By Carla Slavey, Somerset Commonwealth Journal– One of the two Republican candidates running for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner stopped in Somerset Tuesday to let local farmers know he has the background to step into the office, along with plans on keeping federal government away from local farms.
Ryan Quarles, current state representative of Scott, Owen and part of Fayette County, is running against Richard Heath in the May 19 primary election. Current Agriculture Commissioner James Comer is stepping down to run for governor.
“I have a real farming background,” Quarles said. “I was on the farm this morning at 5:30,” referring to the family farm owned by his father in Scott County.
“I grew my own crops to help save up and pay for tuition when I went to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, where I picked up three degrees, including a master’s in Agricultural Economics.”
He says his time in the Kentucky legislature has given him the political background he needs, as well. This included being able to work with both Republicans and Democrats to pass legislation.
“I feel like I’ve been an effective voice while being a legislator for the farming community,” Quarles said.
“Farmers want what’s best for agriculture. They don’t care about the partisanship, and that’s the type of leadership style that I’ll bring to this office.”
Quarles is focusing on building up Kentucky’s place on the international market while vowing to fight attempts by the federal government to impose new rules.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is trying to gain jurisdiction over family farming practices by classifying drainage ditches as navigable waters,” Quarles said. “We don’t need bureaucrats on our family farms.
“Often times, when it comes to the federal government, it’s not what they do for you, it’s what they do to you. I will be active in fighting back against federal government overreach.”
At the same time, Quarles said that Kentucky agriculture should play a bigger role in international trade. “I’ve worked on multilateral trade negotiations, and Kentucky is an agriculture export state, meaning a lot of our commodities end up overseas. If we can help connect farmers with emerging markets, rural communities stand to benefit.”
Quarles also has an eye on education. He said that schools need to start early in teaching children about the truth of farming and where their food comes from. There is a need to educate them before organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spread misconceptions about farming to them, he said.
“Some of our practices, especially animal husbandry practices, are sometimes misunderstood,” he said.
Agriculture is connected to several sciences, including veterinary sciences, technology and agronomy, and that is why he wants to promote it further in schools, he said.
Overall, though, “The number one goal of the Department of Agriculture should be to promote Kentucky Agriculture,” Quarles said. “We’re going to make sure we treat that as a mission statement.”