National Editor Tom KarstDeputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has announced she will leave the USDA, with some reports indicating she will leave at the end of April. I can't think of a more original USDA bureaucrat, a public servant more driven to advance the causes of local food, organic agriculture and reforming school nutrition standards. How the agency replaces her and supports the vision she has cast is obviously an open question. Here are statements from Merrigan and others about her time at the agency, and her lasting legacy.
"Today I am announcing that I will be leaving USDA. I am grateful to President Obama for the opportunity to serve as Deputy Secretary and be part of his leadership team. I also want to thank the US Senate for its unanimous confirmation and the many members of Congress, particularly Chairman Leahy, with whom I have worked closely to ensure support for USDA programs.
It has been an ambitious first term. From implementing the 2008 farm bill, improving school meals, expanding opportunities for American farmers, spending countless hours in the White House situation room, to shepherding USDA budgets through challenging times, it has been an honor to play a small part in history.
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.
With Secretary Vilsack at the helm, aided by very talented and dedicated USDA employees, I am able to leave fully confident that, USDA will thrive and continue to improve its service to the American people."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack:
"USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has helped USDA achieve record results over the past four years. 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.
I deeply appreciate her service, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition comment:
Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has finished four very solid years as second in command at the US Department of Agriculture. Over the years, she has built an impressive record of accomplishment, particularly with respect to the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, the National Organic Program, and beginning farmer and rancher issues. In trying circumstances, she also managed the USDA budget process with finesse, including in the implementation of difficult automatic budget cuts, which are currently impacting all government agencies.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan has been a lifelong champion of sustainable agriculture. We wish her the very best through May, when she completes her USDA service. Even more, we look forward to following her career beyond this, which undoubtedly will include indispensable service to the sustainable agriculture movement.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
“I am saddened to hear that Deputy Secretary Merrigan is leaving the USDA. Because of her commitment and leadership, we have had a tireless leader at USDA for a range of issues like specialty crops, local food production, and organic food. And her outreach to and engagement with producers across the country, including those in my home state of Connecticut, has been phenomenal. She will be missed, but I wish her the best.”