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USDA deputy secretary to speak at organic farming conference

ALBUQUERQUE - United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will be the keynote speaker at the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North Hotel, 5151 San Francisco Road NE, Albuquerque.



United States Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan will be the keynote speaker at the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North Hotel, 5151 San Francisco Road NE, Albuquerque. (USDA Photo)

Merrigan, who helped author the Organic Food Protection Act of 1990 establishing standards and regulations for organic farming, is an advocate for the sustainable food movement. She also supports returning to traditional farming methods such as limiting pesticide uses and rotating crops to improve soil nutrients.

She and others in the organic farming movement want to reduce the harmful effects of the industrial food system on the environment. That means redesigning the industrial food system to limit harmful pollutants released from large farming operations and restricting the use of fossil fuels burned when transporting food across the country or around the world. In May 2009, she helped start a program that offered conventional farmers grant money to switch to organic farming methods.

As the Southwest's premier conference for organic and sustainable agriculture, the two-day New Mexico Organic Farming Conference provides more than 30 production and marketing workshops, a locally grown organic food luncheon on Saturday, and a large exhibitor hall for producers to learn about organic farming.

The event is organized by the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission, and Farm to Table. The registration fee is $100, or $65 for one day. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. each day. For more information call Le Adams at (505) 473-1004, ext. 10, or Joanie Quinn at (505) 841-9067.