September 17, 2010
On Thursday, September 16th, Senate voted to confirm Elisabeth Hagen as USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety and Catherine Woteki as USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.
The appointments are encouraging, not least because the position of Under Secretary for Food Safety has remained unfilled for over a year. Hagen was appointed back in January, and Obama gave her a recess appointment in August in the midst of the chaos and concern of the nationwide egg recall.
Both appointees have strong backgrounds in food safety. Hagen served most recently as USDA’s Chief Medical Office and has worked within the Food Safety Inspection service. Woteki worked most recently as Global Director of Scientific Affairs for Mars, Inc., where she managed the company’s scientific policy and research on matters of health, nutrition, and food safety and has previously held high ranking food safety and research positions at USDA during the Clinton Administration.
As is usually the case with changes in leadership, now is an opportune time to urge reform and support for family farms, sustainable agriculture, and public and environmental health. The new appointees may be a good place to start in realigning USDA’s policy and priorities.