Nominee for No. 2 USDA job defends organic past
Wed Apr 1, 2009 11:02pm BST
By Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON, April 1 (Reuters) - The Obama administration's nominee for the U.S. Agriculture Department's No. 2 job on Wednesday defended her work on organic food from Senate critics who questioned whether she could work with other farmers.
"I see (deputy secretary) as a great opportunity to represent all kinds of agriculture. Organic is a small slice of the pie," said Kathleen Merrigan, tapped for deputy secretary of agriculture. "I've always been a provocateur. That's part of my personality," she added.
During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Merrigan defended her record and said she has done work on a wide-range of agricultural issues.
Republican lawmakers expressed concern that Merrigan, a Clinton administration official who helped develop USDA rules on what can be sold as organic food, has been too closely associated with organic farming.
"I do have some concerns that in promoting your passion for organic production and sustainable agriculture that you tear down other types of agricultural production for those with different points of view," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the leading Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, who touted the benefits of production agriculture. Read More
Lawmakers are rightfully concerned about Merrigan. Up to this point, she has basically been of the opinion that organic is the only way to grow food, and if you aren’t an organic producer then you are doing it wrong. Hopefully she will start looking at the bigger picture now and realize that we have a lot of mouths to feed and that should be our first priority.