WASHINGTON – Kathleen Merrigan resigned March 14 as deputy secretary at the US Department of Agriculture. No reason was given for her departure.
"I am grateful to President Obama for the opportunity to serve as Deputy Secretary and be part of his leadership team," she said in a statement announcing her resignation. "I also want to thank the US Senate for its unanimous confirmation and the many members of Congress, particularly Chairman Leahy, with whom I have worked closely to ensure support for USDA programs.
"It has been an ambitious first term. From implementing the 2008 farm bill, improving school meals, spending countless hours in the White House situation room, to shepherding a decreasing USDA budget and everything in between, it has been an honor to play a small part in history," the statement added.
Before becoming Deputy Secretary, she spent eight years as assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts Univ. in Boston. Merrigan was chief of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service during the Clinton administration. She also was a staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she helped develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which established national standards. She was the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Time magazine named her among the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010.
“I hope that during my tenure, I was able to help open USDA’s doors a little wider, inviting new and discouraged constituencies to participate in USDA programs,” Merrigan said. “With Secretary Vilsack at the helm, aided by very talented and dedicated USDA employees, I am able to leave fully confident that, even in these difficult budget times, USDA will thrive and continue to improve its service to the American people.”
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack praised Merrigan as someone who “has helped USDA achieve record results over the past four years.”
"She has played a vital role in the Department-wide focus on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, as well as our efforts to achieve budget efficiencies and savings during an uncertain budget time,” Vilsack said. “Deputy Secretary Merrigan has led USDA's efforts to implement important regulations, and she has been an important advocate for a strong National Organic Program.
“I deeply appreciate her service, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors,” he concluded.
Merrigan holds a Ph.D. in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Univ. of Texas, and a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College.