farmers-market-tomatoes.jpgPresident Barack Obama has chosen Kathleen Merrigan, an organic food expert who helped the US Senate develop labelling rules for organic food, to be second-in-command at the Agriculture Department. Sustainable and organic farmers are thrilled that someone who has been associated with these issues her whole career is going to be at such a high level in the department.

The Consumers Union praised the choice. “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 the organization.

Merrigan currently 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.

In 1999, she was appointed administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service by then-President Clinton. Prior to that, Merrigan was a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and an expert organic food consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.

From 1987 to 1992 she 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.

Merrigan holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in environmental planning and policy, a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas and a B.A. from Williams College.

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