USDA Deputy Secretary visits Utah
Leader Assistant Editor
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was in Utah last week, promoting and highlighting initiatives she hopes will help farmers and ranchers across the state.
“I do have hope,” Merrigan told the Leader about the tough times farmers and ranchers are facing. “I think, in my 30 years of working in agriculture policy, I’ve never seen a time when people were more interested in agriculture. People want to talk about where their food comes from, and that opens up needed conversation and opportunity to educate consumers about where their food comes from.”
Merrigan toured various parts of the state during her visit, which included stops at Maddox Ranch House in Brigham City, talking about successes of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or ‘Stimulus Package,’ and promoting the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. She said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, herself and her staff are constantly engaged in looking for ways to help farmers and ranchers get the most for what they produce.
“We’re in the creative thinking phase, but there seems to be a deep interest among farmers and ranchers to find ways to cut out some of the many, many steps between the farm and consumer, and we believe that will help their bottom line, which is important,” Merrigan said.
She discussed the program with students and faculty at Utah State University in Logan, saying it was important to reestablish the connection between consumers and those who produce food in America.
“The Obama Administration wants to build on existing programs and engage in new strategies to support and establish local and regional food systems as an economic development strategy to keep wealth in rural communities,” Merrigan said. “Part of our ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative is to link the agricultural community to urban markets to bring new understanding of the importance of healthy eating and provide enhanced access to fresh foods. We expect consumer demand for locally grown food in the U.S. to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.”
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