quarles

Republican Ryan Quarles has been re-elected as Kentucky commissioner of agriculture.

Quarles has served in the position since 2015. Quarles defeated Democrat Robert Conway, a farmer from Scott County. 

Quarles, a ninth generation farmer from central Kentucky, has celebrated a lot of accomplishments in his four years as commissioner, but hopes to improve agriculture literacy and help address the issue of financial stress affecting farmers statewide.

He said he's blessed to grow up on his family farm, which produces both cattle and tobacco, and he grew crops to help him pay for college.

"A huge issue in Kentucky and throughout the United States is ag literacy," he stressed in a previous interview with CNHI News. "A lot of Americans don't know where their food comes from... Farmer's compromise two percent of Americans but they feed all of America."

According to Quarles, he said a staggering 16 million people believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

"We need to educate more people about where their food comes from," he said. "The world is going to depend on the food supply doubling in future decades with the exponential growth in the world."

Another issue which Quarles deems a priority is to continue to be aggressive with international trade. He said for the first time in Kentucky Department of Agricultural (KDA) history, they have a full time trade marketer and the state is one step closer to having a professional trade strategy.

"Under my administration, we have opened the first ever trade mission to Canada, the biggest buyer of Kentucky goods," he said. "We have opened trade with China on horse racing, and despite all the trade issues in (Washington) D.C., the administration has been active at the state level and continues to be aggressive in a second term."

Quarles has been a major advocate for the hemp resurgence in the state, now with 1,000 hemp farms statewide, Kentucky has grown to be the largest in the number of production and is often called by the USDA due to their accomplishments, advising 30 other states on how to run hemp programs.

"Hemp gives Kentucky the chance to be first in something instead of last," he said. "...I want Kentucky to be an agricultural leader in the states."

He shared accomplishments for the state including having the largest chia farm in America, sending hemp to an international space station and reintroducing hops as an alternative crop.

"Breweries really love to buy local," he said. "Kentucky had a large hops production before prohibition and bringing back crops that grew here is a big deal."

Now that he has been awarded a second term, he hopes to continue to be aggressive on international trade and make Kentucky a leader of agriculture throughout the nation.

"As any good Kentuckian will tell you: don't change the jockey to win the race," he said.

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