Northey approved for USDA post

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to a top post in the USDA, ending a long stalemate in which Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas blocked the nomination.

On a voice vote, the Senate approved Northey's nomination for him to become undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

His confirmation came after Cruz, a Republican, lifted his hold on the nomination. And it occurs on the same day that farm and oil state lawmakers were meeting with President Trump and other officials over the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Cruz, a critic of the law, has been pushing for changes, as well as a meeting with the White House over the matter.

Iowa Republicans have been pressuring Cruz, the winner of the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses, to lift the hold on Northey, who was nominated for the job last September.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised the Senate vote on Tuesday.

"Bill Northey is a talented, passionate, hard-working Iowan, and I am excited to see him serve in this new role," the governor said in a statement.

In a statement, Northey said he is honored by the approval.

"While this process has taken longer than expected, I remain as excited as ever to work with Secretary (Sonny) Perdue and the staff at USDA to support of our nation?s farmers and ranchers," he said.

Farm and oil states have been arguing over the Renewable Fuel Standard for years. But, recently, the bankruptcy of a Pennsylvania refinery has thrust the law back into the limelight. The refinery blamed the RFS for its bankruptcy filing, though the ethanol industry says that other factors were to blame.

The RFS, originally approved during the Bush administration, requires a certain amount of renewable fuels to be blended into the nation's gasoline supply.

However, some refiners have complained that it puts an undue burden on them, a claim the ethanol industry rejects.