KENTUCKY AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER RACE - THE FACTS
The primaries are long over and the race is underway for one very important Kentucky seat: Commissioner of Agriculture. The battle is now between Ryan Quarles (R), and Jean-Marie Lawson Spann (D). Having a pro-farming commissioner is imperative for the people of Kentucky because agriculture plays such a vital role in the state’s economy.
In the competition for such a powerful regulatory position, much of the race will be showing were the candidate’s loyalty lies and interpreting which will be a better champion for farmers and the citizens of Kentucky. Both appropriate qualification and a solid record of pro-agricultural advocacy are needed to win the hearts, and most importantly the confidence of voters.
We all know what it is like when we get an unqualified puppet for outside special interest groups in a position of regulatory power over agriculture; just look at Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture and head of the USDA. Despite the USDA being an agency tasked with making good policy to promote farmers and affordable food production, Vilsack has appointed several past and current HSUS employees to high ranking USDA positions.
His appointments have caused uproar in the agriculture community and the resulting policy has only worsened unneeded regulations on food producers and raised costs for consumers.
Keeping Vilsack in mind, and the importance of having an Agriculture Commissioner that is trustworthy and loyal, we have decided to take an in-depth look at the two candidates in the Kentucky race. We hope to help you determine which of the two candidates Kentucky voters can trust to do what is right for them and their families, so that come November 3rd (election day) they can vote with confidence to elect a pro-ag, pro-family, pro-farmer commissioner.
The undeniable frontrunner of the campaign, Republican Ryan Quarles, was born and raised on a family farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. He attended The University of Kentucky where he triple majored in Agriculture Economics, Public Service & Leadership, and Political Science, while graduating summa cum laude with honors in three years.
He also earned three masters degrees: a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts in Diplomacy and International Relations from Patterson School of Diplomacy, and a Master of Education from Harvard University on a full-ride scholarship in 2009. His final graduate degree was a Juris Doctor from the University Of Kentucky College Of Law, and he has participated in study abroad and exchange programs to China, Ecuador, France, Ghana, Iceland, Israel, and Japan.
Throughout his professional career Quarles has served two consecutive terms as a Council Member on the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, as an ambassador for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, as the Agriculture and Interior Intern for Senator Mitch McConnell, and as an International Trade Analyst for the United States Foreign Agricultural Service.
In November of 2010, he defeated Democratic incumbent Charlie Hoffman and became the state representative for House District 62. He was reelected in both 2012 and 2014, despite the Democrat-controlled house redrawing his district and the Democratic governor personally requesting his opponent to run in 2014. He has served the committees on Agriculture & Small Business, Banking & Insurance, and Education.
Throughout these experiences he has maintained his dedication to his family farm and continued to work the soil each year, producing for Kentucky as his family has for over 200 years.
Being a farmer himself and understanding the agricultural way of life, he has seen the negative effects of animal rights radicals – especially in regulatory positions. He has spoken out, on several occasions, against extremist organizations regulating farmers and their involvement in falsely education our youth.
One quote from the Agribusiness industry network candidate forum on 2/13/15, that his democratic opponent rejected an invitation to, specifically addresses PETA and HSUS. He said,
“We have got to get into the schools early and make sure that we educate them, because I will tell you who is educating them right now: It’s PETA and the Humane Society of the Unites States … We need to work with the media to explain to them that current agricultural practices are not barbaric.”
He is correct in the fact that our farming practices are not barbaric, and more importantly he is correct in that PETA and HSUS are in our schools and attempting to create activist drones in their fight against the farming way of life. In an interview regarding Kentucky’s low ranking with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Quarles puts it like this:
“There is great caution among the agriculture community, of which I am a part, that there would be a commingling of animal cruelty laws which would unintentionally harm the agriculture community."
Although nothing can be confirmed about how ‘unintentional’ the harm to the agricultural community would be, Quarles is obviously a cool headed individual who will carefully examine all regulations and restrictions before placing them on our farmers. He has a very deep understanding of agriculture, and has proven to be a hard worker throughout his life who can get things done and encourage positive results based on intellectual reasoning and common sense.
Jean-Marie Lawson Spann
Spann is the Democratic nominee for Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture after breezing through an unopposed primary. She has worked as a marketing vice president for Lawson Marketing, Inc. and Hartland Equipment. She has also hosted a weekly radio show and was the press officer for the former Democratic Governor Paul Patton. She has a B.A. in corporate and organizational communication from Western Kentucky University and is an alumni of Phi Mu Sorority.
She claims to be running for the Commissioner position because it’s her “passion.” She identifies the largest part of the Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture as the ‘regulatory sections,’ and plans to use the power of regulation and restriction to impact the people of Kentucky if elected. Her agricultural experience mostly lies with her parents, who have sold agricultural equipment for 40 years and offered Jean-Marie her current position at Lawson Marketing.
She has endorsements from various current and past Democratic members of Kentucky’s government, and from organizations like the National Association of Letter Carriers, Women 4 Women, and the Jefferson County Teachers Association. However, the current Commissioner of Agriculture and gubernatorial candidate James Comer, has endorsed Quarles, her opponent.
Jean-Marie Lawson Spann has failed to identify the problem of radical animal rights organizations prying their way into government or schools. She has not responded in agreement or disagreement with Quarles on his warning of the unintended consequences of the animal rights agenda, or unneeded restrictions.
Meanwhile, Spann supports both GMO labeling and Country-of-Origin labeling (COOL), two subjects that would be greatly detrimental to U.S. food producers, and any added costs from these unnecessary measures would undoubtedly be passed on to consumers. These issues have been voiced loudly by farmers and ranchers, and a commissioner representing their best interests and that of consumers should be considering that.
The Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture race is a very important one for the people, their economy, and the rights of their farmers. Considering how outspoken one candidate is against the excesses of the animal rights agenda, it is surprising that the other has kept so quiet.
All we ask of Kentucky voters is that when you enter the voting booth next month you keep all the information above in mind and make your choice based on the proven record, deeply held beliefs, and experience of the candidates. We wish both of them luck.
Who do you think is more qualified for the job?