Obama names Merrigan to serve as deputy secretary of agriculture

Kathleen Merrigan helped develop federal standards for organic food labeling.
Kathleen Merrigan helped develop federal standards for organic food labeling.
President Barack Obama on Monday announced his intention to nominate Kathleen A. Merrigan, a developer of the federal organic food labeling system, to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.

Merrigan, who was appointed as administrator of the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service in 1999 by President Clinton, currently is an assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. program at Tufts University.

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 mandating national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation.

"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, policy director of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, according to a Reuters report.

Merrigan was previously a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and an expert consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.

"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," said Secretary Tom Vilsack.