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Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Quarles Talks Second Term, Political Future

J. Tyler Franklin

During a year-end interview, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said he’s focused on his second term in office and not currently planning a run for governor in 2023.

Quarles won reelection by a wide margin in November and has been mentioned as a potential challenger to newly inaugurated Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

But Quarles says he’s focused on being commissioner, which he called “the highest office in Kentucky.”

“I don’t know where I’m going to be at in four years, I really don’t,” Quarles said. “I think it’s very premature to make that determination.”

Quarles said during his second term he wants to continue promoting Kentucky goods to markets outside of Kentucky, advocate for expanding broadband internet to rural communities and push to make Kentucky a hub for innovations in agricultural technology.

Quarles said he wants to keep educating farmers about Kentucky’s nascent hemp industry amid ongoing uncertainty about regulations and demand for the product.

“Each farmer at the farm-level needs to assess their own level of risk and decide whether or not it’s a crop that they should include in their enterprise on their own,” Quarles said.

Quarles said he talked to newly-elected Gov. Andy Beshear shortly before his inauguration on Dec. 10 and that he looked forward to working with the new administration, despite partisan differences.

“I wish Gov. Beshear the best of luck,” Quarles said. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see how the session unfolds. 2020 is going to be a big session especially for us, the Department of Agriculture, as we advocate for a budget and some other critical pieces of legislation.”

During the legislative session, Quarles said he will push for more funding to shore up the department’s consumer protection role, a rural jobs incentive program and updates to the state’s food safety and hemp programs.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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