Gov. Ralph Northam recently appointed two Virginia Tech alumni to his administration in the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. 

Brad Copenhaver, a 2012 graduate in applied economic management and political science, was named the commissioner of VDACS. He replaces Jewel Bronaugh, who was recently confirmed as deputy secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture and is also Virginia Tech alumna.

Heidi Hertz, a 2004 graduate in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, was appointed deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry. 

Both graduated from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and are active members of the college’s alumni organization. 

Copenhaver served as deputy secretary of agriculture and forestry since May 2018, where he led the Northam administration’s legislative efforts to legalize cannabis for adult use, regulate hemp-derived oils intended for human consumption, maintain federal produce safety compliance, and meet Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup commitments concerning urban fertilizer application.

Copenhaver grew up on his family’s beef cattle and burley tobacco farm in Washington County. After working on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for Congressman H. Morgan Griffith, he was the director of government affairs at the Virginia Agribusiness Council, where he worked closely with the General Assembly and Virginia congressional delegation on a variety of issues including animal welfare, food safety and labeling, the environment and water quality, and international trade. 

During his education career, Copenhaver has served as a National Beef ambassador, Virginia 4-H president, and treasurer of the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate, and he spent summers working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Tokyo, and Bryant Christie, Inc., an agricultural exports consulting firm in Seattle. He currently serves on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council.

Hertz served as assistant of agriculture and forestry since May 2018, leading multisector collaborations to increase access to healthy food and end hunger in the commonwealth. 

Before joining the Northam administration, Hertz held roles in the Office of the First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, and the Virginia Department of Health. Hertz serves on the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Alumni Organization Board of Directors and is a member of the Shalom Farms program committee.

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