Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture hoping to “beef it up”

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Senate Bill 46 is up in the air for Kentucky legislators, which is trying to secure some extra help for the state’s agriculture department.

Speaking with Ryan Quarles, the commissioner of the department said it’s a needed piece of legislation. As Kentucky has gone through several big events, Quarles said it would behoove the department to have more bodies able to serve in case of things like natural disasters and contagious diseases through more on-boarding and cross-training for the state.

According to the commissioner, there were 4 outbreaks of Avian flu which played a large part in rising egg prices for the country. The tornadoes of 2021 also did a number on food production for the state, with a reported 30 chicken barns damaged beyond repair. Events like these are what Quarles and the state veterinarian have referenced to help get the bill signed into law.

Making new divisions could be a big help to the department but there might be a bigger issue, nationwide. According to Steve Webb, a doctor of veterinary medicine in Glasgow, there’s a shortage of vets going into food production practices. Webb said he estimates upwards of 90 percent of students who come out of vet school are going for small animals and pets.

Webb said “People don’t understand, us field practitioners, we’re the first line of defense. We’re the ones who see these diseases”. In addition, Webb said that a lot of the vets who service farm animals are older and reaching retirement age with not many looking to replace them.