Warren Beeler (Western Kentucky University)
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner-elect Jonathan Shell has named Warren Beeler, a veteran of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and a former University of Kentucky Extension specialist, as his deputy commissioner.
Beeler, who served as Republican Shell’s campaign chairman, held positions in the state agriculture department for 17 years. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in 2016 appointed him director of the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, overseeing tobacco settlement dollars designated for restructuring Kentucky farming as tobacco income declined.
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in 2020 replaced Beeler as the office’s head with former Democratic lawmaker Dorsey Ridley. The next year the Republican-controlled legislature moved oversight of the tobacco settlement funds from the governor’s office to the Department of Agriculture.
The settlement with cigarette manufacturers has brought more than $2 billion to Kentucky in yearly installments since 1999; half of the settlement money goes to the Agricultural Development Fund which provides grants and loans for diversification and infrastructure. The funding decisions are made by two boards who, after the legislature’s 2021 changes, are appointed by the commissioner of agriculture.
Shell, a former lawmaker from Garrard County, received 59 percent of the votes for agriculture commissioner in November, defeating Democrat Sierra Enlow.
In a release, Shell said: “Warren Beeler, or Mr. Agriculture as most of us call him, is one of Kentucky’s greatest agriculture champions, and I am honored he has agreed to join my team. I’m confident that in this new role all of Kentucky will continue to benefit from his knowledge and tireless work on behalf of Kentucky agriculture.”
Beeler, an expert in livestock genetics, has raised Kentucky grand champion hogs and lambs on his farm in Caneyville in Grayson County.
Shell also announced that he has hired several senior team members, including:
- Jay Hall, executive director of marketing;
- Dana Feldman, executive director of the Office of Consumer and Environmental Protection;
- Lee McIntosh, executive director of the Office of Administrative Services.
Shell will be sworn in during a ceremony in Garrard County Jan. 1.
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