Change is Coming: Kathleen Merrigan Named Deputy Secretary of Ag | Civil Eats

Change is Coming: Kathleen Merrigan Named Deputy Secretary of Ag

merrigankathleen

Reuters reported today that President Obama has nominated Kathleen Merrigan as the USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Finally, democracy in action! Thanks are in order to Dave Murphy, and all 87,000 of you who signed the Food Democracy Now petition, where Merrigan was one of the recommended “Sustainable Dozen.” While our fight is far from finished, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that finally eaters everywhere will have a voice at the USDA.

Rumors had spread about the possibility of naming Chuck Hassebrook to the position, but the word on the street was that House Ag Chair Collin Peterson blocked the nomination by pitching a fit. Apparently he didn’t have anything specific against Merrigan, a surprising yet stupendous alternative choice for deputy.

Merrigan has a long resume in sustainable agriculture. Currently the director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment MS and PhD Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, she has also had her hand in making policy, including taking part in the development of national organic standards. She has a PhD in urban and environmental planning from MIT, and has served as a senior science and technology adviser to Senate Ag Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy on issues related to biotechnology, organic and sustainable agriculture, agricultural research and extension, pesticides, animal and plant health, and agricultural appropriations. Folks, this is a woman we want on our side.

As deputy she will be number 2 at the USDA, keeping the President, Secretary Vilsack and both congressional bodies informed on sustainable food issues. This could change the game for our food system. But we need not be satisfied with just this appointment. We all know what can happen to a politician with little support in an old, stubborn institution: They can be stymied by other policy-makers and interests at every turn. This is why we must show Merrigan and her colleagues our support, continue to push the President for more sustainable appointments, all the while staying the course, demanding policy that supports sustainable food ways. With a sustainably-minded deputy (and her team) on the other side of politics, we can have hope that our ideas will get better reception.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. Finally some rumblings of "change" from this new administration. I thought it would come sooner, but I guess better late than never.
  2. Dawn W.
    It is really refreshing to see a smart choice made in regards to food policy.

    "With a sustainably-minded deputy (and her team) on the other side of politics, we can have hope that our ideas will get better reception."
    You're absolutely right!

More from

Farm Bill

Featured

A high school student looks skeptically at a cafeteria school meal. (Photo credit: USDA)

The Next Chance to Improve School Meal Access Is Coming Up Soon

As Congress starts the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process and kids head back to school after two years of universal free school meals, experts are skeptical that major changes are possible.

Popular

California Farmworkers Gain Historic Union Win

Members and supporters of the United Farm Workers march through Fresno during day 10 of their 24-day march on Aug. 12, 2022. (Photo credit: Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local)

For Healthier School Meals, California Bets On More Cooks in the Kitchen

School meal Chef trainees take part in the Healthy School Food Pathway program. (Photo credit: Santa Clara Unified School District)

Will New Standards for Salmonella in Chicken Cut Down on Food Poisoning?

A raw whole chicken on a tray to illustrate the risks of salmonella in chicken

How the Politics of School Food Shape What Kids Eat

Marcus Weaver-Hightower and the cover of his new book, Unpacking School Lunch