Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Recommended Potential Candidates for USDA Positions

Web Update:

Tom Vilsack is no longer under consideration as a potential Secretary of Agriculture for the Obama Administration, due in part to the thousands of comments submitted by organic consumers. Other potential candidates for Secretary of Agriculture include Rep. Colin Peterson. Rep. Peterson is infamous for stating that organic consumers are "dumb" to pay more for organic and local food.Fore more information on what Organic Consumers think about Colin Peterson, please read the hundreds of comments posted on OCA's web site.

Kathleen A. Merrigan
Kathleen Merrigan is Assistant Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and former head of the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service. She is Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program and the Center for Agriculture, Food and Environment at Tufts. She served twice as Expert Consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, five years as Senior Analyst for the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and five years as Senior science and technology adviser to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. She holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Environmental Planning and Policy.

James Alan Riddle
Jim Riddle [February 16, 1956] has worked his entire adult life in public service, dedicated to environmental protection and economic opportunity through the advancement of organic agriculture. Over the past 28 years, he has been an organic farmer, gardener, inspector, educator, policy analyst, author, activist, and avid organic eater. He and his wife, Joyce, live off the grid, producing all of their power from the sun, wind, and woods, living in an owner-built, energy efficient earth-sheltered home. They raise a huge garden and put up much of their own food. Jim was founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association, (IOIA), and co-author of the IFOAM/IOIA International Organic Inspection Manual, which has been translated into 5 languages and is used as the definitive text for the training of organic inspectors worldwide. Since 1991, he has trained hundreds of organic inspectors throughout the world. He developed standardized organic certification and inspection forms, which are used by numerous USDA-accredited certification agencies.

Jim Riddle served on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Organic Advisory Task Force since 1991, and was instrumental in passage of Minnesota's landmark organic certification cost-share program, which is now included in the 2008 Farm Bill. He served 4 years as an elected Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor, and was a delegate for Jesse Jackson to the 1988 Democratic National Convention. He has been a member of the National Farmers Union since 1986. In 1987, he was founding president of the Winona Farmers Market Association, and continues his work on local food systems as founding chair and member of the Winona County Economic Development Authority.

Since January 2006, Jim Riddle has worked as the University of Minnesota's Organic Outreach Coordinator. He chairs the Leadership Team for eOrganic, a national multi-university Extension Service initiative developing electronic resources for organic farmers, researchers, and Extension Agents. He is a frequent speaker at agricultural conferences, and works closely with numerous State Departments of Agriculture, conducting training courses and providing resources for State employees. He is former chair of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, and is a leading voice for organic agriculture and local food systems.

Fred Kirschenmann
A longtime leader in national and international sustainable agriculture, Kirschenmann holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and has written extensively about ethics and agriculture. He has served on several national and international boards, including the USDA's National organic Standards Board. He is a distinguished fellow of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. Kirschenmann is from south central North Dakota where he manages his family's 3,000 acre certified organic farm. He assumed management of the family farm in 1976 when his father became ill. By 1980k the farm was certified organic, one of the early operations to make the transition. The farm is a natural prairie livestock grazing system that combines a none-crop rotation of cereal grains, forages, and green manure. Kirschenmann Family Farms has been featured in national publications including National Geographic, the Smithsonian, Audubon, Business Week, the LA Times and Gourmet magazine. In 1995, Kirschenmann was profiled in an award winning video, "My Father's Garden," by Miranda Productions, Inc.

Mark Ritchie
Mark Ritchie serves as Minnesota's Secretary of State, the state's chief elections officer. Mark previously worked in the administration of Minnesota's Governor Rudy Perpich in the Department of Agriculture, responsible for addressing the economic crisis facing family farmer and rural communities. Mark served for twenty years as the president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a Minnesota-based public research center working with businesses, churches, farm organizations, and other civic groups to foster long-term economic and environmental sustainability in Greater Minnesota. In 2003 Mark led National Voice, a national coalition of over two thousand community-based organizations from across the country working together to increase non-partisan civic engagement and voter participation. National Voice, through their "November 2" media campaign, registered over 5 million new voters nationwide, making the effort one of the largest non-partisan voter mobilizations in our nation's history. Over four hundred Minnesota churches, businesses, unions, schools, and community groups participated in the campaign.

Gus Schumacher
Gus Schumacher, Jr. is the former Under Secretary, for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gus was responsible for the domestic commodities, insurance and farm credit operations of USDA. In addition, he was in charge of USDA's international trade and development programs. Prior to his appointment in August 1997, he was the Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service for 3 years. Before coming to USDA, Mr. Schumacher served as the Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture and at the World Bank. From a farm family in Lexington, Massachusetts, Mr. Schumacher attended Harvard College and the London School of Economics and was a Research Associate in Agribusiness at the Harvard Business School.

