Ag Commissioner Quarles joins with Evans Orchard for lawsuit against Beshear over executive orders

Ryan Quarles (Source: Lee Holeman, WAVE 3 News)
Ryan Quarles (Source: Lee Holeman, WAVE 3 News)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 12:40 PM EDT
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By Chelsea Jones

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner is challenging several COVID-19 related executive orders issued by Governor Andy Beshear.

Commissioner Ryan Quarles is joining a lawsuit alongside Evans Orchard.

The playground at Evans Orchard is a big attraction in Georgetown and a significant source of revenue for the farm. But the Evans family say they’re facing major financial hardship due to Gov. Beshear’s COVID-19 executive orders.

That’s why they’ve partnered with Commissioner Quarles to file a lawsuit against the governor.

Jenny Evans, who co-owns the farm, says Beshear has laid out reopening plans for retailers, restaurants, gyms, and so much more, but he has left out agriculture businesses.

“For us, this is not political, this is personal. It’s our family farm. It’s our family business,” Evans said. “We didn’t want it to come off political. It’s just what we have to do to save our farm. I can’t sit by and just watch it dwindle away.”

The family operates a playground and a converted barn facility that can be rented out for weddings and events. They say public health officials have told them they can have no more 10 individuals into the 96,000 square foot attraction at a time. They feel this is unfair considering the number of people in grocery stores and at recent protests.

Evans said she submitted a proposal on June 12 asking for permission to reopen at 1% capacity, that’s about 100 people, but it was denied. She also said she reached out to the governor but hasn’t gotten a response.

The Evans family tells us they have lost about 80 percent of revenue since the restrictions went in place.

They say they believe in putting public health first, and have made a number of adjustments to keep people safe. They say they just want to be treated fairly when it comes to reopening.

According to the lawsuit, Commissioner Quarles says Beshear’s executive orders violate the Administrative Practices Act, which requires input from the public and General Assembly during the rulemaking process.

Gov. Beshear’s office released this statement about the lawsuit:

At a time when states to our south are reporting over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, the parties bringing this lawsuit want to eliminate the public health guidance and requirements that are keeping Kentuckians safe. All businesses have to follow the same rules and guidance for outdoor weddings and other activities. We are confident in the legality of these rules, and have identified numerous legal issues with the suit, including that it was filed in the wrong place. If the parties here won and the virus spread because the facility was not following proper guidance, it could threaten the reopening of our economy and public schools.

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