UPDATED: Merrigan leaves USDA

03/15/2013 01:44:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 19) Kathleen Merrigan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s deputy secretary, is departing the post she has held since the start of the Obama administration.

Kathleen Merrigan Merrigan Known for her involvement in organics and her promotion of local produce through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, Merrigan didn’t provide details on her next position, according to news reports.

Merrigan characterized her four years of service part of an ambitious first term that involved implementing the 2008 farm bill, improving school meals, expanding opportunities for farmers and helping shepherd USDA budgets through challenging times, she said in a statement.

“I hope that during my tenure, I was able to help open USDA’s doors a little wider, inviting new and discouraged constituencies to participate in USDA programs,” Merrigan said in a news release.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he appreciates Merrigan’s service.

“USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has helped USDA achieve record results over the past four years,” Vilsack said in a news release. “She has played a vital role in the department-wide focus on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, as well as our efforts to achieve budget efficiencies and savings during an uncertain budget time. Deputy Secretary Merrigan has led USDA’s efforts to implement important regulations, and she has been an important advocate for a strong National Organic Program.”

As administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999 to 2001, Merrigan was recognized for her heavy involvement in implementing the National Organic Program in 2000.

She was an aide to Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., during passage of the federal organic program authorization legislation in the 1990 farm bill.

From 2001 until taking her No. 2 USDA post, Merrigan was an assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment master’s and doctoral program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.

Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., said Merrigan is a supporter of the fresh produce industry.

“Deputy Secretary Merrigan has been a strong advocate for healthy eating and the affordability of fruits and vegetables, using both PMA’s and the USDA’s research to bust the myth that eating healthfully is expensive,” Silbermann said in a news release. “While Deputy Secretary Merrigan leaves a mark as an advocate for the National Organic Program that’s to be admired, she never wavered from her commitment to represent the voice of the entire agricultural industry.

“This true mark of leadership can be exemplified in her numerous meetings with PMA’s government affairs committee and the open door she offered PMA and our members,” Silbermann said in the release.



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Kurt Wilk    
Maryland  |  March, 18, 2013 at 09:45 PM

No loss, she came to Washington with an agenda, and it effected her attitude towards most of Agriculture. Maybe some private institution can pick her salary, she certainly never gave back to the taxpayer.

John Browne    
Washington State  |  April, 02, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Given all the agribiz industry "revolving door" employees at USDA, it was refreshing to many of us who value organic agriculture and the "small & diversified farms" concept to have ANYONE in the Agency who had our interests at heart. She also had the individual consumer on her radar, unlike many in the entire industry & most in the Agency (whose interests are the "big pictures" of exports, the fine print in the Farm Bill, immigration/ work force issues, etc). My own feeling is that it's no coincidence that this announcement was made at the very moment that the President signed a revenue bill containing the "Monsanto Protection" rider. I consider her resignation a political statement, and a rebuke of the current Administration policy. ^..^

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