Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday with no apparent bumps in the road.
Ibach has been nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs and appears positioned to gain confirmation once the Senate Agriculture Committee sends its recommendation to the floor.
Ibach has been Nebraska's ag director for 12 years.
Answering questions from committee members during a 70-minute hearing with two USDA nominees, Ibach dodged Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's query as to whether he would "advocate strongly to the White House to protect the USDA budget" in the wake of the president's recommendations for sharp reductions in USDA spending.
"I commit to doing the best job I can with the resources that Congress designates," Ibach responded, while "look(ing) for efficiencies" in the USDA budget.
Stabenow, a Michigan senator who serves as the ranking Democratic member of the committee, said "we need strong advocates as well."
Ibach told the committee that he is a farmer himself, operating a cow/calf and row crop farm in Nebraska. His family farm is near Sumner, which is in Dawson County near Lexington.
As USDA undersecretary, he said, he would pledge to "represent and promote the interest of farmers and ranchers" while overseeing programs that regulate them.
Ibach said he would focus on how "regulatory programs and promotional programs can improve opportunities" in agriculture.
"Our farm has weathered many difficult times," Ibach told the committee, and those experiences have taught him the importance of "persistent communication and teamwork."
Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse urged the committee to approve Ibach's nomination and Rep. Adrian Smith provided his support by attending the Senate hearing.
"He is immersed in agriculture," Fischer told the committee.
"He built his entire career on honesty and hustle," Sasse said. "He would bring a personal vigor to the USDA."
Ibach was first appointed state director of agriculture by former Gov. Mike Johanns, who later served as U.S. secretary of agriculture.
Former Gov. Dave Heineman and Gov. Pete Ricketts reappointed Ibach when they assumed office.
The USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs supervises policy development and day-to-day operations of agricultural marketing, animal and plant health inspection, grain inspection, and packers and stockyards administration.
Following the hearing, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a statement in support of Ibach and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, whose nomination as undersecretary for farm production and conservation was also considered by the Senate committee.
"Greg Ibach's work as Nebraska's director of agriculture has prepared him to address the needs of American agriculture, particularly regarding the cattle industry," Perdue said.