"Living Kentucky Proud": Interview with KY Commissioner of Ag, Ryan Quarles

Prepare to be swept away by the riveting tales and insights from our esteemed guest, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, Ryan Quarles. From the cornfields of the Fancy Farm Picnic to the bustling Kentucky State Fair, come journey with us as we explore the far-reaching impact of agriculture in Kentucky, narrated by the very man at the helm. Ryan shares his personal experiences growing up on a family farm and brings to light the multifaceted responsibilities of his role as the Commissioner since 2016.

Our adventure takes us through some of the pivotal initiatives of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. As we speak with Ryan, he uncovers the workings of the Kentucky Hunger Initiative and the Kentucky Proud food package. This actionable approach to reducing hunger while supporting farmers and agribusinesses in the state will give you fresh perspectives on how local agriculture can be leveraged for community welfare. Ryan also shares his aspirations for the program to continue its crucial work even after his tenure.

We wrap up our discussion by exploring the potential of hemp as a sustainable crop in Kentucky, its emergent markets, and the role of the FDA in steering this industry. Furthermore, Ryan walks us through his noteworthy achievements, including fundraising $5.1 million dollars for Kentucky 4-H and FFA. He also lets us in on his future plans, hinting at aspirations for higher education and possibly another political run. So, buckle up and immerse yourself in this deep dive into Kentucky's agricultural landscape - one full of hope, resilience, and innovation.


[00:00:08.490] - Chris Griffin
Welcome to Back to Your Roots, a podcast that provides insight into all things farming, financing and farm life, guiding you back to your roots.

[00:00:17.720] - Jordan Turnage
Thanks for listening to us on Back to Your Roots. I'm Jordan turnage.

[00:00:20.840] - Chris Griffin
And I'm Chris Griffin.

[00:00:21.870] - Jordan Turnage
And today we've got the Kentucky commissioner of Agriculture. Mr. Ryan Quarles here with us. Thanks, Ryan, for coming. We sure appreciate it.

[00:00:28.920] - Ryan Quarles
Glad to be with you all today.

[00:00:30.760] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, sir. Thank you for coming in. Sorry we couldn't get everything lined up last time. I'm glad we were able to get everybody in semi into one room together. We've got two out of three here and I think Kenny Rogers the one that wrote Two Out of three ain't bad. That might be Meatloaf, actually.

[00:00:45.850] - Ryan Quarles
Yeah, I like that reference. Yeah. So we're setting up for the Kentucky state fair. And so this is like the biggest week of the year for Kentucky AG and department of AG. And so we're really getting ready for what I think is a huge celebration of everything agriculture in downtown Louisville. It's going to be a great one.

[00:01:04.120] - Chris Griffin
That's awesome. I know you've had a busy couple of weeks. I know you had the Fancy Farm picnic and then the Farm to Table there in Mayfield and just kind of can you kind of explain the Fancy Farm picnic, how much it's grown? And from a political platform and everything, I know it's just turned into a huge event. So what that means to you in your position?

[00:01:27.370] - Ryan Quarles
Since I've been in high school, I've been traveling down to far west Kentucky to a small community called Fancy Farm, which is located in Graves county. And for anyone who follows Kentucky politics, it really is the super bowl of Kentucky politics. So it's an old fashioned political, stump speaking, continuous event. In fact, it's been going on for 142 years.

[00:01:52.420] - Chris Griffin
Wow, that's incredible.

[00:01:53.470] - Ryan Quarles
And we think it's the longest running stump speaking political event in American history. And it's a big year because it's the one time of year we can really get on stage and say a couple of jokes, throw through a few barbs, and it's kind of part of the culture down there. But what I like the most about Fancy Farm is that it forces the rest of the political class of Kentucky to go to west Kentucky, which I go to about once every two weeks because farming is so special down there. But for the rest of the political class, it gets them out of Frankfurt, gets them out of Louisville, and gets them down to God's country down west Kentucky.

[00:02:35.230] - Chris Griffin
That's right, yeah, for sure.

[00:02:37.730] - Ryan Quarles
Get to show people where their soy late mochas come from.

[00:02:42.210] - Chris Griffin
That's funny.

[00:02:44.470] - Jordan Turnage
Just for the listeners out there, I took down some notes. This isn't just a small little get together picnic. I would say a Fancy Farm probably has less than 1000 people that live in it. And during that weekend it multiplies 15 times over easily this year. I'm sorry.

