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Kathleen Merrigan Named Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

February 24, 2009

merriganI’m getting frustrated. This is how the story is supposed to go: young, idealistic politician campaigns with inspiring speeches, charming smiles and the promise of a shining future where the streets will be paved with social justice. He’s elected, backpedals, and through complex political machinations, appointments and the fine art of compromise, the system chugs along as usual with a pretty new face at the front.

So what the hell is going on? Obama seems to be continually bucking tradition and actually setting the stage for real, meaningful change throughout the country. What the hell is a cynic supposed to do?

On to the point at hand: after the concerning but seemingly intelligent nomination of Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, Obama has nominated Kathleen Merrigan, an Assistant Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and former head of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, as deputy secretary of agriculture.

Merrigan has a strong history of working with sustainable agriculture, and was one of “the sustainable dozen”  recommended for high level USDA positions by the Food Democracy Now campaign. It looks like it worked.

Merrigan has been involved in developing organic standards for meat, has supported the development of “farm to cafeteria programs” and has frequently given testimony to congress on issues surrounding agriculture and the environment.

“Sustainable and organic farmers are excited … that someone who has been associated with these issues her whole career is going to be at that level in the department,” said Ferd Hoefner of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Like Vilsack, Merrigan also has the experience neccesary to navigate the USDA beauracracy, something without which any amount of idealism would get strangled by red tape.

Is this when this bloated gravy train finally starts to change course? Only time will tell. But things are certainly looking up.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Elizabeth Lehman permalink
    March 6, 2009 2:37 pm

    Kathleen Merrigan seems like a good choice as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, however, I think the time has come to give SERIOUS though to pushing for a vegetarian diet. The benefits of vegetarianism to individual health, planet sustainability, pollution reversals, reduced use of pesticides, reduced healthcare costs, and lower food bills are worth the effort, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty.

    Whenever I contribute to food banks, I always give canned beans and tomatoes, knowing that a pot of chili will feed more people, cost less, and provide more nutrition than any processed foods. I’m thinking next time I should include my quick and easy chili recipe with the contribution.

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