculture and the state of Iowa.

“It is with heavy heart we share this statement of Bill Northey’s passing,” said AFT’s Acting President and CEO, Beth Sauerhaft. “We were looking forward to working with him and gaining from his years of experience as a farmer and a public servant in both Iowa and Washington, DC. He will be missed.”

“Bill was introduced years ago as we worked on the very early transition of US Title One Farm policy toward a revenue-based system,” said former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Jim Moseley. “I watched him lead that effort into a much-improved protection system for all farmers, as well as the public. My immediate impression related to Bill’s ability to understand the complexity of public policy, especially when applied to the full breadth of agriculture’s needs in the US — a truly unique skill he possessed. Bill was the ultimate public servant. Always available, always listening, and always accomplishing his work with the highest of integrity. By all of us who participated in public policy in the past few years, he will be greatly missed. And for all who have benefitted from that policy work he accomplished, we equally must offer our highest praise for a man who did so much for so many with his willingness for service.”

Northey’s career included 11 years as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. From 2018 to 2021, he was the USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation, and most recently was the CEO at the Agribusiness Association of Iowa. His tenure at USDA included the critical initial period of COVID response, including implementing the 2020 Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Before he held statewide office in Iowa, Northey — a fourth-generation farmer — was involved in the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District, Iowa Farm Bureau, and the National Corn Growers Association, where he served as president from 1995 to1996.

Bill Northey’s accomplishments include his significant contributions to federal and state agricultural policy, among them the creation in Iowa of the first state program to incentivize cover crop adoption through crop insurance discounts. This successful program model has since been adopted in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin and was piloted on a national basis through USDA’s Pandemic Cover Crop Program.

In Monday’s edition of Agri-Pulse, Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack said, “Bill’s colleagues, the Iowa agriculture community, and so many who knew him will feel the absence of such a passionate, knowledgeable and devoted leader for a long time to come.”

AFT expresses its most sincere sorrow for his loss and condolences to his wife Cindy, and his family.


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 7.8 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.  

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