Agriculture commissioner’s “Measure the Candidates” forum focuses on state and national issues

Louisville, KY –  Kentucky Farm Bureau’s (KFB) Board of Directors met yesterday with agriculture commissioner candidates Ryan Quarles and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann to discuss their positions on issues affecting the state’s agriculture industry.

In sharing their vision for the future of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) and how they will operate from that office if elected, Quarles (R) and Lawson Spann (D) fielded questions from the KFB leaders and explained their positions during the two-hour meeting at the farm organization’s state office.

Ryan Quarles (right center) and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann (left) shook hands before David S. Beck, Executive Vice President for KFB Federation (right), and Mark Haney, KFB President (left center), conducted the coin toss to determine who spoke first at the “Measure the Candidates” forum for Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner.

KFB President Mark Haney served as moderator during the forum-type discussion. He said the meeting continued a strong KFB tradition that began in the 1940’s.

“It’s a very effective forum we started and have used for candidates at all levels,” he said. “Agriculture remains one of the largest economic contributors in Kentucky and therefore we feel it should be important to candidates running for local, state and national offices to be involved.”

Under the forum’s guidelines the candidates gave opening and closing statements and first fielded questions on topics that included the budget, animal disease control, grain inspection and grain insurance fund, Kentucky Proud, rural and market development, ag education and the Kentucky Agriculture Development Board/Kentucky Agriculture Finance Board.

At the end of the forum, board members were invited to ask questions of each candidate and a press conference was held immediately following the event.

In their opening remarks each candidate gave a brief summary of what they intend to do as head of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture if elected.

Quarles began the forum by telling directors that he would like to continue the success of the Kentucky Proud program as well as the continued expansion of agriculture education by supporting programs like 4-H and FFA.

“It’s important that we get into the classroom at a young age so we can clear up the misconceptions that our industry continues to suffer from,” he said.

Quarles added that he thinks there is great potential in promoting Kentucky agricultural products in international markets. He also said that when federal regulations threaten family farms, “we need to push back against that.”

Lawson Span told directors she thinks there should be two labels on Kentucky grown food; a Kentucky Proud label and a label letting consumers know if the product has been genetically modified.

“Consumers desire to know which foods have been genetically modified. As commissioner of agriculture, I will work to make sure that we label these foods as such,” she said.

Lawson Spann also said she wants Kentucky to develop an entire industry around industrial hemp and that she supports the legalization of medical marijuana in patients whom doctors have deemed ill enough to benefit from its use.

Both candidates spoke throughout the forum of the bi-partisan support they have received during their campaigns.

During closing remarks Lawson Spann said she would like to set up regional offices in Western and Eastern Kentucky under current budget levels to “bring Frankfort to the people.” She also said she would like to concentrate on growing farming operations and that Kentucky agriculture could be the answer in improving the state’s economy.

Quarles concluded by saying that water access and water quality would continue to be the dominant issue in the next decade not only for state agriculture but for the nation and that a continued relationship with Kentucky’s federal delegation is important in finding common ground and common sense solutions when it comes to dealing with the federal regulations.

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