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Bill Northey dies at age 64

Iowa’s Northey was a state ag secretary and USDA undersecretary — as well as a Master Farmer.

Gil Gullickson

February 5, 2024

2 Min Read
Bill Northey of Iowa
CHAMPION FOR AG: Bill Northey was many things to many people, but above all he was a farmer who championed conservation and excellence in agriculture. Farm Progress

Bill Northey, a former Iowa secretary of agriculture, USDA undersecretary and vice president of the Iowa Master Farmer Association, has died. He was 64.

The Spirit Lake, Iowa, farmer, was a longtime proponent of conservation, which led to him to serve as commissioner of the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District. He later led the National Corn Growers Association as president and chairman. He served as Iowa secretary of agriculture in 2006-18. During this time, he was also president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture in 2011-12.

Northey was confirmed as a USDA undersecretary on Feb. 27, 2018, leading USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation Mission Area. This included overseeing the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency. He was currently serving as vice president of the Iowa Master Farmer Association. He was named an Iowa Master Farmer in 2016.

Northey earned a bachelor’s in agriculture business from Iowa State University and an MBA from Southwest Minnesota State University.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds issued this statement following Northey’s death:

“Bill was a great leader whose work ethic and passion for Iowa agriculture was unmatched. Iowans and farmers around the country were fortunate to have such a rock-solid advocate and friend,” Reynolds said. “Bill understood well our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and exemplified that calling throughout his career. But his life’s greatest role was as a loving husband, father and grandfather. Bill will be missed. Kevin and I offer our deepest condolences and prayers to Cindy and their family.” 

Reynolds has ordered all flags in Iowa to be lowered to half-staff immediately and remain at half-staff until sunset on the day of Northey’s funeral and internment.   

Flags will be flown at half-staff on the state Capitol and on flag displays in the Capitol Complex. Flags will also be at half-staff on all public buildings, grounds and facilities throughout the state. Individuals, businesses, schools, municipalities, counties and other government subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect, according to Reynold’s statement.

About the Author(s)

Gil Gullickson

Senior editor of Wallaces Farmer, Farm Progress

Gil Gullickson grew up on a farm that he now owns near Langford, S.D., and graduated with an agronomy degree from South Dakota State University. Earlier in his career, he spent 13 years as a Farm Progress editor, covering Minnesota and the Dakotas.

Gullickson is a widely respected and decorated ag journalist, earning the Agricultural Communicators Network writing award for Writer of the Year three times, and winning Story of the Year four times. He is a past winner of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists’ Food and Agriculture Organization Award for Food Security. He has served as president of both ACN and the North American Agricultural Journalists.

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