President Obama yesterday announced his picks for some top cabinet posts, including Kathleen A. Merrigan, former administrator of the agricultural marketing service at the Agriculture Department, who was nominated to be the department's deputy secretary.
Consumers Union thinks Merrigan would be effective at sorting out some of the agency's troubling labeling issues, among other concerns. “Kathleen Merrigan is an excellent choice for Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Given her experience and background, we would expect her to be a strong defender of USDA’s organic standards, which have been under repeated attack for the last several years,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at CU.
From 1987 to 1992 Merrigan was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry where she helped develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which mandated national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation. "She can be called the midwife of OFPA," said Michael Hansen, Senior Research Associate at CU.
Currently, Merrigan is an assistant professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston. "We at the U.S. Department of Agriculture welcome the President's intention to nominate Dr. Merrigan," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "She will bring to USDA extensive expertise in agricultural marketing and nutrition and in legislative affairs and will provide excellent, experienced leadership as we move President Obama's agricultural and nutritional agenda forward."