John Ikerd
Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri Columbia, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. John was raised on a small dairy farm in southwest Missouri and received his BS, MS, and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Missouri . He worked in private industry for a time and spent thirty years in various professorial positions at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Georgia. John returned to the University of Missouri 1989, under a cooperative agreement with U.S.D.A, to provide state and national leadership for research and education programs related to sustainable agriculture, retiring in early 2000. Since retiring, he spends most of his time writing and speaking on issues relate to the sustainability of agriculture. Author of the following books: Sustainable Capitalism: A Matter of Common Sense - Small Farms are Real Farms: Sustaining People Through Agriculture - Return to Common Sense - Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture.

Michael Ableman
Michael Ableman is the founder and executive director emeritus of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non profit organization based on one of the oldest and most diverse organic farms in southern California, where he farmed from 1981 to 2001. At its peak the farm served as an important community and education center and a national model for small scale and urban agriculture, hosting as many as 5000 people per year for tours, classes, festivals, and apprenticeships. Under Ableman's leadership the farm was saved from development and preserved under one of the earliest and most unique active agricultural conservation easements of its type in the country. He has lectured extensively throughout the U.S. and in Europe. His work has been covered in National Geographic, on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, in the Utne Reader, Gourmet Magazine, and the L.A. Times. An award-winning film about Ableman's work, Beyond Organic, narrated by Meryl Streep aired nationally on PBS in 2001. Ableman has received numerous awards including the 2001 "Sustie" Award for his work in sustainable agriculture, Eating Well magazine's 1995 Food Hero Award, and the 1997 Environmental Leadership Award from the governor of the state of California.

John Wesley Boyd, Jr.
John Wesley Boyd, Jr. (born September 4, 1965) is a Virginia farmer and civil rights activist. He owns and operates a 300 acre farm where he grows soybean, corn and wheat and currently raises a hundred head of beef cattle. For fourteen years Boyd was a chicken farmer in a Perdue Farms breeder program. He was a tobacco farmer for many years.[1] Boyd, a fourth-generation farmer, is president of the National black farmers association (NBFA) a non-profit organization based in Virginia that he founded in 1995.[2] In 2000, Boyd was the Democratic nominee for election to Virginia's 5th Congressional District running against Independent incumbent Virgil Goode. Goode later became a Republican.

In his role with the National Black Farmers Association, Boyd has worked closely with national leaders in government, agriculture organizations and rural groups nationwide. Boyd was appointed by then-Virginia Governor-elect Tim Kaine to serve as co-chair of his Policy Committee on Agriculture and Forestry during the transition period. In 2000, Boyd was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on his administration's tobacco commission. Prior to that, he was appointed by then-Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore to serve on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.[3] His term lasted from July 1, 1999 until June 30, 2001.

Tim LaSalle
Tim LaSalle is CEO of Rodale Institute, a 60-year-old organization dedicated to researching and educating farmers and consumers about sustainable agriculture. He holds his doctorate in depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, a master's in populations genetics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and a bachelor of science degree from California Polytechnic State University. For 12 years, he was a full professor at Cal Poly, where he taught dairy science classes and served as the president and CEO of California's Agriculture Education Foundation. While at Cal Poly, LaSalle started and operated a conventional dairy near Templeton, California. More recently, LaSalle served in an executive capacity with various nonprofit organizations, including the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County and the Allan Savory Center for Holistic Management.

Tom Buis
Tom Buis became National Farmers Union's 13th president during the organization's 104th anniversary convention in 2006. Buis has been with the organization since March 1998, previously serving as vice president of government relations. In this capacity, he oversaw the NFU Washington, D.C., government relations office, which advocates the interests of family farmers in Congress and the administration. Prior to joining NFU, Buis served for nearly five years as senior agriculture policy advisor to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. In addition, Buis worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Jontz, D-Ind., for nearly five years as legislative assistant and legislative director. He was also special assistant for agriculture to U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind. Before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1987, Buis was a full-time grain and livestock farmer in Putnam and Morgan Counties in West Central Indiana, with brothers Mike and Jeff, who continue to operate the family farm. Additionally, Buis serves as a member of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) executive committee. The international organization represents more than 600 million farm families.

Katy Coba
Oregon's Director of Agriculture
Katy Coba becomes the 13th ODA director after being appointed by Governor Kulongoski in January. She is no stranger to agriculture or the department. Katy grew up on a Umatilla County wheat ranch and spent nearly six years at ODA from 1989-1994. She was a special assistant to the director and headed up ODA's marketing efforts before joining Governor Kitzhaber's staff, where she was a policy advisor on international trade. Immediately prior to rejoining ODA, she served as interim director of the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department. The following are excerpts of an interview with Coba conducted by ODA Director of Communications Bruce Pokarney.

Denise O'Brien
Denise has been an organic farmer and farm activist for over 30 years. She and her husband ran a dairy farm for 20 of those 30 years. During this time Denise became interested in agriculture policy that promotes the family farm. She has helped start several progressive programs to fight corporate influence in farming. In the 1990's she lunched the Women, Food and Agriculture Network -- an organization that supports women in farming. She almost won election as Iowa's ag sec a few years ago.

