Last week, Kathleen Merrigan announced that she will be resigning from her position as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in the USDA. It is a regret to see this visionary of local food and organic agriculture leave the department – we hope her replacement brings the same commitment to renewing sustainable and local farming.
Merrigan has championed several critical issues, including beginning farmer programs, the National Organic Program, and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which strengthened local and regional food systems by developing connections between consumers and farmers, highlighting available tools and resources and showcasing successful projects. She also pushed for farm-to-school programs, farmers markets, and has been an advocate for historically under-served farmers.
In her position at the department, Merrigan currently runs the $149 billion budget process and oversees the day-to-day operation of Department of Agriculture programs. She was also the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. While serving as a staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee (previous to her current position), she helped to develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. She will be stepping down at the end of this April.
As more and more beginning farmers sprout up to answer the call for more local, sustainable food sources (and as the future of many USDA programs becomes murkier) her presence will be sorely missed. We strongly encourage the USDA to continue her legacy with a replacement as dedicated to the next generation of sustainable farmers.