Town of residence: Morgantown
Education: Fairmont State University, political science. Spruce School of Real Estate.
Occupation: State senator
What prompted you to run for commissioner of agriculture?
Meetings early in 2019 with farmers from across the state who are dissatisfied with the current administration within the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. They cited a lack of advocacy for the agriculture community, lack of resources and failed communication, all of which quickly convinced me a change was needed. These same farmers believe as I do, that my 54 years of agricultural experience is something the current commissioner lacks.
What opportunities in agriculture exist in West Virginia that voters might not know about?
Hemp seems to be the star crop at the present time, but our opportunities are numerous. Vegetables, dairy products and meat commodities are open to expansion once we can secure the much needed processing facilities. We also can’t ignore agritourism. Residents and visitors to our state have embraced this unique agribusiness. I see continued growth within this segment.
How would you explain the importance of the role of commissioner of agriculture?
I rank the role of the WVDA number two right behind the Office of the Governor. The department is primarily a regulatory agency, with the role of ensuring food safety for our residents. The department should act as an advocate for the agriculture community, provide the necessary resources and facilitate communication. Only after these three objectives have been achieved shall the department begin to focus on new economic development opportunities.