ChewsWise Blog

ChewsWise Blog

"What's Her Name" (USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan) Concerns Grassley

This just in from Think Progress: The Des Moines Register asked Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, if he had any response to Obama's recent subcabinet appointments at the Agriculture Department. He responded by saying that he believed that most of the nominees were "well qualified" except for -- referring to Kathleen Merrigan -- "the woman from Tufts" who was confirmed by the Senate in April. 

GRASSLEY: I think everybody's well qualified to do what they're doing, and there's only one that I would raise a question about. And I probably shouldn't be raising a question except some things that I've read about where she's coming from, and I don't remember her name, but the woman from Tufts. 

QUESTION: Kathleen Merrigan. 

GRASSLEY: What's her name? 

QUESTION: Kathleen Merrigan.

GRASSLEY: Yes. Whoever - whatever her name is, I've read some things that would make some caution -- cause me to be cautious about her, but I need to get acquainted with her because it's not fair just to read third-party points and know exactly where she's coming from.

Asked to explain specifically what gave him pause about Merrigan, Grassley responded: 

GRASSLEY: I think, with - I don't know whether I can point to a specific thing, but it tends to me to be having an unrealistic view of American production agriculture.

Think Progress explains Grassley might have been referring to a talking point memo on Merrigan from agribusiness interests.

Tom Vilsack has sounded a welcome new note at the Department of Agriculture, where he has appointed a proven reformer -- Kathleen Merrigan -- as his deputy, and emphasized his commitment to sustainability, local food systems (including urban agriculture); putting nutrition at the heart of the department's nutrition programs (not as obvious as it might sound), and enlisting farmers in the fight against climate change. He has been meeting with the kinds of activists and farmers who in past administrations stood on the steps of the USDA holding protest signs.

Is a Grassley Merrigan lunch date is in order? Maybe Pollan can join them. He's in D.C. on May 15 for a reading.