A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Ryan Quarles: With crisis looming, Kentucky is situated to be home to resolving supply chain issues

As Kentuckians gather around their tables for the Thanksgiving holiday, many will share thanks and gratitude for the ability to come together after a trying two years. But as they sit at the table, odds are high that family discussions will be dominated by talk of historic inflation and the supply chain crisis affecting our country.

Nationally, workers seemed to have disappeared from the labor force. Inflation has hit a 30-year high. Farm input and transportation costs are skyrocketing. According to the president of a leading food company who recently testified before Congress, his company’s shipping costs rose by $25 million this year and he expects the same in 2022. If you think prices are bad now, just wait until next year.

Ryan Quarles

Despite the number of press conferences from Governor Andrew Beshear, things aren’t much better here in Kentucky. In August, Kentucky led the nation in job resignations. Our workforce participation rate is one of the worst in the country and in 2020, we ranked fourth in the nation for the percent of personal income from government payments. This is just a preview of what’s to come if policymakers continue their spending spree to expand entitlements, incentivize people to stay at home and neglect our severe reliance upon foreign countries to manufacture and produce essential goods we need.

This spring, the Governor dragged his feet on reopening our state, making us one of the last states in our region to have a reopening date. He then forced the private sector – which had struggled to stay open during the pandemic – to compete with the government on wages for months by spending millions of dollars to pay people to stay at home instead of going to work. On the national level, the Governor’s friends in Congress would rather worsen this crisis by adding more fuel to the inflationary fire with trillions of dollars in new spending, expanding the entitlement state, and directing the IRS to track private bank transactions.

We have to stop the spending and need to have a conversation about the global supply chain. The shipping delays we are seeing are not confined only to commerce in our country or in our food and agriculture sectors. Our dependence upon foreign countries for computer chips and other inputs has become a national security issue. Our near-total reliance upon China for critical components and next-generation technology should give every American pause. And suffice it to say, our relationship is on the rocks.

Since the pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has turned inward and rejected attempts by our country and others to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. China’s president, Xi Jinping, has not left the country for nearly two years. He has doubled down on the mass incarceration of a minority, and his government has cracked down on the press and economic freedom in Hong Kong. Now, we see and hear saber-rattling from China toward Taiwan, and diplomatic relations growing between the CCP and the Taliban after our botched Afghanistan retreat. Do these moves sound good to you?

The pandemic and its effects have shown us a need to recalibrate our supply chains to restore critical sectors here in the United States and make proper investments into education and our workforce. With our growing logistics sector, Kentucky is within one day’s drive of two-thirds of the population. It’s time for our state to have a serious conversation about how we develop solutions to bring Kentucky, our government, and our people into the 21st century. If our leaders can get their act together, Kentucky is uniquely situated for being a home to resolving this supply chain crisis.

Ryan Quarles is Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture.

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