Skip to Main Content

Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture

Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture

A discussion with candidates for commissioner of agriculture: State Rep. Ryan F. Quarles, Republican Party, and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, Democratic Party.
S22 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere: 9.28.15

Commissioner of Agriculture Candidates

Candidates running for the state Commissioner of Agriculture appeared on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight on KET. The program featured Republican Ryan Quarles and Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson Spann.

Ryan Quarles grew up on his family’s tobacco and cattle farm in Scott County. He attended the University of Kentucky and earned a masters degree in agricultural economics. He spent two summers in Washington, D.C., working in Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office on the tobacco buy-out bill, and for the Foreign Agriculture Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A state representative since 2010, Quarles serves the 62nd House District in Owen County and parts of Fayette and Scott counties.

“I grew up on plowed ground,” Quarles says. “It’s important that we have somebody who has firm roots in working in crops and tobacco and understands how Frankfort works.”

Throughout her youth, Jean-Marie Lawson Spann helped with her family’s corn and soybean farms in Barren and Edmonson counties. After graduating from Western Kentucky University, Spann handled press relations for Gov. Paul Patton, worked for a broadband Internet company in Bowling Green, and oversaw marketing for her family’s tractor dealerships. She now does international agricultural consulting, and hosts a weekly radio show about farm issues.

“I learned at a very early age how hard our farmers work every single day to provide the food for the entire world,” Spann says. “Plus I learned the importance and impact that an agribusiness can have on the economy.”

Budget Priorities and Jobs
In addition to supporting the production, distribution, and marketing of Kentucky’s farm products and agribusinesses, the Department of Agriculture also regulates pesticide use in the commonwealth, monitors the safety of amusement rides, distributes commodity foods to agencies that serve the needy, and examines the accuracy of grocery store scales and gasoline pumps. The agency’s budget for fiscal year 2016 is $33 million.

Quarles says his priorities for the department are to protect its current staffing levels and functions, to ensure the that Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund receives its proper allocation of tobacco settlement money, and to secure funding for a “grain center for excellence” at the University of Kentucky’s research station in Princeton.

Spann says her budget will focus on maintaining the safety and regulatory duties of the agency, supporting the local food movement, and boosting agricultural exports. She also plans to open two new regional offices of the agency in western and eastern Kentucky, which she says she can do at no additional taxpayer expense.

The Democrat says she will also make creating jobs a top priority.

“We will do that by recruiting agribusiness [and] ag processors, not only domestically but from all around the world, to come to Kentucky,” Spann says. “That will be jobs for Kentuckians and new permanent local markets for our farmers’ products.”

Spann says the local food movement provides a significant opportunity for job creation. She says there is a $5 billion demand for locally grown food in the commonwealth and she wants to connect farmers to those consumers.

In addition to local food, Quarles says he wants to promote value-added products such as ethanol and milled grains. He will also focus on production and processing of industrial hemp and hemp seeds, which he says can be used to make fiber, oil, and pharmaceuticals. He contends Kentucky has the right mix of agricultural and pharmacy research facilities to be a significant player in hemp-based medical products.

“When it comes to agriculture, it is a major economic driver for the commonwealth,” says Quarles. “So when I’m running for ag commissioner I look [at] farming and agribusinesses through the lens of economic development.”

Spann says she will also promote a hemp industry, which she says can eventually create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Emerging Product Markets
The Republican sees additional economic opportunities among crops not traditionally grown in the commonwealth. He points to canola for seed oil, kenaf for fibers, and barley and hops, which he says the state’s craft beer brewers would purchase. Spann says she also wants to explore growing cocoa beans in the state.

With increasing demand for organic food, Spann says she would support training to teach farmers organic growing techniques and foster distribution channels for their products. Quarles says he would help match new or existing farmers with low-interest loans to acquire land for organic crop production. With the average age of farmers reaching 60 years old, Quarles says it’s important to inspire younger generations to enter the field.

On product labeling, both candidates support the continuation and expansion of the Kentucky Proud marketing program. Spann adds that she favors additional labeling of genetically modified food products. As a mother, she says it’s important to know what she’s feeding her new son. Quarles says there’s no evidence that genetically modified organisms cause health problems, but he supports GMO labeling, if it’s done at the national level under uniform standards.

Environmental Regulations
Both candidates oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. regulations that seek to more precisely define which waterways and wetlands fall under federal jurisdiction. The EPA says the new rules do not cover farm ponds, change irrigation policies, regulate land use, or modify existing agricultural exemptions.

Quarles says he supports common-sense solutions to protecting water quality but he opposes the Waters of the U.S. rules. He says he agrees with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which says the regulations present the biggest threat to agriculture today.

“We’ve already seen what EPA has done to our friends in the coal industry,” Quarles says. “Now they’re after our family farms.”

