April 9, 2018
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig on April 2 announced the hiring of Julie Kenney as the new deputy secretary for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. She started her new job immediately.
“Julie has a passion for agriculture and will be a tremendous asset to the Iowa department of ag,” Naig says. “Her background and experience are a natural fit for the department, and I’m excited to have her on our team.”
As deputy secretary, Kenney will assist in management responsibilities for the state ag department focused on the areas of personnel, budget and policy. She will also support IDAL’s efforts to be accessible to Iowans by traveling regularly to represent the department at meetings across the state. “It’s an honor to serve as deputy secretary, and I look forward to working with Secretary Naig and the team at the department,” says Kenney. “The department plays an important role in protecting consumers, improving our natural resources and promoting Iowa agriculture.”
15 years in agribusiness
Kenney has worked for 15 years in several jobs, including communications and marketing at Pioneer and with other associations and checkoff programs. Kenney and her family own and operate a corn and soybean farm in Story County. “I’ve worked in agriculture and seen the perspective from the agribusiness side, as well as from our farm,” she notes.
Kenney, whose maiden name is Kock, grew up on her family’s crop and livestock farm near Lohrville in western Iowa.
Kenney’s appointment runs through the end of this year, depending on results of the upcoming primary election in June and a general election in November. Her boss, Mike Naig, is one of five Republican candidates running for Iowa secretary of agriculture in a June primary. The winner of the Republican primary will face the Democrat candidate in this fall’s general election.
“When agriculture does well, the state of Iowa does well,” Kenney says. “This is a tremendous opportunity for me to help promote Iowa agriculture, to work on issues such as conserving our natural resources, and to build on the momentum former secretary Bill Northey and current secretary Mike Naig have established in the state in recent years.”
What’s the biggest challenge she sees for Iowa ag? “Clearly, the biggest topic now is water quality,” she says. “There’s a lot going on with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and the need to accelerate that work. I want to help all farmers across the state be a part of Iowa’s efforts to meet the goals of that voluntary strategy. Iowa is making progress on improving and protecting water quality. For example, we see more farmers adopting cover crops on more acres every year. We need to build on that and other water quality protection practices going forward.”
Farm group experience
Kenney has been an active member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and contributed to the success of the CommonGround program as a longtime volunteer. CommonGround, a key National Corn Growers Association program, includes 19 different states with over 200 women farmer volunteers. In Iowa, CommonGround volunteers focus on engaging those who make the food purchasing decisions for their families, and giving them the tools to make informed food choices.
During her time as a volunteer, Kenney used her communications expertise and her role as a mother and farm wife to help tell the story of America’s farm families. One of the highlights of her time as a volunteer included serving as a guest on “Bill Nye the Science Guy” television show talking about the science behind GMOs.
“This experience will serve her well in connecting with consumers and promoting Iowa agriculture in her new position,” says Lisa Cassady, public relations manager for Iowa Corn.
Kenney has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa. She and husband Mark own and operate a fifth-generation corn and soybean farm in Story County and have two children, Lauren and Landon.
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