This blog is part of a series from the July 2021 Washington D.C. Immersive program of the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Graduate Certificate Program. Students met with federal food and agriculture focused officials at USDA, the White House and other agencies, Congressional leadership, industry leaders and other important policy stakeholders.
On the first day of a week-long immersion trip to Washington DC, our Food Policy & Sustainability cohort met via Zoom with Mae Wu, the Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP) at USDA. This was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about her role and the current priorities of MRP.
MRP supports two USDA agencies: the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). MRP Staff provide administrative support, develop management policies and procedures,and implement and evaluate administrative systems for agencies and programs.
Mae Wu was named the Deputy Under Secretary for MRP on January 21, 2021. Prior to joining USDA, she served as a Senior Director at the Natural Resource Defense Council, helping to lead the organization’s health and food work. She has also worked with the federal government to revise the Total Coliform Rule, as well as served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and its National Drinking Water Advisory Council.
The primary priority of Mae Wu’s team at MRP is strengthening and building resilient local and regional food systems – something we heard from many speakers throughout our week in DC. She says this is because “the pandemic gave us a reason to talk about the resiliency of our supply chain, to find ways to avoid the scenario again, and to avoid farmers throwing away food when there are lines at the food banks.” According to a recent USDA press release, this will include a four-pronged approach addressing production, processing, distribution, and markets/consumers.
Additional Marketing and Regulatory Programs priorities include:
- Strengthening the USDA Organic brand by updating regulations and standards to eliminate fraud.
- Managing invasive species, disease, and tracking viruses in animals.
- Expanding smaller scale meat production through loans, grants, and technical assistance.
MRP is currently discussing solutions for many of these objectives and Mae Wu said that “now is the time to bring creative ideas. We are in the process of making significant changes to the food system.” As many of our speakers presented innovative strategies to improve our food system, I am looking forward to seeing what comes to fruition! It was a unique experience to hear first hand about the priority and program strategies under development.
On behalf of the entire ASU Food Policy and Sustainability Cohort, we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to Mae Wu, Melissa Bailey, and Arthur Neal for taking the time to meet with us and for all of their work throughout their careers.