Essential reporting in volatile times.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

Republican incumbent Kent Leonhardt faces Democratic challenger Bob Beach in the race for West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture. 

Kent Leonhardt (R-incumbent)

Town of residence: Fairview

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Management, Masters in Business Management, Graduate of USMC Command and Staff College, Graduate of the Defense Intelligence College and Graduate of the Defense Language Institute with a focus on Arabic.

Kent Leonhardt

Leonhardt

Occupation: Commissioner of Agriculture, Retired USMC Lt. Colonel

What prompted you to run for reelection?

After three and half years at the job, I am seeking re-election to continue to build on everything we have accomplished. Our staff at the Department of Agriculture has worked hard to provide new economic development opportunities for West Virginia farmers while reducing regulations and streamlining processes. We continue to expand programs that help veterans and inspire the generation of farmers with the end goal to grow agriculture in West Virginia.

What opportunities in agriculture exist in West Virginia that voters might not know about?

Agritourism must be a part of West Virginia's future. My administration has worked to pass legislation to reduce burdens on agritourism operations, as well as work with the West Virginia Commerce Department and tourism division to increase opportunities for businesses. We have worked with our state parks to host farm-to-table dinners, providing new markets for West Virginia producers. We have revamped our business development team to provide enhanced assistance and technical resources to these operations.

How would you explain the importance of the role of commissioner of agriculture?

Our office touches the lives of every West Virginian, every day. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the importance of a safe, reliable, healthy food system. By keeping West Virginia agriculture open, we had no loss of milk or other products as seen in other states. To overcome future emergencies and move our state forward, we need strong leadership within the state department of agriculture that is focused on supporting local producers, improving food safety and fostering economic growth.

Bob Beach (D)

Town of residence: Morgantown

Education: Fairmont State University, political science. Spruce School of Real Estate.

Occupation: State senator

Bob Beach

Bob Beach

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.