Spann also opposes the new rules and says the Obama Administration is ignoring a report the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board prepared that tested water quality in the commonwealth.

“This study showed scientifically that it’s not our Kentucky farmers who are polluting the water,” Spann says. “Our Kentucky farmers are the best conservationists that we have. They care for the land and water.”

Equine Industry and Expanded Gaming
Spann and Quarles support parity for how horses and horse-related feed and supplies are taxed compared to other livestock. Quarles says he would also extend the Kentucky Proud program to market horses that have been bred, born, and raised in the commonwealth. Spann says she would promote the breeders’ incentive fund to help keep more Thoroughbred horses in the state.

The candidates are less enthusiastic about the prospect of expanded gaming. A current proposal by state House Speaker Greg Stumbo calls for a constitutional amendment to allow construction of a casino in each of the state’s six congressional districts. Most of the revenues from the operations would go to education and public pensions with 10 percent allotted to the horse racing industry.

Spann says she would have to study the specific legislation before deciding whether she would support it. Quarles says he doesn’t think there’s political will to pass expanded gaming, but he does favor giving voters an opportunity to decide the issue.

Program Details

Kentucky Tonight

About Kentucky Tonight

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is an hour-long, weekly public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday evenings. Discussions focus on issues confronting Kentuckians.

TV Schedules

Jump to Recent Airdates

Upcoming

Voting Rights and Election Laws

Host Renee Shaw talks with her guests about voting rights and election laws. Scheduled guests: Secretary of State Michael Adams (R); Joshua A. Douglas, University of Kentucky election law professor; State Rep. Jennifer Decker, Republican from Waddy; State Rep. Buddy Wheatley, Democrat from Covington; Corey Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky; and James Young, former elections director in Louisville.

  • Wednesday April 21, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 21, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday April 26, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday April 26, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 27, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday May 3, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday May 3, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 4, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 5, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday May 10, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday May 10, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 11, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 12, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY

Kentucky Tonight

  • Monday May 17, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday May 17, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday May 18, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday May 19, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
Jump to Upcoming Airdates

Recent

Voting Rights and Election Laws

  • Wednesday April 21, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 21, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 20, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday April 19, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday April 19, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

Recap of the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly

  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday April 14, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday April 13, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday April 12, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday April 12, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

2021 Legislative Session

  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 31, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 30, 2021 11:48 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 30, 2021 10:48 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 30, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 30, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday March 29, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday March 29, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET

School Choice

  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 9:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 8:30 am CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 1:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday March 24, 2021 12:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 11:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 10:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 6:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday March 23, 2021 5:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Monday March 22, 2021 8:00 pm ET on KET
  • Monday March 22, 2021 7:00 pm CT on KET
Top

Season 22 Episodes

Candidates for Governor

S22 E43 Length 56:40 Premiere Date 10.26.15

Candidates for Lieutenant Governor

S22 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.18.15

Candidates for Attorney General

S22 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.12.15

Candidates for Auditor of Public Accounts

S22 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10.5.15

Candidates for Commissioner of Agriculture

S22 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.28.15

Candidates for Secretary of State

S22 E38 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 9.21.15

Candidates for State Treasurer

S22 E37 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 9.14.15

Issues Impacting the 2015 Election

S22 E36 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 8.24.15

Health Care: A Reality Check

S22 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.16.15

Tough Choices Ahead for State Budget

S22 E34 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 8.9.15

Jobs and Wages: Behind the Numbers

S22 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.26.15

Tax Reform: The Issue That Won't Go Away

S22 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.19.15

LGBT Rights and Religious Liberty

S22 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.12.15

Postsecondary Education

S22 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 7.5.15

Discussion on Public Employee Pensions

S22 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.28.15

Education Discussion

S22 E27 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 6.21.15

Energy and the Environment

S22 E26 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 6.14.15

Transportation Issues Hit Bumpy Road

S22 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 6.7.15

Analysis of the 2015 Primary

S22 E24 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 5.31.15

Kentucky Republican Governor Primary

S22 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 5.10.15

Democratic Primary for State Treasurer

S22 E18 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 4.12.15

Republican Primary for State Treasurer

S22 E16 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 3.29.15

2015 Kentucky Elections

S22 E15 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3.22.15

General Assembly Breakdown

S22 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 3.15.15

2015 Ky General Assembly

S22 E13 Length 56:46 Premiere Date 2.23.15

Telephone Deregulation

S22 E11 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.9.15

Local Option Sales Tax

S22 E10 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 2.2.15

2015 Kentucky General Assembly

S22 E7 Length 56:48 Premiere Date 1.5.15

2015 General Assembly

S22 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12.15.14

Executive Order on Immigration

S22 E4 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11.24.14

About

Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the message form on this page. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

To purchase a DVD:

Call 1-800-945-9167 or e-mail shop@ket.org.

Contact

Explore KET