West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture

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West Virginia

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The West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six elected state executive position in the West Virginia state government. The commissioner works to improve the state's agricultural industry and ensure the safety of all agricultural products sold within the state. Commissioners are elected to four-year terms, and are not restricted by term limits.

Current officeholder

The current officeholder is Gus Douglass (D). He first served from 1964-1988, and has currently served since 1992. He is the nation's senior agriculture commissioner and the longest-serving commissioner in U.S history, but announced, during his 11th term in office, that he will not seek re-election in 2012.[1]


The Agriculture Commissioner's powers, term of office, qualifications, and installation are established by Article VII of the West Virginia Constitution.

Article VII, Section 1:

The executive department shall consist of a governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and attorney general...


Article IV, Section 4 of the West Virginia Constitution establishes the qualifications of office as such:

No person, except citizens entitled to vote, shall be elected or appointed to any state, county or municipal office; but the governor and judges must have attained the age of thirty, and the attorney general and senators the age of twenty-five years, at the beginning of their respective terms of service; and must have been citizens of the state for five years next preceding their election or appointment, or be citizens at the time this constitution goes into operation.

  • a citizen entitled to vote
  • a resident of West Virginia for at least the preceding 5 years

Chapter 19, Article 1 of West Virginia Code further details the qualifications of the commissioner of agriculture:[2]

The commissioner shall be a practical farmer, learned in the science of agriculture, and shall have made agriculture his chief business for a period of ten years immediately preceding his election.

  • a practical farmer
  • learned in the science of agriculture
  • has made agriculture his chief business for at least the 10 years preceding his election


West Virginia elects agriculture commissioners in Presidential election years. For West Virginia, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 are all agriculture commissioner election years.

According to state law, the inauguration always takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of January following their election.


See also: West Virginia down ballot state executive elections, 2012

Incumbent Gus Douglass (D) did not seek re-election. Walt Helmick (D) defeated Kent Leonhardt (R) and write-in candidates Betty Quintana and Carl Waggoner in the November 6, 2012 general election.

West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngWalt Helmick 51.5% 268,879
     Republican Kent Leonhardt 48.5% 252,783
Total Votes 521,662
Election Results West Virginia Secretary of State Election Results Center.

Term limits

West Virginia does not have term limits for the office of agriculture commissioner.


Details of vacancy appointments are addressed under Article VII, Section 17 of the state constitution.

If the office of Agriculture Commissioner becomes vacant, it is the duty of the governor to fill the position by appointment. The appointee serves until a new commissioner is elected.


The commissioner of agriculture is responsible for protecting the health of West Virginia's citizens, plants, and animals. The office oversees a number of scientific, regulatory, and consumer protection programs, with the aim of improving the state's agriculture industry and ensuring the safety of agricultural products sold in the state. The primary duties of the office include:[3]

  • prevent, control, and eradicate animal and poultry diseases
  • inspect commercial slaughterhouses
  • regulate pesticides
  • detect and control plant diseases
  • distribute agricultural information
  • enforce laws to protect the public food supply
  • support rural development initiatives.

More detailed duties are specifically outlined in Chapter 19, Article 1, Section 4 of the West Virginia Code.[4]


The Department of Agriculture is made up of seven divisions.

Administrative Services Division

The Administrative Services Division is "responsible for all day-to-day accounting functions including payroll and benefits processing, travel reimbursement, receivables, procurement, vendor payments and preparation and maintenance of the annual operating budget. Administration and financial management of federal and state grants is also handled by this unit."[5]

Animal Health Division

The mission of the Animal Health Division is "to prevent, suppress, control, and eradicate any communicable diseases of animals or poultry."[5]

Communications Division

The Communications Division "coordinates the distribution of agriculturally related information to the general public and provides printing and informational support to all other WVDA divisions and the State Conservation Agency, Forestry Division and West Virginia Agricultural Statistics Service."[5]

Marketing and Development Division

The Marketing and Development Division "is a multi-disciplinary division within the West Virginia Department of Agriculture which is responsible for the promotion of West Virginia agricultural products and commodities, economic development and the operation of state-owned farms and farmers' markets."[5]

Meat and Poultry Inspection Division

The Meat and Poultry Inspection Division is responsible for "daily inspection of all commercial slaughterhouses and processing establishments to guarantee that only fully inspected, wholesome and truthfully labeled meat and poultry products are offered for sale."[5]

Plant Industries Division

The Plant Industries Division "protects the State’s agricultural interests and forest lands from destructive insects, plant diseases, noxious weeds, and other pest organisms through pest detection, survey, identification, and control efforts and by enforcing regulations that have been promulgated to protect our crops and forests (both urban and rural)."[5]

Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Division Division

The Regulatory and Environmental Affairs Division "acts as a consumer protection / consumer service organization, enforcing laws, rules and regulations to protect the public food supply."[5]


Article 7, Section 19 of the state constitution defines the method by which the commissioner of agriculture's compensation is set:

The officers named in this article shall receive for their services a salary to be established by law, which shall not be increased or diminished during their official terms, and they shall not, after they shall not, after the expirations of the terms of those in office at the adoption of this amendment, receive to their own use any fees, costs, perquisites of office or other compensation, and all fees that may hereafter be payable by law, for any service performed by any officer provided for in this article of the Constitution, shall be paid in advance into the state treasury.

Chapter 6, Article 7-2 of the West Virginia Code lays out the exact compensation for certain state officers. According to this section of the state code, the salary of the commissioner of agriculture, beginning in 2009 and for each calendar year thereafter, shall be $95,000.[6] In 2010, the West Virginia Agriculture Commissioner was paid an estimated $95,000 according to the Council of State Governments.[7]

Contact information

1900 Kanawha Blvd., E.
Charleston, WV 25305
Email: douglass@ag.state.wv.us
Phone: (304) 558-3200
Fax: (304) 558-2203

See also

External links