[00:03:06.650] - Ryan Quarles
It's considered at one point by Guinness Book of World's Records to be the largest single picnic in the world. And if you like barbecue, that is the place to be on planet Earth on that day.

[00:03:20.030] - Jordan Turnage
They have a sign out there. I'm sure you saw it. They have it out there every year. They have a list of how much that they cook. This is the report that they got out of this year. So they cooked 18,000 pounds of pork and mutton, 1900 pounds of fried chicken, 146 gallons of corn, 410 pounds of lima beans, 225 pounds of peas, 258 pounds of green beans, 1400 pounds of potato salad, 250 pounds of coleslaw, and all the macaroni, all the tomatoes and cucumbers and onions you could get your hands on. And not to mention, everyone in there has a mama or grandmama that brings in homemade pies and cakes.

[00:04:12.530] - Chris Griffin
I'm assuming you don't leave there hungry, right?

[00:04:14.440] - Jordan Turnage
You can't.

[00:04:15.030] - Jordan Turnage
There's absolutely no way.

[00:04:16.306] - Chris Griffin

[00:04:16.360] - Ryan Quarles
You don't and you forgot to mention Sundrop you Know once you get down there that is the drink of choice you know. Ski is in Campbellsville. Mountain Dew is a big one, but down there is a Sundrop country. But the real question is, are you a mutton or pork barbecue fan? That's the question.

[00:04:37.190] - Chris Griffin
I'm a pork guy.

[00:04:38.560] - Jordan Turnage
See, I didn't want to be controversial on the podcast. I was actually going to bust you out on that. I know that there's a lot of political avenues that we go through down there, and that was my big question on that is after we get through with the conversations, the big question is, are you a mutton or a pork guy?

[00:05:03.000] - Ryan Quarles
At Fancy Farm, I'm a mutton guy. My grandmother grew up on a sheep farm in Australia.

[00:05:11.900] - Chris Griffin
Oh, wow.

[00:05:12.880] - Ryan Quarles
She's a World War II bride. My grandfather was a marine in Guadala Canal. Brought her home and she brought her sheep raising skills with her. And so we've always had a lamb component to our farms. But I'm a pork guy any other day of the week, any other week of the year when it comes to barbecue. And a good brisket, too. Of course, as Ag Commissioner, this is controversial, pointing out one protein over another, but at state Fair, you can find them all. Let me just put it that way. State fair, you can buy them all.

[00:05:45.120] - Chris Griffin
That's the political answer. I like that you wrapped it back up, Ryan, into a political answer at the end. So I like it.

[00:05:52.140] - Jordan Turnage
Well, either way, they sell everything but the oink. So we were talking about you being an AG commissioner. You've been the Ag commissioner for the state of Kentucky since 2016. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your position.

[00:06:07.190] - Ryan Quarles
Well, I grew up on a family farm like countless other Kentuckians. My family started farming in Kentucky back when it was part of Virginia back in the 1780s. We served in the revolutionary war. And we ended up in Kentucky because that's how the soldiers were paid through land grants and that's how the Quarles family ended up here from old Virginia. I'm 9th generation, grew up on a tobacco and cattle farm. We continue to run that operation today. And I was given a choice when I was a kid. My mom put the fear of God into me and said, you can either study, or work in tobacco it's your choice. And so for me, the choice was easy. I studied and well, ended up working in tobacco as well. But long story short, I went to UK and love Ag, studied Ag there, picked up seven college degrees, a PhD, a law degree, three master's degrees, and all Ag related to a certain extent. And when I was finishing up UK, I did something really stupid. I ran for public office while I was still in college and I won by 1% of the vote back in 2010, 1% of the vote and became a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives.

[00:07:22.920] - Ryan Quarles
And again, long story short, spent five years in the House, served on the AG committee, and then in 2015, I ran for statewide office and was fortunate enough to be elected commissioner of agriculture for two terms now. And I'm going to be honest with you guys, I'm going to miss it. I love this job. I love being commissioner. The number one objective of the AG office is to promote Kentucky AG. And there's a lot of highly specialized tasks that we have, ranging from the state of veterinarian to overseeing regulated crops to being the largest regulatory agency in Kentucky. I like to tell people that we're more than just cows, plows and sows and putting food on your table three times a day. We're about keeping the commerce open. And look, I'm sitting here at the state fair watching folks put up a Ferris wheel. Right now. We even regulate Ferris wheels at the Kentucky Department of AG. And it's an unusual, highly technical position, but boy, I love it. I'm going to miss it.

