President Obama made two appointments within the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday, to run the department’s public nutrition programs, and to oversee US agricultural research and education.
Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack nominated Kevin Concannon for the position of Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, while Obama appointed Rajiv Shah as Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics (REE) and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also to serve under Secretary Vilsack.
Nutrition has traditionally not been a high-profile area at the USDA, but with the food stamp program and school meals now counting for 68 percent of the department’s budget – or $80m – that could be set to change.
Concannon has spent the past 25 years as director of four departments of health and human services across three states: Maine, Ohio and Oregon.
“In these positions, Kevin has led state efforts to make food stamps and emergency food assistance more accessible to those in need,” said Vilsack.
“Now we're tapping his leadership and experience to serve citizens across the nation and address President Obama's deep concern for the health and welfare – and particularly the nutrition – of America's children.”
Following Senate approval, Shah will oversee the four REE agencies that provide the science used by policy and decision makers when considering the challenges facing the US food and agriculture system: The Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.
Until this appointment, Shah has been director of agricultural development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which runs global agricultural projects. Among other positions, he was also health care policy adviser on Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, a policy aide in the British Parliament and has worked at the World Health Organization.
Commenting on the nomination, Vilsack said: “With his extensive background, Rajiv will help guide advances in food safety, nutrition, energy and climate, agricultural productivity, and global food security – to name a few of USDA's challenges.”