FRANKFORT — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles was elected Thursday as president of a national association representing the leaders of state agriculture departments across the country.

Quarles becomes the first Kentucky agriculture commissioner to be elected president or hold office in National Association of State Departments of Agriculture since Billy Ray Smith, Quarles' office said. Smith served as president of the national organization in 2001-2002.

Quarles, a Republican, was selected as president during the organization's annual meeting.

"In this role, I will focus on expanding international trade, reducing food insecurity and building partnerships to support farmer-veterans and limited resource producers," Quarles said in a release.

NASDA is a nonpartisan association that represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories.

Quarles, who grew up on his family's farm in Scott County, was first elected Kentucky's agriculture commissioner in 2015 and won reelection last year.

During his tenure, the state Department of Agriculture has started several new programs, including initiatives to combat hunger and connect Kentucky farmers to new markets.

Quarles is also a former state legislator.

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