Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has announced that Copenhaver has been officially sworn in as the 17th commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). Heidi Hertz has been appointed deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry.
Copenhaver grew up on his family’s beef cattle and burley tobacco farm in Washington County, which led to a desire to support Virginia’s largest private sector industry.
“I have always been passionate about agriculture,” Copenhaver said. “The work we do is truly essential to all of society. To be able to work on behalf of people who are producing the food, fiber, and fuel that sustains all of us as humans is very humbling.”
Prior to this appointment, Copenhaver served as deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry and managed a legislative, regulatory, and budget portfolio to support VDACS, the Virginia Department of Forestry, and the Virginia Racing Commission. While in that role, he worked with the general assembly and helped pass legislation to regulate hemp-derived oils intended for human consumption, to maintain federal produce safety compliance, and to meet Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments.
After working on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for Rep. H. Morgan Griffith, R-9th, Copenhaver served as director of governmental affairs for the Virginia Agribusiness Council. He worked closely with the general assembly and the council’s congressional delegation on a variety of issues, including animal welfare, food safety and labeling, environment and water quality, and international trade.
Virginia Farm Bureau Federation president Wayne F. Pryor said Copenhaver’s background, education, and varied industry experiences have empowered him to serve the state’s agricultural producers of all size while strengthening export opportunities for Virginia’s farm commodities.
“From his farming roots to his advocacy on behalf of agriculture, we have had many opportunities to work with Brad and look forward to continuing our collaboration with him as commissioner,” Pryor said. “We are confident in his abilities to provide leadership for a number of critical programs that support farmers and agribusinesses in VDACS.”
Copenhaver was a Pamplin Scholar at Virginia Tech and graduated with degrees in political science and agricultural economics. He obtained a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Washington.