An Outpouring of Thanks for Outgoing USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Washington, D.C. – More than 100 food and farm leaders, CEOs, actors, chefs, pediatricians, authors, environmentalists and public interest groups sent a heartfelt letter today to Kathleen Merrigan, who is resigning as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to thank her for her extraordinary service at the agency over the past four years.

Signers include actresses Marisa Tomei and Kristin Bauer, chef Alice Waters, author Laurie David, Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb, Annie’s CEO John Foraker, The Honest Company founder Christopher Gavigan, Organic Valley CEO George Siemon and Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook.

“You have been a voice for millions, not only as a courageous advocate for local food production and its marketing but also for organic food and for farmers,” the letter states. “In light of the challenges facing the health of our country and food system today, the value of your work cannot be emphasized enough. From improving school meals, expanding opportunities for American farmers and managing USDA budgets through challenging economic times, your work has touched so many lives.”

Merrigan managed the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which helped to strengthen USDA programs for building local and regional food systems and restoring local economies and food literacy around the country. She was also a strong advocate for the National Organic Program, which oversees regulation, production, and labeling of USDA-certified organic products.

“Perhaps your efforts to ensure that the United States has a certified organic food system – one in which artificial growth hormones, artificial dyes, genetically engineered ingredients and other substances are not allowed in production – will be your greatest legacy,” the letter adds.

Robyn O’Brien, author and founder of AllergyKids, conceived the letter to underscore the importance of Merrigan’s work and to urge the Obama administration to continue supporting sensible food and agriculture policies and investing in diverse local and regional food systems.

"Kathleen Merrigan's remarkable leadership to strengthen local and regional food and organic agriculture must be continued,” said O’Brien. “Families, food retailers, farmers, schools and hospitals are expressing an increased demand for local and organic foods. We hope that the Obama administration will continue to provide support in these areas that have shown so much promise for providing jobs, protecting the environment, and improving access to healthy food for all Americans."

Merrigan made history and inspired women around the world in November 2009 as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

In 2010, Time magazine named her as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World.”

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