On Monday, news broke that former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and former USDA Undersecretary Bill Northey had passed away at age 64. To say I was shocked and sad to hear this news is an understatement.
I have known Bill for almost my entire career as a farm broadcaster. When I was beginning my career in Iowa, Bill ended up being one of my very first on location interviews. I remember the day fondly as I drove down a dead end, dirt road outside of Sheffield, IA to meet Bill and other folks to discuss a new nutrient reduction strategy project. Immediately, Bill was warm and cordial to me as this was the first time we met in person. We struck up a conversation and I’m pretty sure his team was trying to usher him out to another event but he just kept on talking to me and asking how he could help a young farm broadcaster.
Fast forward over the years and Bill was always available for a conversation about agriculture with me. Even during his time at USDA, his phone was always available if I had a question for on or off the air. His knowledge and passion for agriculture was unmatched. Beyond that though, he was always interested in how my life was outside of radio and agriculture. He always had a smile on his face when we crossed paths at events and he always had some nugget of wisdom and kind words to share.
In seeing the numerous stories and posts from folks throughout agriculture in the last 24 hours about Bill, I know that he was simply that kind of person through and through. His passion for agriculture both far and wide is unmatched. He was a true advocate for agriculture, no doubt. Even as he segued to the private sector in recent years, he still continued to fight for America’s farmers and ranchers.
Little did I know, our conversation on AOA back in September, would be our last one.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family during this terrible time. One of the good ones is gone too soon and agriculture has lost a fierce champion.