[00:08:23.700] - Chris Griffin
Well, that was actually something I was going to ask next, and you kind of answered that. I think people in AG, in Kentucky, they kind of understand what the department regulates and what they handle, but just somebody who's out there is unaware. There's so many different things that you all as a department have your hands on and touch that people aren't even aware of. And that's something since I've been here and I've listened to you speak a few times that I've learned and was like, oh, okay, well, wow, there's a lot more that the Kentucky Department of AG does than just farming. It has a pretty wide reach on what you guys do there.

[00:09:05.150] - Ryan Quarles
Yeah, I can give you the spiel in less than 15 seconds. On the AG side, it's everything from production, AG, farm bill representation, anything to do with pesticides. We have 16,000 plus chemicals registered at Department of Agriculture, farm Safety, organics county fairs, farm to tables, agritourism, obviously, the State Fair, Farm Machinery Show, North American, and the list goes on and on and on. Not to mention the Office of State Veterinarian, which we have jurisdiction over every animal disease in Kentucky, not including pets. So it adds up real quick. There's a lot going on.

[00:09:46.250] - Jordan Turnage
Forgive me if I'm wrong, but aren't we as far as the Commonwealth of Kentucky, aren't we one of the few that has, like, an actual registered veterinarian on that represents the Department of Agriculture?

[00:09:58.750] - Ryan Quarles
Well, it depends on which state you're in. But Kentucky, the state vet is housed with Department of AG. They're actually an employee of the State Board of Agriculture. So we work closely with that individual we just hired, a new one named Dr. Steve Velasco. Comes out of Texas, and he'll be at the State Fair, and we're trying to get him out and about to meet folks.

[00:10:18.400] - Chris Griffin
That's awesome.

[00:10:20.310] - Ryan Quarles
But here's something special. We actually oversee and work with our racetracks, too. So these little races like the Kentucky Derby?

[00:10:29.610] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, little race, yeah.

[00:10:32.410] - Ryan Quarles
Little things like that. We make sure that all the animal health papers working with the Equine vets are all in. So there's there's a big international component to the office as well.

[00:10:43.420] - Chris Griffin
I got you. Well, and to kind of switch gears a little bit, I know you've got a very soft spot for Western Kentucky, but one thing I wanted to touch on back when the tornadoes hit in 21, can you kind of tell us a little bit about your reach on that? And I know you were very involved and some things and just how it impacted our farmers and how it impacted you as an individual. And if you just would elaborate on that just a little bit.

[00:11:07.350] - Ryan Quarles
It's so sad that we've lost nearly 80 people. And look, the wildfires in Hawaii really caused me to rethink it, go through those memories again recently. But outside of the human death toll, agriculture by far was the number one affected industry by the deadly tornadoes of December 2021. And this here's a quick reminder of what happened. Tornadoes entered Fulton County and wrecked havoc all the way up to Louisville, Kentucky. All the way to Louisville, 200 miles. And it knocked out over 40 chicken barns, countless grain systems, even fences between farmers. We had to hire surveyors to reestablish the property lines because you couldn't tell you don't know where the property line was at. And then Pilgrim's Pride lost the feed manufacturing. And so, not to mention one of the flagship John Deere dealerships in Mayfield completely demolished. They're rebuilding. And one of the iconic things that got damaged was the Princeton Research Farm in Caldwell County. And the tornado literally went through a brand new research building that we just cut the ribbon on. But guess what? We're rebuilding. Stronger than ever before. And the farm community pitched in and helped. We worked with farm bureau and our extension agents raise millions of dollars to help those folks out.

[00:12:33.240] - Ryan Quarles
And so we're coming back.

[00:12:36.130] - Chris Griffin
Well, that's one thing, I think, with the AG community. And we've spoken to a few farmers about this same topic. It's such a tight knit community and I think they all just it's not, hey, when do you need me? It's how quick do you need me? And that's kind of what I've learned. It's pretty cool to watch and it's just really the culture and community of the AG side is such a unique and special set of people.

