LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) – Local Restaurant owners and farmers met with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted business and farming.

”Culinary programs, Pro-Start is huge, but we need more schools in Pro-Start,” said farmer and restaurant owner Kristin Smith. “What we need help with, Mr. Quarles is getting lamb into restaurants,” said another farmer.

Farmers asked for more meat and poultry processing plants in the state. Some said they drive to Bowling Green for processing which can eat into their profit.

”When a farmer has to wait, sometimes a year in advance to get an animal processed, it also restricts their ability to sell that meat to a real grocery store, a school system or a restaurant,” said Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Commissioner Quarles said they invested more than $3 million dollars from tobacco settlement money to beef up processing plants in the commonwealth.

“I think we just need to work together to get more accessibility for our farmers,” said Smith. “Then, I think more farmers will also produce more chicken and make that available.”

Restaurants are also dealing with workforce shortages. Some workers only work a few shifts then do not show back up.

”I don’t know what the answer is, the answer has to be creating an environment where employees have to go back to work,” said Stacy Roof, President/CEO of Kentucky Restaurant Association.

Quarles called on Governor Andy Beshear to reopen the state, he said it will help out mom-and-pop shops.

”It would inspire Kentuckians to have something to look forward to,” he said. “A sense of normalcy knowing that we may still have some common sense solutions as we fight the pandemic.”

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