Farm Progress

President nominates deputy secretary for USDA six months into his term.

Forrest Laws

July 14, 2017

3 Min Read

Six months into his term of office, President Trump has finally nominated Steve Censky, the CEO of the American Soybean Association, to become deputy secretary of agriculture, the No. 2 position at USDA.

Censky, who grew up on a corn, soybean and livestock farm in Jackson, Minn., is expected to provide “the balance” between the Midwest and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, a native of Georgia and the first secretary from the South since the Clinton administration.

Officials at both the Soybean Association, where Censky has served as the chief staff officer since the 1990s, and other farm organizations quickly threw their support behind the nomination. Some had complained about Trump’s choice of Perdue over someone from the Midwest where the majority of the nation’s farmers live.

“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,” said Ron Moore, ASA president from Roseville, Ill. “Nobody in agriculture is better equipped to assist Secretary Perdue in meeting the needs of farmers with practical solutions than Steve.”

Prior to his service at ASA, Censky served at USDA in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, including as administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service. Censky came to Washington originally as a legislative aide to then-Senator Jim Abdnor of South Dakota.

‘Sad to lose him’

“ASA is better and stronger because of the work of Steve Censky,” said Richard Wilkins, ASA chairman from Greenwood, Del. “He has helped us grow through our advocacy for farmers in Washington, and our service to them in their communities. We will be sad to lose his leadership, but glad to know that it will benefit millions of Americans who rely on the work of the department every day.”

“One of the best things I did as ASA president was to hire Steve as our CEO,” said John Long, a farmer from Newberry, S.C., and ASA’s president when Censky was selected as CEO in 1996. “When Steve came to ASA, our industry was beginning a period of rapid growth. Since then, our acreage has grown by more than 20 million acres, we have established soybeans as the leader in American agricultural exports, and foreign markets abroad have been greatly expanded through trade agreements and marketing, 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. These are the good works and the legacy that Steve leaves at ASA. They are his successes and ours.”

More positions to fill

Censky holds a bachelor of science in agriculture from South Dakota State University and a master’s diploma in agriculture science from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Previous administrations have announced their nominations for deputy secretary and the six undersecretary positions at USDA not long after the confirmation of the secretary of agriculture. Secretary Perdue has been “home alone” with no appointed secretaries to help run the massive Agriculture Department since April.

One of the last cabinet appointments to be announced by the administration, he wasn’t confirmed until April 24 and has had to rely on acting staff members since then.

The Senate Agriculture Committee has not announced when it will hold a hearing on Censky’s nomination.

For more information on Censky, visit

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

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