USDA's No. 2 official quits; she promoted local food, small farms

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:16am EDT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seen in Washington, March 18, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seen in Washington, March 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kathleen Merrigan, who made promoting farmers markets and local food a top priority, has resigned as deputy agriculture secretary, a job that put her in charge of day-to-day operations of the mammoth federal department from 2009.

There was no immediate word on Friday on a successor on Friday. The post requires Senate confirmation.

Merrigan, 53 announced her decision on Thursday evening with no word of her future plans or her departure date.

In 2010, Merrigan, who has a doctorate in environmental planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was listed among Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World."

Merrigan spearheaded the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to encourage local food production and marketing. Earlier, she had a leading role in developing national organic food-labeling rules.

Mainline farm groups have said the USDA's promotion of small farms and local food production, and Merrigan's prominent role in it, was a sign of hostility to the so-called production agriculture that produces most U.S. food.

Merrigan was director of a food and environment program at Tufts University before she was appointed deputy secretary. She headed the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999-2001 and as a Senate Agriculture Committee staff worker worked on the organic-food labeling law.

(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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Comments (2)
bobber1956 wrote:
Sounds to me like her main idealism, “who made promoting farmers markets and local food a top priority”, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food”, was at odds with obama’s all out campaign to FORCE total dependance/control on him. She will be back.

Mar 15, 2013 12:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
localfarmer wrote:
The back-to-healthy-local-food-production movement is no threat to “mainline producers”. It IS a way for locals to get healthy food, little or NO chemicals (organic producers)and restore locality to food sources, minimizing costly fuel consumption.

There are many benefits to local food sourcing both economic and healthwise.

If mainline farming is so good for us why can’t we get a decent tasting tomato into the stores? Their answer revolves around ‘greatest amount of food as cheaply as possible’ but my answer to that is “if it’s making us sick, why continue eating it?”.

Grow your own if you can but if you can’t, find a local farmer who does. Food tastes better and is much more healthy for you.

This was one good effort by the USDA.

Mar 15, 2013 12:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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