Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles made a campaign stop in Corbin Tuesday.
The Republican incumbent is seeking is second term in office.
“This is the defacto voice of rural Kentucky,” said the Scott County native who grew up working on a farm growing tobacco and raising beef.
“I have not hesitated to chime in on issues that effect people in rural Kentucky.”
Quarles said that as commissioner he has been an advocate for the Kentucky Proud program, which now has 8,000 participating locally produced products.
“We have been able to reach an agreement with Kroger that has resulted in Kentucky Proud beef products being available in 85 Kroger stores,” Quarles said. “That has resulted in more than 300,000 pounds of ground beef being purchased by consumers.
In addition, he has continued to work to improve the farmers markets across the commonwealth by funding better facilities and improving access to products for EBT card holders and senior citizens.
While tobacco remains one of the top six commodities, Quarles said hemp is gaining popularity. To date, approximately 1,000 farms in 99 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are involved in the production of hemp.
“It may not be a product for everyone, but it is something that thrives here, and can be grown on farms of any size,” Quarles said.
Overall, Quarles said agriculture in Kentucky remains stable with family farms accounting for the majority of farming operations.
“I have told the people in Washington, D.C. that Kentucky produces everything from apples to zucchinis,” Quarles said. “Goats, sheep and even alpacas are among the livestock we are raising now.”
If re-elected, Quarles said the international market for Kentucky agriculture products is the next horizon.
Among the, as yet, untapped products that Kentucky may seek to export is timber.
“There are about 12 million acres of timber across the state,” Quarles said explaining that it is a matter of developing a plan to harvest the timber in a manner that doesn’t exhaust the supply, and give it the opportunity to regrow.
One area of responsibility for the Agriculture Commissioner that may not be widely known is the inspection of the 60,000 gas pumps across the state.
The office is responsible for inspecting the pumps to ensure they are dispensing gas at the correct pricing.
One aspect of that has been the increasing number of credit/debit card skimmers that thieves are using in an effort steal personal information.
“We are finding at least one skimmer a month,” Quarles said.
Quarles, who served three terms in the state legislature prior to his election as Commissioner of Agriculture in 2015, said he is not thinking about any other political offices.
“I’m happy right where I’m at,” Quarles said. “For a guy raised on a farm in Georgetown this is my dream job.”
Quarles is being challenged by Bill Polyniak in Tuesday’s Republican Primary Election. The winner will face off in the November General Election against the winner of the Democratic Primary. Robert Conway and Joe Trigg are vying for the Democratic nomination.