Tennessee Department of Agriculture

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is a Cabinet-level agency in the government of Tennessee. Founded in 1854, it is the oldest state agency in Tennessee. The present Commissioner, Dr. Charlie Hatcher, is the 38th incumbent.[1]

Tennessee Department of Agriculture
Agency overview
HeadquartersEllington Agricultural Center
420 Hogan Rd.
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Agency executive
  • Dr. Charlie Hatcher, Commissioner



Creation of the Bureau of Agriculture


The agency was first established in 1854, by the Tennessee General Assembly as the Bureau of Agriculture. It was the first agency created in Tennessee. It was organized primarily to promote agriculture through fairs and livestock expositions.[2] The original agency had a staff of nine, including the Governor and eight others who met twice a year to conduct state business. When Tennessee seceded from the Union in 1861, the Bureau was suspended.[2]

Reorganization after the Civil War


In 1871, the Bureau was re-organized and re-constituted.[2] It was structured as it had been before the war, and it was still composed of the Governor and eight others.

In 1875, the General Assembly passed an act creating the Bureau of Agriculture, Statistics, and Mines.[2] This new agency had the same responsibilities as the former, but also had oversight of state statistical collection and regulation of mines. The head of agency was then known as the Commissioner of Agriculture, Statistics, and Mines.[2]

For a brief time in the late nineteenth century, the agency was also responsible for immigration management in the state.

Modern Cabinet-level department


In 1923, the name of the agency was officially changed to the "Department of Agriculture," and the agency's oversight of statistics and mines was removed to other state departments.[2] The Commissioner's title was restored to "Commissioner of Agriculture," and he was recognized, as the director of the State's oldest agency, as the Cabinet member with the greatest seniority.[2]

In 1961, the commissioner and his department moved out of the State's downtown Nashville offices and into a new facility south of the city called the Elligton Agricultural Center. The facility is a working farm and named for Buford Ellington, the 40th Governor of Tennessee who also served as Commissioner of Agriculture in the late 1950s. The center sits on 200 acres, and the department's relocation there meant that Tennessee was the first State to locate its department of agriculture on a working farm.

Duties and responsibilities of the Commissioner

Commissioner of Agriculture
Dr. Charlie Hatcher
since 12 January 2019
Formation12 January 1854

The Commissioner is appointed by the Governor and serves at his pleasure. He directs the work of the Department of Agriculture. The Department is charged with promoting wise uses of Tennessee's agricultural and forest resources, developing economic opportunities for Tennesseans, and ensuring safe and dependable food and fiber for the State. The department also oversees food safety, pesticide use, and fuel quality and fairness for Tennessean consumers.

The Commissioner organizes the department into five divisions:

  • Division of Administration
  • Division of Forestry
  • Division of Consumer and Industry Services
  • Division of Animal Health
  • Division of Business Development

List of commissioners[3]

No. Name County Took office Left office Governor(s)
1 Joseph Buckner Killebrew Montgomery 1872 1881 John C. Brown
James D. Porter
Albert S. Marks
2 A. W. Hawkins Carroll 1881 1883 Alvin Hawkins
3 A. J. McWhirter Davidson 1883 1887 William B. Bate
4 R. M. Hord Rutherford 1887 1891 Robert Love Taylor
5 D. Godwin Shelby 1891 1893 John P. Buchanan
6 T. P. Allison Williamson 1893 1897 Peter Turney
7 John T. Essary Hamblen 1897 1899 Robert Love Taylor
8 Thomas H. Paine Hardin 1899 1903 Benton McMillin


  1. ^ "Meet the Staff - TN.Gov". Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Senior Staff. Archived from the original on 9 January 2017. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Department of Agriculture: History." Tennessee Blue Book. Nashville: Tennessee Secretary of State, 2009. p. 144.
  3. ^ "Former Commissioners". Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 5 August 2018.