Vilsack announced his choice for Deputy at the Department of Agriculture—Tufts professor and organic activist Kathleen Merrigan.
[...] as a senate staffer for Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Merrigan had drafted the organic law. She then went on to work at the USDA's agricultural marketing service (AMS), which runs the organic program. Even before then, she was involved in sustainable agriculture policy and has been ever since -- in organics, conservation, food access, and small farm issues.
[...] Outside government, she has worked for the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, served on a the Pew commission on biotechnology and has been active in the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. She now heads the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program at Tufts School of Nutrition and Policy. As marketing and regulatory undersecretary, she would oversee AMS, GIPSA (Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration), and APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) - touching virtually every aspect of agriculture.
In short, this is a real shot for a major position at the USDA by someone who has pursued the change mantra in agriculture for nearly two decades.
Here's an even better endorsement:
Merrigan is a right-wing nightmare come true, an unreconstructed liberal activist in charge of a billion-dollar bureaucracy. In her last job, at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, she helped organize a massive grass-roots campaign to scuttle the U.S. Department of Agriculture's modest proposed standards for organic food. In her new job, running the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), she's rewriting that very proposal.
All of that is awesome to read...especially when you try to imagine the same post being filled in the Bush (or even McCain) Administration—would that candidate be an executive from Cargill, Ortho or Monsanto...?