Dr. William Foote brings farmer’s perspective to Plant Industry

by | Dec 16, 2021

The NCDA&CS Plant Industry division has a new face at the top.

Dr. William “Bill” Foote, Plant Industry director, joined NCDA&CS in October. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Foote is a farmer by trade, having spent 25 years growing fruits and vegetables, running a greenhouse operation and a retail market. Eventually, however, new opportunities would draw him to North Carolina, where he enrolled at NC State University to pursue his Ph.D.

After four years as a graduate assistant, Foote earned that degree and began serving as executive director of the university’s Crop Improvement Program. In that position, he administered the N.C. Certified Seed Program as directed by the federal and state seed acts, provided financial oversight, developed new industrial hemp standards and provided phytosanitary inspections for N.C. seed producers to support export certificates for international and national sales.

When previous director Phil Wilson retired after 37 years with NCDA&CS, Foote was chosen as the man for the job.

“There is a steep learning curve to this position, because Plant Industry covers so much ground,” Foote said. “I’m impressed by both the depth and breadth of what this division does, and I’m always finding new things to learn about that even I didn’t know the division handled.”
Plant Industry is a division with a wide range of responsibilities, from inspecting nurseries to managing nature preserves and fighting against invasive species and much more.

“There are several things that I’ve begun to learn about since I’ve come here that have just been eye-opening,” he said. “Our plant protection staff is so dedicated, and the nature preserves that we operate across the state are really something special. Then you have things like the biological control lab and the invasive species programs which have been very successful.”

It’s a lot to oversee, but Foote’s is no stranger to varied leadership positions. Foote served as a board member for the NCSU Variety Release Board, the American Seed Trade Association and the North American Invasive Species Management Association. He is also an advisory member of the Peanut Variety & Quality Evaluation board, Virginia-Carolinas Peanut Growers Association, the NCSU Micropropagation and Repository advisory board and NCSU Soybean Yield Contest advisory group.

Despite that laundry list of accolades, Foote said that it is his farming roots that set him apart.

“I have been a farmer for a long time, and I don’t know that there are always people in these kinds of positions who have spent a long time with farming as their sole source of income,” he said. “I feel like I have a good understanding of the impact that our programs can have on farmers because of that. I’m sympathetic to their needs and the ways that they rely on the Ag department.”