KY agriculture officials conduct trade mission to Middle East


KY Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles with trade official

FRANKFORT, KY -After a two-year pause on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) trade missions, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Dr. Ryan Quarles participated in two international trade development opportunities in an effort to show Kentucky and the United States are ready to accelerate trade talks to benefit farmers.


Commissioner Quarles’ first trade mission took him to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia to focus on food and equine exports. The second took him to the United Kingdom to engage with high level Members of Parliament on a new bilateral agreement with the U.S.


“Developing markets for Kentucky farm families is an essential responsibility of mine as Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Despite disagreeing with President Biden on several policy issues, I appreciate his U.S. Department of Agriculture inviting state agricultural leaders to help open new markets for American farmers. I was grateful to work with the Trump Administration on the numerous trade deals President Trump inked. With people traveling again, I believe it is important to get back to normal, pursue international trade relationships, and put the interests of Kentucky farmers first. Anytime we can sell more Kentucky agricultural products, that’s a win for our state.”


Commissioner Quarles, joined by USDA Secretary Vilsack, traveled to Dubai Feb. 15-24 as part of USDA’s first in-person trade mission in more than two years. While on the trip, the Commissioner connected with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, Inc. (KTOB) for meetings in GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries to benefit Kentucky’s world-class horse industry. Kentucky Thoroughbreds dominate the Arabian Peninsula including the sweeping of win, place, and show at the recent Saudi Cup, the biggest purse horse race in the world. Commissioner Quarles also reviewed the biosecurity and quarantine procedures to help mitigate the spread of equine diseases.


“The World Trade Center Kentucky is thrilled that Commissioner Quarles represented the Bluegrass State in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom on trade missions,” Omar Ayyash, World Trade Center Kentucky president, said. “Having worked in the UAE for several years, I know the market well and that Kentucky businesses and farmers will benefit from the Commissioner’s participation in the USDA trip. With the UK being one of Kentucky’s top trading partners, it is important our state reaffirm our relationship with them in the post-Brexit era and as we emerge from the pandemic. We stand ready to work with the Department of Agriculture on furthering our state’s relationships with both countries.”


According to the USDA, the UAE is home to a diverse economy, state-of-the-art airports and seaports, a trade-friendly regulatory environment, and extensive free trade zones. The UAE is one of the largest markets for U.S. agriculture and food among the GCC countries, and is home to the largest food exposition in the world. The UAE is also considered the entry point into India and African markets.


British Ambassador to the United States Dame Karen Pierce DCMG also extended an invitation to Commissioner Quarles to participate in a visit for a select group of U.S. agriculture officials March 5-11. The British-American trade relationship is incredibly important, and the United Kingdom consistently ranks in the top three export destinations for Kentucky agricultural products. The United States is the U.K’s largest single trading partner and is the destination for 20 percent of that country’s exports. Yet, due to Brexit, the United Kingdom and the U.S. do not have an updated bilateral trade agreement. Commissioner Quarles met with three high ranking Ministers including Trade, International Trade, and Agriculture to encourage progress on the trade deal and eliminate tariffs on Kentucky bourbon.


“The UK and UAE participate and invest significantly in Central Kentucky’s signature Thoroughbred industry,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Keeneland applauds the commitment of Commissioner Quarles and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to nurture Kentucky’s business ties to these key international markets.”


No state taxpayer dollars were used to pay for Quarles’ travel expenses. The USDA mission was covered by Market Access Program funds allocated to the federal agency by Congress, as well as funds from the Southern United States Trade Association and the U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. The trip to the United Kingdom was sponsored by the British Government.


Kentucky’s total agricultural and related product exports amounted to more than $1.1 billion in 2021, with more than $11 million in exports to the UAE and $98 million to the UK through November of 2021.

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