The decline and fall of the local food movement (at USDA)?

03/18/2013 11:08:00 AM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstAre we seeing the decline and fall of the local food movement?

Does the departure of Kathleen Merrigan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture signal the beginning of the end for the local food movement at the institutional level at the USDA?

There is certainly a high amount of buzz about the departure of Kathleen Merrigan.

The Mother Nature Network chronicled some of her accomplishments at USDA.

Of course, Merrigan was part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative and helped create Farm to School Tactical Teams. She loved farmers markets and was a supporter of funding for organic agriculture.

More from Obama Foodorama here.

 I asked the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group on LinkedIn a question about Merrigan and her influence on the local food movement.

Here is the question:

How influential was USDA Under Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in the rise of the local food movement in the past four years?

• Extremely influential

• Important

• Modest impact

• No real influence

Looking ahead, it is interesting to observe that no mention has been made about future plans for Merrigan. Is she headed back to academia or perhaps being readied for another high-level Obama Administration post?

Most importantly for agriculture, who fills her shoes at USDA? I’ll bet whoever that individual is, his or her profile will be nothing like that of Kathleen Merrigan. For that reason, the departure of Merrigan is the beginning of the decline and fall of the institutionalized local food movement at USDA.



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R Henry    
CA  |  March, 19, 2013 at 01:15 PM

I value food safety more than I value local sourcing. This "locally grown" movement deserves to crash and burn--as it offered no value beyond bragging rights at the local Green Party meeting.

Brad    
March, 20, 2013 at 03:46 PM

The local food movement is alive and thriving. USDA had very little to do with its success. Merrigan's presence at USDA was to appease the local and organic crowds. Her departure may mean that it is a dead topic at USDA. This will have no influence however on the local food movement. As to food safety and R Henry's comments, food safety has less to do with local or farm size. It has nothing to do with local or not. It's all about how you manage the farm. I've seen bad small farms and good big farms, and vice versa. Local usually is fresher though, so I have to disagree that it offers no value. It's more expensive usually too.

Don Mayfield    
Portland  |  March, 20, 2013 at 04:59 PM

do you really think the USDA drives local sales? I think not, it is the desire of the consumer who prefers to be dialed in on what they eat not what is on the rack. i am stumped by folks who put down increased sales and returns to farmers who happen to be local.

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