The woman who develop the country’s organic food labeling rules has been picked for the No. 2 job in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kathleen Merrigan, a professor at Tufts University in Boston (above), was picked to be second in command at USDA behind former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
Merrigan’s appointment ends a mini drama at USDA. There was a movement by ag reformers to find a kindred soul to be Secretary. That group felt thwarted by the appointment of Vilsack, who was seen as proponent of continued subsidies for big commodity growers. Vilsack first looked at Chuck Hassebrook as Deputy Secretary. But Hassebrook is a longtime critic of the USDA subsidy programs and opposition from growers ended that movement.
Merrigan appears to come from the “foodie” wing of the ag reform movement. She was one of those recommended for Ag Secretary by Food Democracy Now http://www.fooddemocracynow.org/ and she has been tagged as a “real reformer” by the environmental press. “In the sustainable ag community, the reaction has been near euphoric,” Tom Philpott wrote in Grist. Merrigan has worked for Jim Hightower, when he was Ag Commissioner in Texas, and she’s done time at USDA. Her CV is here.