Censky is Deputy Ag Sec. Pick

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (DTN) -- President Donald Trump late Thursday nominated Stephen Censky, chief executive officer of the American Soybean Association, to be deputy secretary of Agriculture.

Censky has been CEO of the soybean association in St. Louis, Missouri, since 1996.

Ag lobbyists and others had anticipated Censky was a frontrunner for the deputy position, a role that largely oversees the day-to-day operations at USDA, a department with a budget of roughly $155 billion and staff of 97,800 employees. Still, agricultural groups have been calling on the Trump administration to begin announcing more nominees for positions at USDA.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the only Senate-confirmed Trump nominee now at USDA, praised the announcement that the White House had announced another nominee at the department.

"Our work has only just begun in delivering results for the people of American agriculture, and the experience and leadership skills of Stephen Censky will only enhance our efforts," Perdue said. "He will bring enthusiasm and a dedication to this country which will be great assets to USDA's customers. I am extremely pleased with the nomination for this key position and am hopeful that the Senate will take it up in short order."

Ron Moore, an Illinois farmer and president of ASA, said Censky is a "perfect fit" for the role of deputy secretary.

"Steve has guided our organization for 21 years, and in that time, he has proven himself as an effective, dedicated and visionary voice on behalf of soybean farmers nationwide," Moore said. "Nobody in agriculture is better equipped to assist Secretary Perdue in meeting the needs of farmers with practical solutions than Steve."

ASA noted in a news release that Censky is no stranger to working in Washington. He served at USDA during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, including as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. Censky began his career in Washington as a legislative aide to then-Sen. Jim Abdnor of South Dakota.

"One of the best things I did as ASA president was to hire Steve as our CEO," said John Long, a farmer from Newberry, South Carolina, who led ASA when Censky was named CEO. Long noted that soybean acreage has grown by more than 20 million acres since that time, and the industry has seen major growth in foreign markets, especially in China.

"The use of soy in biodiesel and biobased products has grown from virtually zero to become significant markets, and soybeans have become a program crop under the farm bill. We've seen the widespread adoption and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology, and built soy demand in markets around the globe," Long said. "These are the good works and the legacy that Steve leaves at ASA. They are his successes and ours."

Censky grew up on a soybean, corn and diversified livestock farm near Jackson, Minnesota, and holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from South Dakota State University, as well as a master's diploma in agriculture science from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Chandler Goule, CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said Thursday that NAWG supports Censky's nomination as well.

"I've worked with Steve for years and over the last year as a fellow commodity organization CEO. I have seen firsthand his dedication to American agriculture," Goule stated. "He is an aggressive advocate for farmers and truly understands how important international trade is to the ag economy, and how critical a strong crop insurance program is for farmers to farm another year when they experience a weather or economic storm."

Censky's nomination will go before the Senate Agriculture Committee, which will hold a hearing and confirmation vote before advancing his name to the full Senate. It's unclear if the committee and full Senate would have time to clear Censky's nomination before the Senate breaks for recess in August. If that doesn't happen, then Censky's confirmation vote would not occur until at least September.

Chris Clayton can be reached at chris.clayton@dtn.com

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(AG)

07/14/17
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