Rick Pate said growing up on a cattle and poultry farm in rural Lowndes County taught him the value of hard work. He’s quick to point out he also discovered the importance of raising food, caring for the land and good family values.
Pate, 63, was sworn in as Alabama’s commissioner of agriculture and industries Jan. 14 and promises to bring those same lessons and values to the department. He also wants to share the positive message of agriculture.
“One of my main goals while serving as commissioner is to reach out to consumers who may not be familiar with agricultural practices and explain the success story of Alabama and America’s food and fiber,” Pate said. “There are fewer farmers feeding more people on less land with fewer environmental impacts. Farmers continue to embrace technology and conservation practices to improve production and efficiency.”
Pate’s election as commissioner is not his first taste of politics, although he admits running statewide was challenging. He joined the Lowndesboro town council in 1996, later serving as mayor from 2004-2018.
Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the state is fortunate to have an agriculture commissioner with on-farm experience.
“Rick Pate is one of us. He’s a farmer, businessman, husband and father,” Parnell said. “He got involved in public service at the local level to make his community better, and he has the same goals for Alabama.
“Rick worked hard during his campaign — traveling throughout the state meeting with farmers and other voters. I’m confident he will continue to listen to the people as commissioner of agriculture.”
In addition to his farm experience, the Auburn University graduate brings business knowledge to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). He founded Pate Landscape Co. Inc. after receiving a landscape and ornamental horticulture degree in 1978. The business typically employs 20 people and serves clients across Alabama. His family is well known for quality cattle, and Pate continues to raise purebred Charolais on the family farm. He and wife Julie have two grown sons, Richard and James.
“My family and I feel so blessed to be in a position to serve our state,” Pate said. “During the campaign, we met so many good people. We are humbled by the support we’ve received. There are so many people who worked hard to help us. We are truly honored.”
Pate was endorsed by the Federation along with numerous other agriculture organizations across the state.
Pate said he plans to educate the public about the role the ADAI plays in consumers’ lives. Services provided by the department touch every citizen in some way daily, he said.
“It can be the eggs, milk, cereal or grits they have for breakfast that have been tested by ADAI’s Food Safety Lab; the gas they pumped in their car; or the bananas weighed on the scale at the grocery store that was verified for accuracy by the department’s Weights and Measures Division,” he said. “There are so many practical ways this department protects the quality of life for Alabama citizens without them even knowing it.”
Pate said he is impressed by dedicated and professional employees at ADAI, noting they are committed to providing timely, fair and expert services to farmers and consumers. He said he’s also excited to work with department employees as well as stakeholder groups.
“I look forward to working with farmers and groups like the Alabama Farmers Federation,” he said. “I realize how significant each farm, commodity and industry is to our communities. We want to be sure our department serves and supports their livelihoods. I want to be known as a commissioner who is willing to listen and takes time to understand the concerns of farmers and agribusinesses, as well as the suburban mother concerned about the food she feeds her family.”