Ag Career Spotlight: KDA Division Director, Value-Added Plant Production


My good friend Brent Burchett serves as a bridge between the business of agriculture and government. While becoming a “bureaucrat” was not really what he was after, I attest that he has a passion for serving Kentucky’s farmers.

Brent grew up on a grain farm in Murray. He had always been interested in policy and politics, and his family instilled in him the value of public service. Brent attended the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture to study Public Service and Leadership and immediately earned his Master’s from the UK Martin School of Public Policy and Administration in 2010.

During his education, Brent interned with Senator Mitch McConnell’s office and as a legislative aide for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council. He said he saw differences between the local, state, and federal government policy process through his experience, but realized the art of serving constituents was the same.

Shortly after graduation, Brent worked for Kentucky Soybean as their Programs Director. His duties included monitoring policy and regulatory issues, developing water quality research programs, and managing outreach initiatives to connect farmers with consumers. He also led the Kentucky Livestock Coalition, an alliance of the state’s veterinary, livestock, poultry, and grain associations.

In January 2016, he was named the Director of the Division of Value- Added Plant Production at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Brent’s primary duties include managing the activities and staff of several plant production, research and regulatory programs. These include ginseng, grape and wine, farmer’s markets, organic and GAP certification and specialty crops, among others. Most of his time, however, is dedicated to industrial hemp and emerging specialty crops such as kenaf, hops, and barley. Brent also assists with water quality and market development programs.

Brent said the favorite parts of his job are advocating for farmers, promoting Kentucky agriculture through events, and finding new economic opportunities.

For those looking at jobs in agriculture leadership, Brent advises students to advance their skills in speaking, writing, and technology, as well as building a strong network of professionals within the industry.

“Speaking and writing ability will set you apart,” said Brent. “You also need to give yourself a lot of career options and have a lot of educational variety. I actually wish I had more technical knowledge in agronomy, and I would have earned a law degree.”

I am thankful to have Brent on our Kentucky agriculture team.