[00:13:02.970] - Jordan Turnage
 And also, I feel like. Oh, go ahead, I'm sorry.

[00:13:05.930] - Ryan Quarles
And that's something unique to Kentucky. After eight years in this position, I'm going to tell you something a lot of folks may not realize or take for granted. In Kentucky, we all get along with each other and we're one agriculture and after traveling the states, that is not the case in other states. And so we're very fortunate that here in Kentucky, we may have some disagreements, but we get together and we do things together. And that's something that makes us strong.

[00:13:34.950] - Jordan Turnage
And that's what I was going to comment on. Know, the state of Kentucky may be viewed as three sections, but I feel like in situations that we've faced with the tornadoes in Mayfield, the flooding out in eastern Kentucky, kentucky people take care of Kentucky people. There are no lines when it comes to helping a brother and a sister in need. I know that you just jumping in the truck and going to those places goes a long way. It's not just a political event for you. I know that. I know that you care. And to be that face and being the boots on the ground in those situations goes a long way.

[00:14:20.210] - Ryan Quarles
I really appreciate that. And it really has been an honor of lifetime. And we saw the same sort of reaction with the deadly floods in eastern Kentucky, that we all just come together. We come together. And for me, I was just doing my job. We were delivering supplies, we're helping out. We had meetings on Christmas Day because we knew that there are chicken farms that needed feed. Look, here's a crazy story. So Pilgrim Pride goes offline, but Tyson, a direct competitor of theirs, picked the phone up and said, we're going to mill the feed for you. We're going to do that for you because these farmers need it. And name another industry. Would you see something like that? So we're really fortunate to work together.

[00:15:04.740] - Jordan Turnage
Yeah, you've really had to show with the once in a lifetime tornado that we've had to face in the past two years, that the flooding, drought. You've really had to put some hours in on that silverado. I know that.

[00:15:21.510] - Ryan Quarles
Yeah. Big Red, she started to fall apart. But we've been around Kentucky for sure. And that's one part about the job I love. I have visited all 120 counties six times.

[00:15:33.630] - Chris Griffin
That's awesome.

[00:15:34.430] - Jordan Turnage
And only been shot at twice?

[00:15:35.970] - Ryan Quarles
I think I'm the only one in elected office that has done that, to be honest with you.

[00:15:40.670] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, well, that's awesome.

[00:15:43.070] - Jordan Turnage
We had talked about previously, you mentioned the Farm Bill and that is a huge issue not just in our industry but across the country every year. And I just kind of want to get your thoughts on the upcoming Farm Bill.

[00:15:59.410] - Ryan Quarles
I think that it's imperative that Congress pass the Farm Bill in 2023. They might be able to put a CR in there, continuing resolution, but I think it's so important that they get it done. Number one, we got to protect crop insurance and other risk mitigation assets and tools that our farmers depend upon. We also need to make sure that we are prepared for animal disease issues with a vaccine bank. We also need to make sure that we have adequate investments and research as well as our international marketing component. Because look, if you are pro agriculture, you need to be pro trade. And so we've got to make sure that the programs there and our ATMs through the Foreign AG Service are funded as well. And look, I think it's also an opportunity for Congress to take a hard look at all the nutrition programs and for the better. I think that in order to get a Farm Bill passed, you have to have nutrition programs in order to deliver the votes. And so I've always been kind of a common sense conservative on this, is that let's take a look at the programs, see which ones are efficient, see which ones aren't, and make sure that they apply to modern standards.

[00:17:14.970] - Ryan Quarles
I've been a big proponent towards reducing food insecurity in Kentucky, but at the same time it doesn't mean that we have to have costly duplication and that we can reduce that price. But look, the Farm Bill, it needs to get done this year before the presidential race takes over in '24

[00:17:32.200] - Chris Griffin
Well, and you mentioned something obviously from a farm credit side, we're always interested anytime something like this is taken to the floor, that it's important to us as well because how we're regulated and different things and how it's going to impact our farmers. So it's nice to hear your insight on that. And then one thing you mentioned was that food insecurity. And I know something that's been really near and dear to your heart is that Kentucky Hunger initiative that I think you might have established, if I'm not mistaken. And I've heard you speak on this at multiple venues, and you can sense the passion and the importance it is to you. And so would you just elaborate on that and just talk about what that has meant to you and what you hope to see that obviously continue after you leave that position?

