Food Democracy Now, an Iowa-based nonprofit, petitioned for the appointment of a dozen “sustainability oriented” candidates for high-level USDA positions.
On February 24th, Food Democracy Now! met with Secretary Vilsack in his offices at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and delivered the first 87,000 signatures to him with [petitioner’s] comments so he would know how many people care about these issues across the nation.
Last Monday, February 23rd, Kathleen Merrigan, one of the candidates on the Sustainable Dozen List Submitted by Food Democracy Now was chosen as the next Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.
Merrigan, an assistant professor at Tufts University, helped draft the 1990 legislation that recognized organic farming while a staffer for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). She then went on to head the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which drafted rules for organic labeling under her leadership. In a blog post last fall, Sam Fromartz, author of “Organic Inc.”, put it this way: “While [author Michael] Pollan helped put these issues onto the national agenda, people like Merrigan have long been doing the wonky policy work. Jane Black, voices.washingtonpost.co, Selection of Organic Food Policy Expert at Ag. Hailed by Advocates | 44 | washingtonpost.com.
“Merrigan will bring an excellent perspective to a number of troublesome labeling issues now before the agency,” Jean Halloran, Consumers Union’s director of food policy initiatives, said in a statement. Among the matters that need to be addressed, she said: loopholes in the current “grass fed” standard, lack of uniformity in meat marketing claims, defining “raised without antibiotics” label claims, and weaknesses in the current definition of “naturally raised.” (Jordan Lite , 60-Second Science Blog)
David Murphy, director of Food Democracy Now, posted the following statement on the F.D.N. website:
A Major Victory for Family Farm
Merrigan is a great choice and a significant signal that the administration has heard your voice for change and is serious about creating sustainable change at the USDA. This is an important victory for the grassroots efforts of the sustainable ag community and an indication that both President Obama and Secretary Vilsack are serious about returning the USDA to become the People’s Department once again as it was originally envisioned by President Lincoln when he created the Department of Agriculture in 1862.”
Congratulations to Kathleen Merrigan and to those of you who signed the petition and helped make this possible! This is the power of the grassroots and a significant accomplishment. We are going to have to continue to be engaged and involved if we build a sustainable food system for the 21st centur
Continue to Send in the Sustainable Dozen!
Now that Secretary Vilsack has a good deputy, it’s more important than ever that the rest of the positions are filled with great candidates, that’s why we’re asking you to ask your friends to keep signing the petition to support the Sustainable Dozen, to make sure the Vilsack, Merrigan and President Obama have the support they need when it comes time to create serious change.
Now is the time to organize to create the Sustainable Change that you want, if you’ve already signed, please pass this along to your friends, the administration needs your support.
Thank you for registering your vote. The conversation has just begun…
Here are the Sustainable Dozen!
- Gus Schumacher: Former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture. Boston, Massachusetts
- Chuck Hassebrook: Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Nebraska.
- Sarah Vogel: attorney; former two-term Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of North Dakota, Bismarck, North Dakota.
- Fred Kirschenmann: organic farmer; Distinguished Fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA; President, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, New York.
- Mark Ritchie: current Minnesota Secretary of State; former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich; co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- Neil Hamilton: attorney; Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law and Director, Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.
- Doug O’Brien: current Assistant Director at Ohio Department of Agriculture; worked for the U.S. House and the Senate Ag Committee; former staff attorney and co-director for the National Agriculture Law Center in Arkansas, Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
- James Riddle: organic farmer; founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA); has served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Organic Advisory Task Force since 1991; appointed to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board, serving on the Executive Committee for 5 years and was chair in 2005, Board of Directors. Winona, Minnesota.
- Kathleen Merrigan: Director, Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S./Ph.D. Program, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center on Agriculture; Food and the Environment, Tufts University; former Federal Agency Administrator U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service; creator of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, mandating national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation. Boston Massachusetts.
- Denise O’Brien: organic farmer, founder of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN); represented the interests of women in agriculture at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995; organized a rural women’s workshop for the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome, Italy; received nearly a half million votes in her 2006 bid to become Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. Atlantic, Iowa.
- Ralph Paige: Executive Director, Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund; served as presidential appointment to the 21st Century Production Agriculture Commission; participates on the Agriculture Policy Advisory Committee for Trade; the Cooperative Development Foundation; and the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education & Economics Advisory Board. East Point, Georgia.
- Karen Ross: President of the California Winegrape Growers Association and Executive Director of the Winegrape Growers of America; awarded the Wine Integrity Award by the Lodi Winegrape Commission for her contributions to the wine industry. Sacramento, California