Kathleen Merrigan, the new Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, has been tapped to speak at the Washington Insider's Breakfast on June 18, the second day of IDFA's Washington Conference. Backed by years of congressional and administrative experience, Merrigan will provide an insider's view of the new administration and its evolving agricultural policy.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack praised Merrigan's nomination earlier this year, saying "She will bring extensive experience in agricultural marketing and nutrition and in legislative affairs, and will provide excellent, experienced leadership as we move President Obama's agricultural and nutritional agenda forward."

Before her confirmation last month, Merrigan was the director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. In 2008, she also served as an expert consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome.

In 1999, she was appointed administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service by then President Clinton. Prior to that appointment, Merrigan was a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, an organization that promotes research and education in sustainable agriculture from 1994-1999.

Merrigan also served on USDA's National Organic Standards Board from 1995 to 1999 and the department's Facilities Reform Commission from 1997 to 1999.

From 1987 to 1992, Merrigan was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry where she helped to develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. This act mandated national organic standards and the federal accreditation program.

Just last week, Merrigan announced that USDA intends to create a division that is dedicated to organic agriculture. Currently, the National Organic Program is part of the Transportation and Marketing Program within USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service.

Merrigan holds a Ph.D. in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas and a Bachelor of Arts from Williams College.

The Washington Conference, scheduled for June 17-18, will be held at the Hotel Monaco, a luxury four-star hotel within walking distance of many Washington landmarks.

Register and make your hotel reservations today at www.idfa.org/meetings/2009_washconference.cfm.

For more information, contact Ashley Ruch, IDFA political programs manager, at aruch@idfa.org or 202/220-3534.