[00:18:17.630] - Ryan Quarles
The Kentucky Hunger Initiative was started in 2016 and it really has a simple objective for a complex problem. Let's reduce hunger in Kentucky while also including Kentucky agriculture. That if we're going to be putting food into our food banks and pantries to help out those less fortunate, why not let a Kentucky farmer benefit from that? And that's been the simple goal. We did this long before COVID occurred. And guess what? The work that we put in to build a structure and framework back in '16 paid off in 2020 when the economy was shut down because we were able to divert food from Kentucky farms that otherwise would have gone to a landfill and would have been spoiled and get them to the hands of the needy. And we have raised over $40 million since I've been in office. And we continue to work towards finding ways to reduce food insecurity. And here are some quick facts. One in seven adults in Kentucky are considered food insecure and one in five K-12 students. And so the need is big. I've actually testified before Congress about this in preparation of 2023 Farm Bill, and I ask Kentuckyans to do one of three things.

[00:19:34.230] - Ryan Quarles
Please donate food. Whether it's off your farm, you can get a tax credit for it. Just contact my office if you do that. Or donate some food you get at the grocery store. If you can't donate food, maybe donate a few bucks to your local food pantry. They need it. They need it. Or the third thing is, if you can't donate food or money, consider donating a little bit of your time as well. We're always looking for a set of extra hands. And I will say this Farm Credit has stepped up to the plate and has helped fund two major programs in our office. Number one is that they funded over 200 refrigerators to be donated to our food banks. And I can't tell you how appreciative our food banks have been of the Farm Credit donations. Then secondly, they have donated the funds to retrofit school buses into summer feeding mobile devices. So these are the same school buses that used to drop off and pick up kids. Now they're dropping off food during summer months.

[00:20:34.510] - Chris Griffin
Well, like I said, I've always enjoyed listening to you speak of that. My mom was working the school system for 30 plus years in Kentucky, and I know Jordan's wife is part of the school system, and I know they see that firsthand. My wife used to be a teacher previously, and so I know she has seen that. She knows the effects that has on not only a child psychologically, but just even their learning. If they go to school hungry, it's hard for them to really have the mental capacity to do what they need to do. And so I just really want to thank you for doing that. That's something that I've always, like I said, enjoyed listening to you speak about because you can sense your passion about it and something I know that's had a huge impact on Kentucky.

[00:21:15.350] - Ryan Quarles
I appreciate that. And I'm going to share a little secret with you. It's just between you and me, right on this podcast. Okay. I'm going to continue those efforts after I leave office. The hunger initiative is going to continue to go. This is going to be a charity I work with for the rest of my life.

[00:21:33.010] - Chris Griffin
That's awesome.

[00:21:33.730] - Ryan Quarles
Bcause I've seen the faces of hunger in Kentucky, and I know that with the backbone and resiliency of a Kentucky farmer, we've made a difference and we're just getting started.

[00:21:44.030] - Chris Griffin
Well, that's awesome to hear. And that was actually a question I was going to ask. Is that program going to continue? So I think you've definitely answered that one and I appreciate the little secret you let us in on there.

[00:21:54.280] - Ryan Quarles
That's right.

[00:21:55.750] - Chris Griffin
I feel really special today. Ryan.

[00:21:59.030] - Jordan Turnage
That's the inside scoop for yeah.

[00:22:01.990] - Jordan Turnage
So in continuation, talking about food, one of the food packages that you see a lot around here in the state of Kentucky, it says Kentucky proud. Can you kind of tell us a little bit more on what that means?

[00:22:14.650] - Ryan Quarles
Yes. Kentucky has, in my opinion, the best state marketing program for local food in America. There's actually a lot of truth behind that. That when you see that iconic Kentucky proud symbol, which has been around for 20 years, actually, commissioner Billy Ray Smith started that in the early 2000s, that you're supporting a local farmer or agribusiness and other states have come to Kentucky to learn how we've done it. We're a little bit fortunate here. We've been using our tobacco settlement dollars. Get it off the ground. We have a high name ID. We're in our grocery stores. We're at our 170 plus farmers markets as well as roadside markets through Kentucky farm bureau. That when you see that iconic Kentucky proud symbol. It means you're supporting a Kentucky farm family. And so for us, we have over 7000 Kentucky proud members companies. It's an economic development engine for some folks. They use that free logo to market, maybe selling apple pies on the weekend and a farmer's market and two years down the road, oh, my gosh, you're in kroger stores now, so it can be a big game changer for our farmers.

