USDA is getting three new deputy undersecretaries, including a strong proponent of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to help lead the department in the Biden administration.

Stacy Dean, who has been with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities since 1997, most recently as vice president for food assistance policy, will be the new deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, overseeing the Food and Nutrition Service.

Dean “has deep experience understanding the delivery of health and human services programs at the state and local levels,” USDA said in its announcement. Before joining CBPP, Dean was a budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, where “she worked on policy development, regulatory and legislative review, and budgetary process and execution for a variety of income support programs,” USDA said in a news release.

Dean has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Michigan.

CBPP has consistently supported the SNAP program and opposed Trump administration changes that would limit states’ ability to increase benefits.

Justin Maxson, CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, has been named deputy undersecretary for rural development. The foundation “works toward poverty alleviation and economic justice in southern states,” USDA said.

Before that, Maxson was at the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development for 13 years. He holds a master’s degree in anthropology and development from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Kentucky.

USDA also announced Mae Wu, until now a senior director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has been named deputy undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs, overseeing the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service.

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At NRDC, Wu helped lead the group’s health and food work and “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.”

Wu holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rice University, a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Cambridge, and a law degree from Duke University.

“We are honored to have professionals of the caliber of Stacy, Justin and Mae join our team — three experts with depth of knowledge, experience and respect from peers and colleagues across nutrition, economic development, and food and environmental security,” Katharine Ferguson, chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary, said. “Their talents will help us end the pandemic’s grip on our economy, address the urgency of hunger and climate change, and maintain the safety and security of our food.”

Naming Dean, Maxon, and Wu as deputy undersecretaries allows them to join USDA immediately. The Biden administration has not announced plans to nominate these three — or anyone else — to be USDA undersecretaries, a process that would require Senate confirmation. 

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