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NAME: Kent A. Leonhardt

CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture

PARTY: Republican


HOME CITY: Fairview

HOME COUNTY: Monongalia

AGE: 66

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science Wildlife Management; Masters Business Management; Graduate USMC Command and Staff College; Graduate Defense Intelligence College; Fellowship with Director National Security Agency.

CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture

OTHER WORK HISTORY: Lt. Col, United States Marine Corps, retired; WV State Senator; Farmer, restored abandoned WV Farm.

CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Farm Bureau, Marine Corps League, American Legion.

ENDORSEMENTS: West Virginians for Life, Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, Trucking Association, Home Builders Association.

FAMILY: Wife, Shirley; three sons; six grandchildren

PERSONAL STATEMENT: I am running for re-election because of the overwhelming support from the farmers, agribusinesses and taxpayers. Over the last three years, my team has worked to reduce waste, find efficiencies and bring new programs to the WV Department of Agriculture. For fiscal year 2021, we will be operating on a similar budget to 2010 with more responsibility. Every day, our team looks towards helping veterans, reducing burdensome regulations on our farmers and supporting growth within vital industries. We are helping veterans learn and enjoy agriculture and heal. Your WVDA is in great shape and I look forward to continuing the vast improvements we have made under my leadership.

Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:

1. What do you see as the role of the Commissioner of Agriculture in spurring the economic growth of agriculture in West Virginia?

As the Commissioner of Agriculture, my goal is for the general public to understand the mission of the WVDA which is to foster a safe, reliable food system. This includes providing support to those producers who raise meat, poultry and dairy, as well as niche products. Our goal is to improve and modernize the current system in support of local farmers.

2. Do you feel the environmental impact of agriculture has been properly addressed? If not, what changes would you favor?

Under my leadership, we have added more acres to nutrient management planning helping the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. We recently signed a historic, first of its kind, cooperative agreement with the EPA to improve to work together on further programs and education. West Virginia agriculture is improving health for the environment through an entirely voluntary effort.

Additional questions from The Herald-Dispatch:

3. What types of agricultural commodities do you feel have the greatest potential to grow in West Virginia, and therefore boost the state’s economy?

While we want to support the foundations of West Virginia agriculture, I believe our state’s geography and multiple microclimates makes us well suited to become a Cornucopia of Specialty Crops, as well as a leader in value-added products. In the last three years we have seen many successes towards that goal such as doubling maple syrup production. In addition,

we have seen passages of several cottage food bills, an increase in honey producers and more research being conducted on specialty crops.

4. Do you feel the department of agriculture is adequately protecting the public in terms of agricultural commodities? Are any more steps needed?

Yes, but we need to continue to find a balance between education and regulation. Right now, there is a $6 billion gap between what we produce and consume in West Virginia. In order to foster a safe, reliable food system, we need to have the proper safeguards in place that do not hinder potential economic growth.


5. How will you educate and assist farmers to protect water quality for future farmers and the public?

As the Chair of the State Conservation Committee, we have been working with District Supervisors to expand efforts protecting our farmland. We expanded nutrient management plans, reducing runoff, and increased cooperation with the EPA and organizations such as WV River Coalition. We have taken a voluntary approach and are leading the way in efforts such as the Chesapeake Bay Restoration.

6. What do you see in the future for farm tourism and what will your role be?

Agritourism must be a part of the future in WV. My administration passed legislation reducing burdens on agritourism operations and works with our commerce and tourism offices to increase opportunities for businesses. We work with our state parks to host farm-to-table dinners, providing new markets for West Virginia producers. We work with our business development team to provide enhanced assistance.

7. What do you hope to accomplish as Commissioner of Agriculture?

I plan to build on our successes of the last 3.5 years. We have worked hard to provide new economic development opportunities for our farmers and introduce new, cash crops into WV. During this pandemic, we worked with the Governor’s office to keep agriculture moving. We have helped our veterans, first responders, and the new generation of farmers find opportunity.

8. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective Commissioner of Agriculture?

Aside from the 3.5 years as Commissioner, I have led during peace and war. With the help of my wife, we restored our abandoned farm. I hold a degree in Wildlife Management with courses in agriculture life, animal sciences and ecology. My leadership and first-hand farming help to understand what our agriculture sector needs. I am the most qualified candidate.