What a difference a few months make. Advocates of sustainable agriculture are now ecstatic about President Obama's decision to appoint Kathleen Merrigan as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, second in command. Unlike Vilsack, Merrigan was one of the "Sustainable Dozen." She comes from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston, where she is the director of the Center on Agriculture, Food and Environment. She has also worked in government, as head of the Agricultural Marketing Service at the USDA, as a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations, and as staff to the Senate Committee on Agriculture. She even worked for Texas populist Jim Hightower at the Texas Department of Agriculture in the late 1980s. She knows how things work, and she knows where power lies in the food industry. But that's not what makes Kathleen Merrigan a provocative choice to lead the USDA.
Tom Dobbs, professor emeritus of agricultural economics at South Dakota State University, explains, "For the first time, an advocate of sustainable and organic agriculture will be in the highest-level meetings with the Secretary. She'll be right there, at his side."