[00:23:33.260] - Chris Griffin

[00:23:33.750] - Jordan Turnage
Sky's the limit.

[00:23:35.650] - Ryan Quarles
Yep. And there's more options now than ever. And that's one of the things that came out of COVID is that as the restaurants were shut down, americans were forced to learn about where their food comes from. And it's hard to get press like that. And I think there's been a renewed spirit for Kentuckyans and Americans to buy local. And so be sure to help explore if your company or if your farm wants to be part of the Kentucky proud program. It's free. Just check out kyproud.com.

[00:24:10.000] - Chris Griffin
Kyproud.Com. Okay, perfect. We'll put that in the bio or the synopsis of the show so we'll get posted. But another little thing, and I know it could be controversial, but at the same time at Wave AG Day, when I listened to you speak and then some other speakers, hemp got brought up again. Right. So that was obviously, at one time was the next big thing. But from my understanding, is it making a resurgence? And what are your thoughts on that? Do you think it's sustainable? Is it something that you think will be viable moving forward? Or where are we at in that process?

[00:24:48.830] - Ryan Quarles
I will give you the same message I have said for eight years now. Be careful. Don't invest more than what you are willing to lose. There is a future for hemp in Kentucky. We don't think it will replace tobacco. I've never said that. But for those who are growing it, we have about 100 people growing it and over 100 companies processing it. It can provide the launching point for new products. For instance, in Murray, we have a company making hardwood floors out of hemp. And in fact, we have some of that displayed at the Kentucky State Fair. I think there's a lot of potential there. You can go into grocery stores today and buy hemp hearts, which is the seeds, and people are buying that for salads and cooking needs. And then the CBD market is still very explosive. But the problem is that the FDA has not done their job. There are companies in Kentucky who are sitting on exclusive contracts for pharmaceutical retail chains that all of us are familiar with. They're just waiting on the FDA to do their job and say it's legal to sell products. And so, yes, there was a boom and bust in Hemp.

[00:26:08.830] - Ryan Quarles
There's been market correction after the 2018 farm bill and 2019 crop year. But for those that are still growing it and the processors that are still experimenting with it, there is a market. It's just that the market has corrected itself. But don't bet the family farm on.

[00:26:26.250] - Chris Griffin

[00:26:26.560] - Chris Griffin
So what I'm hearing is red tape. I'm shocked that you would even mention that. Red tape and politics or the government, I don't know what you're talking about. Ryan, yeah. I can only imagine the FDA is behind. I'm going to leave it at that. Yeah. Another big question, and one that I get, and I've actually had some of my borrowers come to me about is obviously solar farms. And obviously there's companies reaching out to these landowners that maybe no longer farm it or maybe it was inherited and they don't want to farm it anymore. But the biggest thing I think that concerns us is how is it going to affect that land for future use when that solar farm is gone? And who is going to be responsible for that? Because I know you've probably seen it, things like this can come and then one day they're gone and there's nobody held liable. And there is this land that somehow needs to be taken back to its original state. Right? And so what are your insights on that? What are you hoping moving forward, obviously after your time in office, that hopefully the new AG commissioner or whoever that is, can regulate some of this and protect the landowners?

[00:27:42.050] - Ryan Quarles
I'm very concerned about prime farmland being eaten up by large solar developments. Now, I'm not against these because I believe in personal property rights, that if you own a piece of land, you own it and you more or less get to do what you want with it. But at the same time, I'm concerned about the future of AG and what's happening to prime farmland. Now, look, if we want to talk about marginal lands or reclaimed coal mines, yes, let's talk about it. But first off, people get the opportunity and the right to choose. Secondly, we know of over 30,000 acres that are under contract and it's going to start adding up. But the big concern that we have had progress on is exactly the concern you just articulated. Is that what happens if the if not if, but when a solar development becomes obsolete, the technology, just like light bulbs, it will be replaced one day. And so we passed a law, working farm Bureau that puts in a mandatory reclamation bond, meaning there's a bond that is attached to that development in perpetuity that sets aside a bond similar to the coal industry for money that is dedicated to clean up that land and get it back.

