NewsCovering Kentucky


'It looks like a bomb went off': AG Commissioner discusses tornado impact

Posted at 3:34 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 18:20:42-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner, Dr. Ryan Quarles is a self-proclaimed farm kid. He grew up on one in Scott County and said he always wanted to be this state’s agriculture commissioner. That means western Kentucky’s farmers, many of whom lost everything in tornadoes last weekend, have the state’s highest-ranking Ag official on their side.

“Kentucky agriculture is like family. I grew up in it. When we get knocked down, we get back up and start working. And that’s already happening in many places,” Dr. Quarles said from his Frankfort office on Wednesday, one day after touring the devastated region.


“There is no camera angle or lens big enough to capture the destruction,” he stated. And he was not being overly dramatic.

Much of the blow was dealt to thousands upon thousands of acres of farmland. Fencing was demolished. Heavy machinery is destroyed. Livestock, crops, and grain are either gone or in serious jeopardy of being lost.

“There’s a chicken hatchery in Mayfield that was completely taken out. They will rebuild, but the problem is they supply to over 200 farmers in western Kentucky, so there’s going to be supply chain issues through the at least the next 6-8 months,” he said.

Quarles also shared a story about the Mayfield Grain Company. Silos there were compromised, and there’s currently $40,000,000 worth of grain hanging in the balance. Engineers are on-site now inspecting, and an employee there, Robert Whitford, said they are going to lose some of it, but they’re trying to salvage as much as possible.


Dr. Quarles, who is two years into his second four-year term, seemed resigned to the fact that much of the duration of his term will be spent helping western Kentucky. And he is okay with that.

“2021 was looking to be a big agriculture year. But still, there were still some issues going into 2021, including supply chain, rising cost of inputs, effect of inflation on our farmers. Now all of that will be playing second fiddle to the rebuild, recovery, and relief effort,” he said.

The commissioner has some resources at his disposal to offer relief of all forms – financial and otherwise – but it’ll take a lot more than what he can access at his fingertips to get the region’s farmers back to work.


“If you’d like to donate funds towards agriculture relief, visit our Go Fund Me page. If you’d like to donate physical goods, like extra barbed wire, fencing equipment, fence posts, things that farmers need, please contact the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, or the UK extension office, and we’ll get those out to people who need it.”

Quarles went on to say that volunteering time to help rebuild will be just as critical and just as meaningful to those farmers and to Dr. Quarles himself. Those efforts are being coordinated.

“When I got pictures of the damage beginning on Friday night, these were people I know. These are farmers who I know. It’s not about the equipment. It’s not about buildings falling down. It’s about the personal havoc these people have had to endure,” he said.