Merrigan pleased to be considered for ag secretary
Kathleen Merrigan, the first agriculture deputy secretary in the Obama administration, told The Hagstrom Report on Wednesday that she is pleased that some advocates are encouraging President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to name her agriculture secretary.
Merrigan is best known as the organizer of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to help small farmers when she was deputy secretary, although her duties were much broader. Earlier, she worked on Capitol Hill where she was the principal author of the law that established USDA’s National Organic Program. Merrigan, who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University and a professor.
“Rural people feel left out; they believe government does not care about them or their communities,” Merrigan said in an email. “That is our greatest challenge. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative was about empowering communities and opening the doors of USDA wider, even more than it was about local food.
“Over my career, I have visited more than 1,000 farms and ranches in this country — the small, the big and those in between — across every state. And I have visited the communities where those operations are located, many struggling with no main street, no hospital, no broadband.
“I know that I’m on some short lists for secretary, and it’s an honor even to be considered. I’m excited to see so many women on the list, ready to follow in Secretary Ann Veneman’s footsteps. Whoever takes the helm of USDA will face many challenges, but none so great as paving a path to a vibrant Rural America, where my young students — including students who come from Tribal Nations and communities of color — want to live, raise families, and produce our food and fiber.”
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I want to address a couple of issues in this week’s editor’s note.