[00:29:08.260] - Ryan Quarles
Now look, we all know as AG people, the second you dig a hole, the second you disturb soil, it will never go back in its original state. But this is a step forward. I think that it was a good piece of legislation. It doesn't solve all the problems, but I'd keep a watchful eye on that. And I'm going to leave your listeners with a piece of advice. If you do decide to contract, make sure you hire a lawyer and make sure that you understand the contract that's being offered.

[00:29:39.830] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, well, and I think that's one thing, like you said, I think sometimes those contracts, obviously the solar companies, they have their own lawyers, they've got things in there to protect themselves. And like you said, if it's somebody who maybe doesn't take the time to read that line by line or whatever that is, they're left a little bit exposed. So I think that's great advice on making sure you get somebody with a legal background to take a look at that contract and make sure it puts you in a good position as well as the landowner.

[00:30:10.530] - Ryan Quarles
That's right. Just like with any other piece of business, make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into.

[00:30:17.240] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, absolutely.

[00:30:19.670] - Jordan Turnage
Well, with no pun intended, I know that we're getting into the short rows of the term here with you as far as our current Commissioner of Agriculture here in. Kentucky. And in your tenure here, what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment as our Kentucky Ag Commissioner?

[00:30:38.730] - Ryan Quarles
I think there's been a few things that are worth mentioning. We got an international trade component up and off the ground, and quite frankly, we need to be even more aggressive with that. I've been proud of the progress that we've made with the awareness of AG, meaning teaching people who have zero AG backgrounds about what we do. And during COVID we did that well during the State Fair. We're going to have a half million people walk by our exhibits here, and hopefully they have a greater appreciation for Kentucky farmers. But I would say the top three things. Number one would be the Kentucky Hunger Initiative, connecting AG with the anti hunger community. Number two is we've grown our farm cash receipts to an all time high of over $8 billion.

[00:31:24.860] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, sir.

[00:31:26.090] - Ryan Quarles
And that's 2 billion more than the previous record. Now, look, that doesn't talk about the increased costs of inputs. I'm not going to gloss over that. But there's been some prosperity during my administration. And the third thing is that when we look back over eight years, I think people are going to say, Ryan Quarles was there for us. He was there for us in tornadoes, during floods, during multiple outbreaks of Avian Influenza. We've been there for the leadership of Kentucky Ag or two farm bills. And so I feel like we've done our job. I feel like we've done it without having to run negative ads. We've done it as a gentleman that my mom taught me and raised me to be. I think the last thing I'm going to mention is that my administration has raised $5.1 million for Kentucky, 4H and FFA.

[00:32:23.490] - Chris Griffin
That's awesome.

[00:32:24.540] - Ryan Quarles
Working with our county clerks. And so we're going to make that announcement during the State Fair that I would suspect maybe you and most folks in AG were in 4H and FFA. And for me.

[00:32:36.580] - Jordan Turnage
I can't say my FFA jacket fits anymore.

[00:32:40.050] - Ryan Quarles
You never know what young person might be inspired by.

[00:32:44.450] - Chris Griffin
Well, you were just talking about what your office has done and like I said, I've heard you speak multiple times and I knew you had a huge impact. But some of those numbers are really incredible. I didn't realize it was that much. And I think that speaks volumes for really the amount of time and effort that you put into your position. I think you took it obviously you're going to take it serious when you're that position, but I think your passion and your love for who you represent really showed. We want to just thank you for your time as AG Commissioner. You're not done yet, as from what I've heard, and that's kind of my next question is hold your feet on fire on this. I know I'm not going to get a super secret answer here, but what are your plans after being Ag commissioner. And what are you hoping to obviously, I know the Kentucky Hunger Initiative is one thing, but on the political stage, what are you hoping to move forward in? It was worth a shot, Ryan. It was worth a shot

[00:33:49.590] - Ryan Quarles
Um I'm looking at an opportunity in higher education that would benefit all of Kentucky, especially AG and other hands on industries. And this job requires me to be somewhat apolitical, meaning I got to work with whoever's in office, regardless of background, and so we'll know here by the end of the year, but I'll stop right there. But secondly, I do love politics, and I'm not saying it anytime soon, but down the road, I can see myself running again. And look, I really enjoyed running for governor this past year. I came in second, obviously. Wish we had won. But I also feel like we had the opportunity to raise the bar of what people are talking about across the state. And look, I may have come up a little short, but I'm happy. And God will open another door. I'm a big man, a big believer in my faith that it's all part of his plan. And so we'll see if higher education works out. But in the meantime, be sure to come to the Kentucky State Fair. We've got Donut Burgers, we have a flaming hot dog, and Mountain Dew mocktails are being sold.

