After over four years of being deputy secretary at the United States Department of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan is stepping down. She’ll be leaving her job at the end of April. Her appointment in 2009 excited sustainable and organic farmers because of her long history of supporting sustainable agriculture.
Before taking on the job, Merrigan helped develop and write the laws surrounding the labeling of U.S. organic food and served on various U.S. and U.N. agriculture committees.
Since joining the USDA, Merrigan has worked to make sure sustainable agriculture has been an important part of the department’s agenda.
Here are just a few of the initiatives she had her hand in.
- Merrigan was part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative and helped create Farm to School Tactical Teams.
- She highlighted the importance of farmers markets, supported them and praised their innovations.
- She took to social media to spread the word about local foods, hosting a Local Foods Twitter Chat.
- Under Merrigan, $50 million was set aside from the 2008 farm bill for the 2009 Organic Farm Initiative.
- Time named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010, partly because of her support for organic farming.
I can’t imagine that it’s easy being a sustainable food advocate at the USDA. Our food and political systems are so intertwined, damaged and seemingly under the control of corporations that Merrigan probably didn’t get to accomplish everything she had hoped to. But as deputy secretary, she helped greatly by pushing for policies that supported sustainable agriculture and by speaking out and leading the conversation about the necessity to support our organic food systems.
The Obama administration needs to makes sure to find someone as committed to sustainable, organic and local agriculture to replace Merrigan. Don't you agree?