USDA Names Under Secretaries and Additional Staff

Cook and Thornton chosen for Rural Development and Food and Nutrition; O'Brien will be Chief of Staff for Merrigan.

Published on: Apr 13, 2009

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced Janey Thornton will serve as Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services; Doug O'Brien as Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan; and Cheryl Cook as Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Thornton will provide policy direction for USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which administers food assistance programs and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which develops and promotes dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers.

"Dr. Thornton has an outstanding, hands-on background in childhood nutrition. She is a leader in this area and experienced in public policy and legislation," said Vilsack.

O"Brien brings a wide breadth of experience, most recently serving as Assistant Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He has worked largely in agricultural law and served as former counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee working on a number of issues for the 2002 Farm Bill.

"We are very fortunate to have Doug O'Brien join USDA," Vilsack said. "Beyond his knowledge of current challenges to agriculture, Doug's administrative background will serve USDA well as we work to achieve the President's goals for food, agriculture and rural America."

Cook will manage policies and programs in Rural Development's three main areas of Business and Cooperatives, Housing and Community Facilities and Utilities. Vilsack says along with her distinguished record of service - Cook has a keen understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities facing rural Americans today. He says she's committed to expanding broadband networks, increasing investment in rural infrastructure and developing renewable energy.

Prior to joining USDA Cook served as Deputy Secretary for Marketing and Economic Development at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. She has also worked with the non-profit Keystone Development Center and as a public policy staff member of the National Farmers Union.