U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen A. Merrigan will give a free public talk on local food Thursday at 5 p.m. at the University of Virginia’s Garrett Hall.
Working alongside Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Merrigan oversees the day-to-day operation of the USDA’s many programs and spearheads its $149 billion budget process.
She has managed the department’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” effort to highlight the connection between farmers and consumers and support local and regional food systems that increase economic opportunity in rural America.
Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time magazine named Merrigan among the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2010.
The talk is sponsored by U.Va.’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy in conjunction with a Batten School food policy course taught by Galen Fountain, a longtime colleague of Merrigan who retired in January after nearly 20 years as staff director for the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. Fountain and his wife own and operate Blue Fields Farm in Madison County.
Students in the course will meet privately with Merrigan after the public talk, as the culmination of their five-week, one-credit course focused on the practical implications of agriculture policy.
Last week, the class traveled to Washington to meet with senior agriculture policy staff at the U.S. House and Senate, the USDA and non-governmental advocacy groups, Fountain said.