Senate confirms USDA nominees

by Holly Demaree
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WASHINGTON – The US Senate confirmed two nominees for the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). Ted McKinney was nominated by President Donald J. Trump as undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, and Steve Censky, was selected by the president to be deputy secretary.

“I commend the Senate for confirming these two experienced, prepared, and capable nominees, who will provide the steady leadership we need at USDA,” said US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Steve Censky will help us be responsive to producers reeling from the effects of multiple hurricanes and also offer prudent counsel as Congress continues work on the 2018 Farm Bill. Ted McKinney will take charge of the newly-created mission area focused on trade, and wake up every morning seeking to sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets. We eagerly await their arrival at USDA, and urge the Senate to continue to act on other nominees who are awaiting confirmation.”

Ted McKinney
Ted McKinney, undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs

McKinney was sworn in as director of Indiana’s agriculture department in 2014. He has more than 30 years of agriculture leadership experience. Prior to his current position, McKinney was director of global corporate affairs for Elanco Animal Health, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company.

He grew up on a family grain and livestock farm, and started his career in the agricultural chemicals business of Elanco Products Co. He joined Dow AgroSciences in 1990, where he spent nearly 20 years in a variety of corporate affairs responsibilities. In 2009, he returned to Elanco in global corporate affairs. During his Dow AgroSciences tenure, he took leave in 2000 to serve as co-founder and interim executive director for the Council for Biotechnology Information, a public information program sponsored by a consortium of companies involved with the development of crop biotechnology.

McKinney has a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from Purdue Univ.

“For our new undersecretary position emphasizing international trade, I have always said that I want someone who wakes up every morning asking how we can sell more American agricultural products in foreign markets,” Perdue said after the official nomination in July. “Ted McKinney is that person. His longstanding background in agriculture, economic development, and global issues will make him an unapologetic advocate for US products in the world marketplace.”

McKinney’s position, undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, was recently created in May. 

USDA’s reorganization seeks to place agencies in more logical order. Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The USDA said it’s better for the FAS to be under the new undersecretary for trade.

Steve Censky
Steve Censky, deputy secretary for the USDA

Censky has served as the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) CEO for the past 21 years. The ASA is the national, not-for-profit trade association that represents US soybean farmers on policy and trade. 

The transition marks a return to both Washington, D.C., and USDA for Censky. 

Censky began his career working as a legislative assistant for Senator Jim Abdnor. Later he served in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations at the USDA, eventually serving as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service where he was involved in running US export programs. 

Censky received his bachelor of science in agriculture from South Dakota State Univ. and his postgraduate diploma in agriculture science from the Univ. of Melbourne, Australia. He grew up on a soybean, corn, and diversified livestock farm near Jackson, Minnesota. 

 

 

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