Celebrating our 150th anniversary on February 28, 2024, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, established in 1874, stands as the United States first State Department of Agriculture. Governor James Smith's unwavering endorsement and Speaker Augustus Bacon’s tie-breaking vote in the State House paved the way for the creation of a department entrusted with serving Georgia’s agriculture industry. While Georgia’s #1 industry and the Department’s role in supporting it have evolved tremendously in the years since our founding, the Department continues to play a vital role in supporting and protecting Georgia’s farm families and our #1 industry, ensuring the safety of our state’s food supply, and serving farmers, producers, and consumers in every corner of the state.
In 1874, upon its founding, the Department assumed several key responsibilities. It produced a Handbook detailing Georgia's soil conditions and distributed seeds. It researched insects, informed the public about plant pests, and explored areas relevant to horticulturists. Additionally, it focused on diagnosing and reporting diseases affecting grains, fruits, and crops, analyzing fertilizers, and providing information on the dairy and wool industries and sheep raising to constituents.
Today, the Department serves as a regulatory agency, a marketing agency, and a consumer protection agency that impacts all 11 million Georgians every single day. Our oversight spans from the gas pump to the grocery store and almost everywhere in between, and the Department’s more than 550 dedicated professionals work every day to promote and protect Georgia’s #1 industry, ensure the safety and security of our state’s food supply, and serve the people of Georgia. Additionally, through The Farmers and Consumers Market Bulletin, established in 1917, the department informs and connects with the public, bridging the gap between agriculture and the broader community through online and print editions.
Over its remarkable 150-year journey, each Commissioner of Agriculture has left an indelible mark on the department, shaping its evolution and impacting the daily lives of Georgians.
Commissioner Thomas Hudson (1905-1912) played a pivotal role in establishing Georgia's state veterinary office, eradicating tick fever, and fortifying the state's dairy and beef cattle herds.
During Commissioner James Price's (1913-1917) tenure, Georgia faced the onset of the devastating boll weevil infestation, prompting Price's push for crop diversification.
Commissioner J.J. Brown (1917-1927) laid the foundation for the Georgia Bureau of Markets and introduced the Market Bulletin.
Commissioner Phil Campbell (1955-1969) championed the inception of the Atlanta Farmers Market and collaborated on substantial projects for Georgia's leading universities.
Commissioner Tommy Irvin (1969-2011) propelled the department into the modern era by introducing computer systems and advancing Georgia's international trade.
Commissioner Gary Black (2011-2023) introduced many key reforms to modernize the department, led the revival of the Georgia Grown program, created the licensing division, and spearheaded the Georgia Agricultural Tax Exemption (GATE).
In the current era, Commissioner Tyler Harper (2023-present) has led the efforts to eradicate the Yellow-legged Hornet, a new, invasive threat to Georgia agriculture, reinstated the Department’s status as a Law Enforcement Agency, and spearheaded a partnership with the Atlanta Braves to market Georgia Grown products.
Celebrating 150 years, the GDA stands as a cornerstone of the state's agricultural legacy. Looking forward, our commitment remains firm-to serve, innovate, and protect Georgia's farming industry and the public it serves. Our focus remains on meeting the needs of Georgia's citizens as we move ahead.