By Matt Reese
Brian Baldridge was appointed the 40th Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture by Governor Mike DeWine Feb. 1, 2023.
In this position, Director Baldridge provides leadership for the agriculture industry and oversees numerous regulatory, food safety, and consumer protection programs for the State of Ohio. Food and agriculture add more than $124 billion to the state economy each year.
“First, I want to say thank you to Governor DeWine and Lieutenant Gov. Husted and their team for giving us the opportunity. Jan. 31 was my last day in the Ohio Legislature serving down in southern Ohio as a state representative in Adams, Brown and Scioto counties. [ODA Director] was the position that I would always look forward to if it ever came available,” Baldridge said. “I grew up the seventh generation on a family farm and we were very diverse as tobacco farmers in southern Ohio with grain, cattle, hay, and we had a hybrid seed corn business, which was not common in southern Ohio. So, agriculture has been near and dear to my heart over the years and we still farm a little bit under 300 acres. We’ve also been involved in local government, so that’s what has led me into this position and I’m looking forward to this wonderful challenge.”
Baldridge, from Winchester, previously served two terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, where he represented the 90th House District, encompassing all of Adams and Scioto counties, as well as the eastern part of Brown County. During his tenure, Director Baldridge served on the House Agriculture Committee and advocated for programs supporting the agricultural industry. He has served as both Adams County Commissioner and Wayne Township Trustee, prior to his service at the Ohio Statehouse. Throughout the years, he participated in, and has been a vocal advocate for, the 4-H community and FFA. Additionally, he was elected to serve on the Adams Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, where he helped to direct and plan conservation efforts within the county.
His next step in serving Ohioans as ODA Director brings broader responsibilities.
“You know, it’s not all cows and plows or cornfields and soybean fields — the Department of Agriculture is very diverse in so many different areas whether it’s the animal and plant health and those things that we would normally think about or things like meat inspections, which affect food safety, and amusement ride safety. We have a lot of different programs here in the Department of Agriculture serving the people in every corner of the state,” he said. “It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”
Top priorities for Baldridge moving forward include water quality and farmland preservation.
“The H2Ohio Program is run out of ODA with a lot of collaboration between two other agencies. We know that is a top priority of the governor, as it should be for all citizens as we look at our water quality,” Baldridge said. “And as Ohio grows, there are big announcements for economic development and job creation here in Ohio, but in the ag community we must think about farmland preservation as well. We also want to make sure our food is safe — I take that very seriously. We have a wonderful team out here at the ODA and it’s exciting to really connect and realize the impacts these great folks have out here protecting our state from a safety standpoint.”
Early in life, Director Baldridge had a calling to be a first responder. During high school, he started serving his community as both a firefighter and paramedic volunteering for the Wayne Township Fire Department, and later became a career member for the Anderson Township Fire Department. In 2020, he retired from Anderson Township after 25 years of service and is still a volunteer of the Wayne Township Fire Department in Adams County. He attended Southern State Community College and Shawnee State University. Director Baldridge currently resides in Winchester with his wife of 31 years, Lori. They are members of the Bethlehem Church of Christ. Together they have two grown children, one grandchild and two more on the way.
“We congratulate Rep. Baldridge on his nomination for Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Ohio Farm Bureau and our members have had a great working relationship with him for years. Being a farmer himself, he truly understands agriculture, the importance of the industry to our state and the challenges that come with it,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “We look forward to hitting the ground running with [Director] Baldridge as we continue the work to improve Ohio’s water quality, enhance the state’s food system and put programs in place to secure the important role farmers and rural communities have in the Buckeye State for generations to come.”