Despite the rigors of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Kentucky Agriculture is strong, says Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

“No one could have predicted the turbulent and wild year the United States has seen in 2020,” he said. “During this year, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was able to make progress on key priorities for the agriculture community, while also coming together to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”

In what can be described as Quarles’ State of Kentucky Agriculture released recently, the commissioner addressed various strides made by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture in 2020 that included the KDA’s streamlining of food assistance programs, battling Gov. Andy Beshear’s “haphazard” COVID-19 regulatory responses as well as the department’s advocacy efforts in voicing Kentucky farmer’s concerns as the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

A major feather in the KDA’s cap was its endeavors through the Kentucky Hunger Initiative especially as COVID-19 struck and the state began to see a meteoric rise in food security. Through the initiative, the KDA and the state’s farmers were able to quickly mobilize to aid those most affected by the virus, according to the release.

Not only was the KDA able to work with the Kentucky Department of Education to secure flexibility from the USDA to expand the reach of mobile school meal programs but they also received “historic” donations, namely a $500,000 from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company to Feeding Kentucky, Glean Kentucky and Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry that supported these organizations’ efforts to face food insecurity in the state, according to the release.

Food insecurity was not the only issue compounded by the virus as a crack in the veneer of the food supply chain, especially the meatpacking sector, quickly became evident.

As vice-chair of the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, Quarles was able to work with fellow board members to develop the Meat Processing Incentive Program (MPIP), which invested $1.5 million in Kentucky’s small meat processors looking to expand.

The KDA went a step further with the program when Quarles advocated and was able to secure an additional $2 million in federal CARES Act funding to further supplement the MPIP and the program’s goals to evolve Kentucky’s meat processing.

While 2020 has been tenuous across the board, the KDA has fought and will continue to fight for Kentucky Agriculture as we all head into the unknowns of 2021, said Quarles.

“We made huge strides in providing support to Kentucky farm families, advocated for our farmers at the federal level, worked to keep our food supply strong and mobilized quickly to reduce hunger,” he said. “None of this would be possible without the incredible team of public servants at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. As we head into 2021, the KDA team is ready to continue fighting to put Kentuckians first.”

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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