Remembering, celebrating Bill Northey
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Remembering and celebrating Bill Northey


By Billi Hunt 

On February 5, 2024, the state of Iowa and U.S. agriculture lost a tremendous supporter and champion.  Bill Northey served in many roles in his career: farmer, association leader, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. undersecretary for farm production and conservation, and many more.  He was a mentor to me and countless others, as evidenced by the outpouring of sympathy and tributes after his passing.  

“Bill brought a farmer’s work ethic to every aspect of his life, and he was tireless in promoting our state, its people and our agriculture,” said Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture. “As Secretary, Bill had a tremendously positive impact on our state and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, but his influence went well beyond our borders. Whether it was on issues like soil conservation, water quality, renewable energy, foreign animal disease preparedness or trade, Bill was respected nationally and internationally. Bill was smart and people looked toward his leadership on every issue he focused on.” 

Bill’s ability to truly connect and care about everyone he met was one of his greatest strengths. He was a great listener and used every meeting as an opportunity to learn about each person and build common ground.   

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen highlighted these strengths when she spoke at his memorial service. 

“Bill had a big heart. His superpower? He made you feel special … If there was a secret to Bill's life, then it had to be simply this: Caring about others. He was involved in so many organizations and knew so many people — when he walked into a room, he could greet most everyone by name, along with a hearty handshake and a big smile. And sometimes – for those he knew especially well – a hug or a touch as he asked how you were doing. He was willing to talk to anyone and everyone. But even better, he cared about you. 

There’s an old saying that 80 percent of success is simply showing up. Well, I think all of us know, Bill always showed up. He made “showing up” meaningful since it was an opportunity to both listen and share important messages. Bill was serious when it came to talking about significant issues facing agriculture – like the importance of water quality, conservation, protecting animal health and renewable fuels. He was always able to discuss those issues in relatable terms – how it would or might impact farmers and the entire agricultural industry. He always tried to provide the latest science, so people understood his points were based on the latest evidence. He built coalitions and led. He was honest, straightforward, and looked people in the eye. You always felt confident that Bill did what he did on behalf of Iowa agriculture, not for personal gain.” 

As a global agricultural leader, Bill embraced innovation, always willing to consider a new approach and helping entrepreneurs make a direct connection to knowledge and market access.  Again and again, he gave his time to help others and the industry.  I plan to honor his legacy by working to bring people together, to solve hard problems and to make each individual feel they have been heard and are valued. 

On behalf of the investors and partners of America’s Cultivation Corridor, we celebrate the memory of Bill Northey and will continue to build connections and drive innovation to benefit the world’s farmers and natural resources in his honor.  

Published February 2024. 

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