Quarles says his focus will be on expanding Ky.'s int'l ag reach and EPA in ag commissioner campaign

12/05/2014 09:48 AM

Calling the position of agriculture commissioner a “childhood dream,” Rep. Ryan Quarles, R-Georgetown, said he is honored to run for the post in 2015.

The 31-year-old lawmaker announced a run for the position Monday , just weeks after winning a third term to the Kentucky House of Representatives in the re-drawn Scott County-centric district by nearly 18 percentage points.

“In politics it’s all about timing,” Quarles said. “After Election Day the party — it was apparent we needed a strong candidate. I talked with Sen. (Paul) Hornback, I talked with Commissioner (James) Comer and they encouraged me to run.”

Comer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, endorsed Quarles Monday for the job, as did Hornback, R-Shelbyville, and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

If elected, Quarles said he wants to focus on “continuing the legacy of James Comer.”

Part of keeping that legacy alive and the agency thriving, Quarles said, is by expanding Kentucky agriculture crops and products into foreign markets.

“My background is in international relations and farming. I’ve worked for the Foreign Agriculture Service in Washington, D.C., attended the Patterson School of Diplomacy, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world and understand Kentucky’s place in agriculture,” Quarles said (2:34)

By working with the federal delegation, Quarles said the next agriculture commissioner can have a large impact on the state’s ag economy — especially with a focus on foreign trade agreements.

Taking a page from the McConnell book of statewide strategy, Quarles is targeting the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the 2015 race. While U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, used the agency’s “war on coal” as a foil to target President Barack Obama, in this election Quarles is targeting a proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act.

“The EPA is not just after our coal regions they are also after our farming communities as well,” Quarles said. “A proposed rule through the EPA and Army Corps basically would seek to have jurisdiction over farm land by defining what water is and what water isn’t.”

The EPA introduced the proposed rule changes were introduced earlier this year in an effort to comply with recent Supreme Court rulings and to protect seasonal and rain-dependent streams, wetlands in an effort to protect the water drinking supply. The rule change is meant to be a clarification of powers which the EPA already used and is not an expansion of powers, said the agency’s administrator Gina McCarthy.

The national farm bureau responded to the proposal in April calling it a “federal land grab” — something Quarles said Kentucky farmers fear.

“What we’re afraid of at the federal level is the EPA having control over certain farming practices — and that’s just something we don’t need,” Quarles said.

The EPA has argued that farmers will not be affected by the proposed rule as the change keeps current agriculture exemptions in place.

In the second video portion of the interview below Quarles said the strategy of running against the EPA and thus Obama is no strategy at all, but rather good policy.

“Combating the EPA is not a political strategy it’s about standing up for family farmers — that’s something that I was going to do anyway,” Quarles said. “I think we need to be vigilant, because if we don’t speak up often times we’re forgotten about in politics.”

Hear what Quarles has to say about GMO crops starting at 10:15 in the interview below:

With the state expanding the scope of industrial hemp farm research Quarles said he is going to set to work to make sure Kentucky wins the industrial arms race to sell and process the commodity.

“We need to make sure we have a market for it. The first state that attracts a processor that’s going to buy and process the product is going to win,” Quarles said, in the second part of the interview below.

Hear what else Quarles has to say about the politics behind his run and how he will run for statewide office and participate in the 2015 General Assembly at the same time.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.