Three members of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's subcabinet were sworn into office Wednesday following their confirmation by the Senate last week. Kathleen Merrigan became the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; Jim Miller takes over Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services; and Joe Leonard is sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights.
"These are exceptional individuals who I am proud to say will be serving in USDA's top leadership," said Vilsack. "They have extensive experience in food and agricultural issues, policy-making and civil rights, as well as a strong personal commitment to the President's goals for 21st century food and agriculture. I am pleased that they have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate and I am anxious to have them get started as we work to implement President Obama's goal of revitalizing and rebuilding rural America."
While known primarily for work in the organic sector, Merrigan has a wide range of experience in agriculture including a stint as Administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in the Clinton Administration.
Last week during confirmation hearings at the Senate, Jim Miller spoke about his goals as under secretary of Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. He said he wants to expedite the process of implementing disaster provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill and work with Congress to develop a workable plan to modernize the information technology at USDA. Leonard also addressed the Senate on his goals of improving USDA's civil rights record.
"I am confident that if confirmed I along with the staff Secretary Vilsack is putting together at the department will be able to tackle these long standing challenges and implement the changes in the 2008 Farm Bill as you intended," Leonard said.