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Sustainable Ag Prof Nominated for #2 Spot at USDA

When Tom Vilsack was picked to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, some environmental and organic groups grumbled that the former Iowa governor and proponent of ethanol was too close to large agribusinesses. Today, the White House announced its nominee for Vilsack’s deputy: Kathleen Merrigan of Tufts University, and the selection should satisfy the critics.

In fact, in January, the Cornucopia Institute, which advocates for organic, family-scale farming, held her up as one of its top choices for a lower-level job, running USDA’s National Organic Program.

Merrigan has a Ph.D. in environmental planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has taught at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy since 2001. She spent 5 years on the Senate agriculture committee, then another 5 years at the Wallace Center (formerly the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture). She also worked at USDA briefly at the end of the Clinton Administration.