September 27, 2023

With New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher retiring tomorrow after nearly fourteen years, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today that Joe Atchison III will assume the responsibilities of the post.

But that doesn’t mean Atchison, the assistant secretary since January 2022, will get the job.  Under an arcane deal with South Jersey to get votes for the ratification of the New Jersey State Constitution in 1947, the State Board of Agriculture essentially picks the secretary; there have been times when the governor convinced the state board to recommend his candidate.  Click HERE to read a primer on the selection process.

Atchison, a Republican, has worked at the Department of Agriculture since 2005.

“ I am confident that Assistant Secretary Joe Atchison III will lead the Department with diligence and dedication,” Murphy said.  “As Assistant Secretary and Director of Marketing and Development, Joe has played a critical role in ensuring that the importance of our agricultural heritage and industry is communicated throughout the state. His years of experience, coupled with his unique insight, will serve as assets to the Department.”

Fisher, a former assemblyman and Cumberland County freeholder, was originally named at the urging of his running mate, then-Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney.

“Since 2009, Secretary Fisher has been a steadfast advocate for the Garden State’s agricultural community,” Murphy said.  “From expanding agritourism to combating food insecurity, Secretary Fisher has dedicated his career to preserving New Jersey’s agricultural roots, while exemplifying a sincere commitment to this state and serving the public.”

In a statement released by the governor’s office, Atchison said Fisher “leaves an illustrious mark on agriculture in New Jersey.”

“His ability to understand the broad range of sectors, and having an exceptional knowledge of the legislative component of the position, is a unique gift that has benefited farmers and agriculture-related businesses in immeasurable ways during the last 14-plus years,” he said.  “Looking forward, the department’s goal is to continue to advance the industry well into the future.”

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