Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan will address a reception during the Irvine, Calif.-based United Agribusiness League’s quarterly board and committee meetings May 18.

Merrigan’s appearance will highlight the first quarterly gathering since Richard Schmidt took over Feb. 1 as the League’s president and chief executive officer, succeeding Bill Goodrich, who retired after leading the organization for 30 years.

“It is my goal that we be more impactful in the agricultural community, that we provide value to a broader constituency,” Schmidt said. “The secretary’s appearance is a wonderful opportunity to show that we intend to be more engaged in the issues of agriculture.”

Merrigan will address an invitation-only reception at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. Guests will include League members and representatives of other agricultural trade associations, Schmidt said.

The Newport Beach reception is in a series of stops Merrigan has scheduled in California the week of May 16.

“I hope to hear from them what it is they think need to be the priorities at USDA, what we need to do better and what we’re doing well,” she said. “These opportunities are a great moment of exchange.”

Meetings with industry members “are exceedingly important for our work inside the Beltway,” she said.

The recession has made for difficult decisions at the USDA, Merrigan said.

“This is a time when people have to really crystalize what the priorities are,” she said. “But farmers and ranchers get it; they know that we’re in a belt-tightening moment in history.”

Schmidt said he was encouraged that Merrigan wants to learn more about the concerns of California growers.

“What better way than to hear from those folks who are in our membership and involved in agriculture?” he said.