Former Democratic Ag Commish says Ky. has 'a clear choice' in this year's race

08/25/2011 06:13 PM

Farming experience has been an issue in the general election campaign for agriculture commissioner between Republican James Comer and Democrat Bob Farmer.

Farmer, who has a marketing background, has said the agriculture commissioner doesn’t have to have agriculture experience. Instead, leader of the 260-person department needs management and marketing experience to help promote Kentucky products.

Comer, who runs farms in Monroe County and has been a state lawmaker for 10 years, has struggled to hide his frustration that his opponent lacks an agriculture background.

So Pure Politics sought out someone who served in that position: Billy Ray Smith, a Democrat who served as agriculture commissioner from January 1996 through 2003.

Smith said he considered the position the “second most important office” in Kentucky. And he said having a farming background is crucial.

Smith currently serves as executive director of the Future Farmers of America Foundation and won’t formally endorse in the ag commissioner’s race. But he said he did say there was a “clear choice.”

“I think it’s so important that we choose the right candidate in that race and not look at political party,” he said.

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