Gary Black served as the Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture from 2011 to 2023, leading the state’s agriculture department for over a decade. His career in agriculture spanned over 30 years, from his work with industry groups to his time as an elected official.
In 2022, Black sought election to the U.S. Senate but came up short in the Republican primary. Despite this loss, his legacy on Georgia’s agriculture industry is substantial. Black championed the state’s diverse agriculture sector and worked to support farmers and agribusinesses of all types and sizes.
Early Life and Education
Birth and Childhood
Gary Clayton Black was born on August 17, 1958 in Commerce, Georgia. He was raised on his family’s poultry and cattle farm in Jackson County. As a child, Black gained firsthand experience with agriculture by helping with farm chores and participating in 4-H and FFA programs.
College Years at University of Georgia
Black attended the University of Georgia, where he studied agricultural education. He was active in campus activities and student organizations related to agriculture. In 1980, Black graduated with a Bachelor of Agriculture degree in agricultural education.
Degree in Agricultural Education
Black’s undergraduate studies at UGA focused on agriculture education. This set him on a path to not only work in the agriculture industry but to educate others about agriculture as well. His degree prepared him for roles where he could share knowledge and advocate for agriculture in Georgia.
Early Career in Agriculture
Work with Georgia Food Industry Partnership
After graduating from UGA, Black worked for the Georgia Food Industry Partnership. He served as a coordinator for this partnership between agribusinesses and producers for 13 years. During this time, he gained expertise in many aspects of commercial agriculture in Georgia.
Leadership in Georgia Agribusiness Council
In addition to his work with the Food Industry Partnership, Black took on a leadership role with the Georgia Agribusiness Council. He served as the organization’s president in the late 1990s. The council advocates for agriculture policy statewide.
Role in Georgia Farm Bureau
Black also served the Georgia Farm Bureau as a field representative. The Farm Bureau is the state’s largest general agriculture organization. As a representative, Black built relationships with farmers and promoted policies favorable to agriculture interests.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Election in 2010
With deep roots in Georgia’s agriculture industry, Black decided to run for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2010. He won the Republican nomination and then defeated the Democrat in the general election.
Major Initiatives and Accomplishments
As Commissioner, Black focused on initiatives to support local food production, sustainable practices, nutrition programs, and more. He led several hurricane recovery efforts for agriculture. Black also prioritized expanding international trade opportunities for Georgia’s agricultural exports.
Re-Election in 2014 and 2018
Black’s effective leadership led to two more terms in office. He was re-elected handily in 2014 and 2018. This enabled him to serve 12 years as Commissioner overseeing Georgia’s valuable agriculture sector.
2022 Senate Race
In 2022, Black set his sights on national office and joined the race for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat. He positioned himself as a conservative Republican with rural roots.
Campaign Issues and Platform
Black’s Senate campaign emphasized agriculture and small business issues. He also highlighted fiscal responsibility, immigration policy, gun rights, and pro-life values. His platform aligned with traditional GOP positions.
Loss to Herschel Walker
In the May 2022 Republican Senate primary, Black placed third behind frontrunner Herschel Walker and Georgia state official Brian Kemp. Walker went on to win the general election.
Policy Views and Positions
As Commissioner, Black advocated for policies and programs benefitting all facets of Georgia’s agriculture industry from small farms to large companies. He supported subsidies, technical assistance, trade expansion, and more.
Black acknowledged agriculture’s environmental impacts but cautioned against regulations that could hurt farmers. He promoted voluntary conservation programs to protect natural resources.
Other Key Issues
On fiscal policy, immigration, and social issues, Black took reliably conservative stances during his campaigns. He reflected the dominant views within the Republican Party of Georgia.
Gary Black lives in Commerce, Georgia with his wife Lydia. They have five children: Jennifer, Clay, Mary Emily, Grace, and Julia. Family and faith are very important to the Blacks.
Interests and Hobbies
Outside his career in agriculture, Black enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren. He has a personal interest in sports and history and stays involved in his local community.
Legacy and Impact on Georgia Agriculture
With over a decade as Commissioner, Gary Black left an indelible mark on agriculture in Georgia. He led the state’s agriculture department through growth, challenges from natural disasters, and changing markets. Black elevated the profile of agriculture and implemented numerous programs to support farmers financially and educationally. He brought passion and expertise to the role that benefitted the state’s diverse agricultural producers and businesses. Though his Senate bid fell short, Black can look back proudly on his career of public service focused on agriculture in Georgia.
In his impressive career spanning over 30 years, Gary Black made significant contributions to the agriculture industry in his home state of Georgia. As Commissioner of Agriculture for 12 years, he provided stable leadership and vision to help Georgia agriculture thrive. Black used his deep knowledge of agricultural issues and policies to effectively lead the state’s agriculture department during a long tenure in office. While he came up short in his 2022 U.S. Senate primary bid, Black’s legacy in supporting Georgia’s farmers will last well into the future.
What positions did Gary Black hold in Georgia government?
Gary Black served three terms as Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 2011-2023. This gave him over a decade of leadership of the state’s agriculture department.
How did Black’s background prepare him for his career in agriculture?
Black grew up on a farm in Georgia and studied agricultural education at the University of Georgia. He gained additional expertise from working for agriculture industry groups before entering politics.
What were some of Black’s notable accomplishments as Commissioner of Agriculture?
Black focused on programs to support local food production, sustainable practices, nutrition, and expanded international trade opportunities for Georgia agriculture exports.
Why did Black decide to run for U.S. Senate in 2022?
After many years serving Georgia agriculture at the state level, Black sought to move into national politics. However, he lost in the Republican primary to Herschel Walker.
What were some of Black’s policy positions and views as Commissioner?
Black supported subsidies, technical assistance, and other policies to aid farmers. He took conservative stances on fiscal policy, immigration, and social issues as well.