[00:35:07.050] - Chris Griffin
Mountain Dew mocktails. That's the first I haven't heard of that one. Okay.

[00:35:11.080] - Ryan Quarles
Yeah, so come ready. Bring some tums.

[00:35:14.940] - Jordan Turnage
Yeah, that sounds kind of, like, familiar to the fancy farm hot toddy we get down there with the sundrop.

[00:35:20.310] - Ryan Quarles
Yeah, we might have to do a sundrop mocktail.

[00:35:23.100] - Chris Griffin
There you go. There you go.

[00:35:24.150] - Jordan Turnage
Be all things to all people. And don't forget our little niche area there of Ale-8 people, too.

[00:35:31.130] - Ryan Quarles
Oh, yeah. Well, look, guys, I've enjoyed this. I love my job as Ag commissioner. We're going to leave the department in great shape with a full tank of gas, I guess you could say, for the next commissioner. And so we're just making continuous improvements. We're going to run through the finish line through the end of my term. If your listeners need anything from the Department of AG, do not hesitate to let us know. We're here to work for you, and it's been an honor and a pleasure.

[00:36:03.690] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, sir, absolutely. I can't thank you enough. From one former Alice Chalmers tractor driver to we, I would be remiss if I didn't let Dr. Brandon down and not mention the few in the proud, the members that drive Alice Chalmer tractors. My granddaddy on my mama's side, he drove Alice Chalmer tractors. And I've got a picture of the home place back there in my office with a couple of our original WD 40 and our 70 60 Alice Chalmer tractor.

[00:36:35.480] - Ryan Quarles
Yes, I'm very familiar with those, and I'm not going to let the secret out of the back, but if you come to the State Fair, you might actually get to see one of my own, my very own Alice Chalmers tractors on display. And guess what? This one actually runs. We own about 30 of them. Half of them run, so that's a pretty good percentage there because you have to have one that runs and one for parts.

[00:36:58.360] - Chris Griffin
Yeah, that's right.

[00:36:59.240] - Jordan Turnage
Well, I mean, you can bat 300 and still make the hall of Fame, so we're all good there too.

[00:37:03.430] - Ryan Quarles
But hey, just like how we started this, two out of three ain't bad, guys.

[00:37:08.330] - Jordan Turnage
Well, Ryan, thank you so very much. Thank you for all that you do for us. Thank you. As far as the members of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, thank you for your time and your dedication and we wish you nothing but the best in your endeavors. We know this isn't the last time we're going to hear from you. Looking forward to hearing from you down the road.

[00:37:27.310] - Ryan Quarles
I look forward to it, guys. Let us know how we can be helpful. God has really blessed me in life. I love being Ag commissioner, and guess what? I'm not done yet.

[00:37:39.170] - Chris Griffin
I love it. Well, we really appreciate having you and thank you so much and hope the Kentucky State Fair is a huge success. I know it will be. And hopefully you'll get some much needed rest after the Kentucky State Fair.

[00:37:51.830] - Ryan Quarles
I'll need it.

[00:37:52.710] - Chris Griffin

[00:37:52.950] - Ryan Quarles
Thanks, fellas. And go, Alice Chalmers.

[00:37:55.180] - Jordan Turnage
That's right.

[00:37:56.710] - Chris Griffin
See you.

[00:37:57.860] - Ryan Quarles
See ya.

[00:37:58.730] - Jordan Turnage
Yes, sir. Make sure to listen to us next time where we'll have the CEO, Kyle Yancey come back in here to discuss more in depth about what River Valley AG Credit has to offer. Thanks for listening and we look forward to seeing you again on Back To Your Roots.

[00:38:12.020] - Chris Griffin
Thanks for tuning in to Back to Your Roots, where we dish the dirt on all things AG. Be sure to never miss an episode by following and subscribing subscribing while there, leave us a review about what you want to hear next. Stay in the know between episodes by following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok. For more resources, go to our website at rivervalleyadcredit.com.

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