President Barack Obama has nominated Kathleen Merrigan for deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the White House announced February 23. Merrigan headed USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service from 1999-2001 during the Clinton presidency and helped to develop the USDA's organic food and agriculture regulations. Her nomination points to an increasing focus on sustainability issues in U.S. food systems as well as the White House administration's desire for evidence-based food and agriculture policy decisions.
Merrigan, an assistant professor at Tuft University's Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston, has worked at the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and as a consultant for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization from 1994-99. She worked on the Senate Agriculture Committee from 1987-92. She holds a doctoral degree in environmental planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.