Incumbent Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Focuses on Economic Growth
Kentucky's Republican Commissioner of Agriculture has largely flown under the radar while addressing many pressing issues facing the state's farms. He's banking his track record will carry him to a second term in office following the Nov. 5 election.
Recently, the ninth-generation Kentucky farmer has led effort to alleviate the effects of a trade war that has farmers caught in the middle, as well as the legalization of hemp.
Some of his efforts to reduce the sting of tariffs include the opening of horse sales to China, and a agricultural trade mission to Canada.
"We went up there last year while the new USMCA was being negotiated, and Kentucky had a physical presence with the top buy of our agricultural goods," Quarles said, referencing the trade deal that took the place of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Meanwhile, the homegrown "Kentucky Proud" program is expanding products into grocery stores, and he says the state's food donation program is starting to put a dent in it's historically high rates of food insecurity.
Some Kentuckians, like Quarles' general election opponent Robert Conway, are pushing back against Quarles' cheery image of farm life in the state. Critics have pointed out the fickle nature of one of the commissioner's prize new industries, hemp.
Recently, Harrison County farmers have banded together to sue hemp processor, GenCanna, which announced a Kentucky investment to fanfare earlier in the year.
"As with new, innovative industry, there's always going to be some bumps along the way," Quarles said. Though he recognizes some of the recent startups may not stick around for the longhaul, he sees the industry as a chance for Kentucky to lead the country in something.
Other focal points of Quarles' first term include cracking down on credit card skimmers at gas pumps, and promoting the farmer's markets across the commonwealth. Voters in the Bluegrass State will decide Tuesday if he gets to continue those efforts during a second term in office.
Quarles is running against Democrat Robert Conway. You can hear our interview with him here.