BY JERRY HAGSTROM
For the Capital Press
WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Thursday that she is leaving the department.
Merrigan is best known for developing USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative and her support for local and regional agriculture, but was distrusted by conventional and biotech agriculture groups. She did not say when she would leave or announce future plans.
"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. "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."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement praising Merrigan's service.
Merrigan "has helped USDA achieve record results over the past four years," Vilsack said. "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."
He also praised Merrigan 's advocacy for the National Organic Program.
"I deeply appreciate her service, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors."
Vilsack has been asked by the president to continue to serve as ag secretary in the second term.