Will Allen
of Growing Power, 2008 MacArthur Fellow
Will Allen is an urban farmer who is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations. In 1995, while assisting neighborhood children with a gardening project, Allen began developing the farming methods and educational programs that are now the hallmark of the non-profit organization Growing Power, which he directs and co-founded. Guiding all is his efforts is the recognition that the unhealthy diets of low-income, urban populations, and such related health problems as obesity and diabetes, largely are attributable to limited access to safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Will Allen received a B.A. (1971) from the University of Miami. After a brief career in professional basketball and a number of years in corporate marketing at Procter and Gamble, he returned to his roots as a farmer. He has served as the founder and CEO of Growing Power, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since 1995 and has taught workshops to aspiring urban farmers across the United States and abroad.

Roger Johnson
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner
Roger Johnson, a third-generation family farmer from Turtle Lake, ND, was elected North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner in 1996 and re-elected in 2000 and 2004. Roger is currently the President Elect of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). He played a leading role in the development of policies for the 2002 Farm Bill as chairman of the NASDA Rural Development and Financial Security Committee. In this position, he will again be very involved in drafting policy for the 2007 Farm Bill. In September 2005, Roger was elected chairman of the Insterstate Pest Control Compact, a 36-state alliance committed to controlling plant pests, especially in interstate situations. Among the issues of great importance to Roger are economic growth and entrepreneurship in rural areas, development of value-added agricultural industries, animal agriculture and renewable energy resources. He believes that North Dakota must develop new agricultural technologies, businesses, and industries that will fuel further growth in the rural sector, thereby ensuring that agriculture remains the backbone of the state's economy.

Kathleen Sebelius
Kansas Gov.
Kathleen Sebelius née Gilligan (born May 15, 1948) is currently serving as the 44th Governor of Kansas. She is the second female governor of Kansas, the 2008 respondent to the State of the Union address, and chair-emerita of the Democratic Governors Association. Sebelius was born Kathleen Gilligan and raised in a Roman Catholic family in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, followed by Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C., and later earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas. She moved to Kansas in 1974, where she served for eight years as a representative in the Kansas Legislature and eight years as Insurance Commissioner before being elected governor. In 2001 Sebelius was named as one of Governing Magazine's Public Officials of the Year while she was serving as Kansas Insurance Commissioner. In November 2005, Time named Sebelius as one of the five best governors in America.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin
Rep. (D-S.D.)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (born December 3, 1970) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician, currently serving as the sole member of the House of Representatives from South Dakota. She is the youngest woman member of the House, and the first woman elected to the House of Representatives from South Dakota. She won the at-large seat in a special election on June 1, 2004. Prior to her 2007 marriage, she was known as Stephanie Herseth. Herseth Sandlin was raised on her family's farm near Houghton (between Hecla and Columbia) in a family active in South Dakota politics. Herseth Sandlin received her undergraduate, graduate and law degrees from Georgetown University, the latter in 1997. Prior to her election to the House, Herseth Sandlin was Executive Director of the South Dakota Farmer's Union Foundation, was in private practice as an attorney, taught at the Georgetown University Law Center, and clerked in the federal court system. Herseth Sandlin serves on four committees in the 110th Congress - the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, the House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on Natural Resources, and the Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence. She is Chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee. She also serves on the Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research; and General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittees on the Agriculture Committee, as well as the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee.

Rod Nilsestuen
Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary
Rod Nilsestuen, 54, served as President and CEO of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives (WFC) for 24 years, building it into one of the most respected cooperative trade associations in the country. For the last four years, he has also headed the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives, which has worked in an alliance with WFC. He founded Cooperative Development Services, a first-of-its kind model for new cooperative development, spearheaded the overhaul of the Wisconsin Agriculture Marketing Act, and played a pivotal role in the creation and establishment of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, a major dairy promotional program, as well as the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board. Nilsestuen provided the initial leadership in the development of Wisconsin Dairy 2020, the state's program to bring together a cross-section of the dairy industry to better its economic and political environment. For the past decade, under Rod's direction, WFC coordinated and staffed the Midwest Dairy Coalition, an industry-wide coalition dedicated to reforming federal dairy policy to give Wisconsin and Midwestern dairy producers a more level playing field. He is a founding chair of the National Rural Cooperative Development Task Force, a pioneering effort that has resulted in the creation of 17 co-op centers and hundreds of co-op development projects nationwide. He is a past chair and board member of the National Cooperative Business Association and the Cooperative Foundation, and has also served on the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program, the Governor's Commission on Agriculture, and as initial chair of the Coalition for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching and the UW Board of Visitors. He is a 1970 graduate of UW-River Falls and received a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1974. Nilsestuen and his wife Carol live in DeForest and have three sons.

Kenneth Lee Salazar
Kenneth Lee Salazar (born March 2, 1955) is an American politician, rancher, and environmentalist from the U.S. state of Colorado. Salazar, a Democrat, served as state Attorney General before winning a U.S. Senate seat in the 2004 Senate elections. He has been the junior U.S. Senator from Colorado since January 2005. He and Mel Martinez (R-Florida) were the first Hispanic U.S. Senators since 1977. They were joined by Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) in January 2006. He will become Colorado Senior Senator in January 2009, as his colleague, Republican Senator Wayne Allard, has decided to not seek a third term. Serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

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