Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear called a temporary restraining order issued Thursday by Circuit Judge Brian Privett “reckless,” and said those who filed the lawsuit “should be shamed.”
The lawsuit was filed by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and Scott County-based Evans Orchard and Cider Mill in Scott Circuit Court and challenged restrictions Beshear has placed on the state’s 548 agri-tourism businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who is a Scott County native and his family are long-time area farmers, responded to the governor’s remarks in a press release issued following the governor’s press conference.
“Contrary to the Governor’s performance this afternoon, this lawsuit isn’t about him,” Quarles said. “It isn’t political. It isn’t personal. It’s about people who have been deprived of their rights to participate in the policy-making process.
“All that I am asking him to do is issue emergency administrative regulations that take effect immediately — with a public comment period, like the law requires. The Governor’s rhetoric makes it sound like he is unaware of this part of the law.
“Public health is paramount in a pandemic, but we don’t need to eliminate due process.I follow CDC guidelines. We all should. But the process in Kentucky has left people out of the conversation. It’s disingenuous to suggest that agriculture doesn’t want to prioritize public health. We do. But the process has not treated everyone the same. Why do well-connected amusement parks with lobbyists get to talk to the government, but mom and pops get ignored?
“The General Assembly has given the Governor the tools he needs to act swiftly and engage the public in a lawful process. He should follow the law, protect public health, and bring everyone into the process.”
Evans Orchard filed the lawsuit when they were instructed only 10 people at a time could be allowed into its 96,000 sq. ft. playground area. Jenny Evans said she repeatedly attempted to reach state or local officials on guidance on the restrictions, but was often left without answers.
Following the court order and the governor’s comments, Evans Orchard posted on its Facebook page:
“Evans Orchard is a family-owned business and we want to be able to open in a way that respects public health guidelines and also protects our family, friends, and customers.
“Our only goal is to represent small businesses and get fair guidelines across the board. We are following all of the recommended guidelines and will continue to do so, we would never open to a capacity that we deemed unsafe as the safety of our customers and staff are most important to us. It seemed unfair that small businesses were being told they cannot open and are being severely handicapped. Kentucky Kingdom can open with 16,000 people, Churchill Downs can open, Walmart and Lowe’s open and Fayette County Parks can open.
“We just wanted consistent, fair ruling across the state while following all of the safety guidelines. We appreciate those who have supported us and please know we will continue to do everything in our power to operate safely.”