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2012 E-REPORT ARCHIVE
Click here for the most recent E-Report

#31, October 1, 2012 E-Report
#30, September 24, 2012 E-Report
#29, September 10, 2012 E-Report
#28, August 1, 2012 E-Report
#27, July 31, 2012 E-Report
#26, July 20, 2012 E-Report
#25, July 11, 2012 E-Report
#24, July 9, 2012 E-Report
#23, June 22, 2012 E-Report
#22, June 16, 2012 E-Report

 

2011 E-REPORT ARCHIVE


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October 1 E-Report
by Mary Fund

FARM BILL EXPIRES
What does it mean? and what happens now?


Last night at midnight with no fanfare or immediately discernable impacts, the farm bill expired.

Since this is unprecedented for farm policy, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) put together a list of of answers to the deluge of questions they have received regarding what happens now?

NSAC's is the best summary of information we've found on the subject and all its many issues, so we are reprinting their information below (in the form of answers to the questions below) , or you can go directly to their article by clicking HERE.

We are sending this update to a broader list than normal, because we thought this summary of Farm Bill information might be of special interest to more of you. If you have not received the updates in the past but would like to be placed on the E-Update list, contact me at ksrc@rainbowtel.net

Top questions on the Farm Bill:

When and why does the 2008 Farm Bill expire?

Congress generally reauthorizes farm bills - which help establish our food and agriculture policy as a nation - for a period of about five years, sometimes a little more or a little less. When Congress adopted the 2008 Farm Bill (officially the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008), they made the law sunset at the end of Fiscal Year 2012 - which is midnight on September 30. When you wake up on Monday morning (October 1), the current farm bill will have expired, without a new farm bill to take its place or a short-term extension to provide comprehensive ongoing legal authority.

Before the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress had never scheduled a farm bill to expire in a Presidential election year. Some advocates, including NSAC, strongly advised against breaking that precedent while Congress considered the 2008 bill. But alas, the unwritten rule was violated, and the chickens have now come home to roost.

Go back to question list

Why didn't Congress extend the current farm bill for a few months?

Darn good question. As with most things congressional, it comes down to politics. The House GOP leadership actually did make an attempt at a one-year extension of the current farm bill just prior to their August recess. GOP leadership withdrew the bill when it was clear there were not enough votes to pass it.

NSAC opposed that measure for several reasons, including the fact it was a long-term rather than short-term extension, and also because it failed to extend current farm bill programs that would have needed a renewal of funding to continue in 2013. In other words, it was a selective extension that left out critical programs (more on that below).

In September, most of the forces and policy makers who want to get a new farm bill done this year felt that any extension might quite possibly undermine the push to finish the new bill. Meanwhile, forces and members of Congress opposed to the bill did not see a tactical advantage to extending current law. Combined, that situation meant an extension would likely have been impossible to pass anyway, though some floated the idea.

Hence, starting Monday, we wind up in limbo land instead. It is not exactly the first time this has happened, but it's close. It had never happened before 2007. In 2007, as the fiscal year came to a close, Congress extended some but not all farm bill authorities in a Continuing Resolution that otherwise dealt primarily with appropriation matters. Congress then came back and passed the first of several short-term extensions of the entire 2002 Farm Bill at the end of December, a process which continued until the new bill became law in June 2008.

This year, Congress also needed to resort to a Continuing Resolution rather than finishing normal appropriations bills. The Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2013 approved last week included an extension for food stamps and several closely related smaller nutrition programs, but nothing else, which is a perfect segue to the next question.

Go back to question list

Why aren't food stamps and crop insurance affected by farm bill expiration?

Many commentaries on farm bill expiration focus on the fact that the two biggest farm bill programs -SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and federal crop insurance, which together equal nearly 90 percent of all farm bill spending - are unaffected. That is true. As explained above, Congress extended food stamp authority as part of the just-passed Continuing Resolution that keeps the government as a whole funded through the end of March 2013.

The authority for federal crop insurance is in the Federal Crop Insurance Act. While farm bills, especially in the recent past, make changes to crop insurance law, the farm bill has not normally been the vehicle for authorizing the program. In any event, there is currently no sunset date in its authorization (making it a "permanent" authorization, in Hill-speak).

Go back to question list

Why are many people saying there is a lot more time remaining before the deadline for commodity program changes?

Many commentators and lawmakers focus on commodity programs when speaking about the farm bill, because they have been the bill's long-time central feature. In the context of farm bill expiration, an oft-repeated comment is that farm commodity subsidies and support structures are not in any kind of final jeopardy on October 1. Dairy programs do not radically change until January (although certain very significant changes started on September 1, see below), and other subsidized crops aren't really affected until later in the spring through early fall of 2013. While some suggest, therefore, that expiration has no major consequence, this takeaway message is not entirely accurate.

While the 2008 Farm Bill covers commodities through the 2012 crop year, and while some of the 2012 crop year subsidy payments are made in 2013 and are not affected by expiration, both the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed new farm bills make huge changes to commodity programs, including an end to direct payments. To make those brand-new programs operable for the 2013 crops, USDA needs significant time to prepare new rules, forms, computer programs, and guidance materials with which to enroll farmers, and farmers (and their bankers and credit suppliers) need to time to make informed choices and to enroll.

This cannot happen at the drop of hat if Congress waits until the last minute. From an administrative implementation perspective and from a farmer planning perspective, all the talk of harvest time next calendar year as being the real legislative deadline is seriously misguided and legislative-centric thinking.

For dairy programs, the turmoil already began on September 1 because a change to the formula for determining milk payments to farmers effectively ended those payments on that date. On January 1, the dairy price support program itself will expire, becoming the first program to revert to permanent law. Under permanent law, government-supported prices would be about four times higher than current law and about twice as high as current market prices. Why the huge price increase? Good question, which leads us to the next question.

Go back to question list

What happens if we were to revert to the 1949 Farm Bill?

If a new farm bill is not enacted or the current farm bill is not extended for a period of time, the farm bill commodity programs revert to permanent law contained in the 1938 and 1949 farm bills. Each successive farm bill since that time has suspended permanent law for the period of time provided for the newly enacted farm bill. But the permanent law provision is scheduled to pop back up and become the law of the land again if Congress does not enact a new bill or extend current law.

This peculiar feature normally induces Congress to get its work done on each new farm bill in a timely fashion. Without a 2008 Farm Bill extension or a new farm bill, dairy policy reverts to permanent law on January 1, and grain and other commodities do so once the new 2013 crop is ready for planting.

USDA's job to get ready to implement the 1949 Act actually begins next week, though few expect the Department to spend much time on the matter. Why? Because reverting to permanent law would re-introduce a radically different farm program, one with much higher support prices (through nonrecourse loans instead of payments) that would require much smaller crop production and much higher consumer prices. It would also leave out any mandatory coverage for soybeans and other oilseeds as well as peanuts and sugar. In other words, it is widely considered so extremely anachronistic as to be unworkable.

Still, as impossible as it is to imagine it going into effect, permanent law will be the law of the land unless Congress acts to agree on a new farm bill, extend the current farm bill, or suspend or repeal permanent law.

Go back to question list

What about conservation programs - what happens to them?

After food stamps and crop insurance, the next largest farm bill accounts in terms of funding are the commodity subsidies and conservation assistance. Farm bill conservation programs with mandatory funding comprise more than 85 percent of total USDA conservation spending, with the balance coming from appropriations.

The working lands conservation programs - Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program - had their legal authorities extended through 2014 by the Agricultural Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The same was true for the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), but not for the other easement programs - the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) - and not for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Right now, with farm bill expiration upon us, the earlier extension of some conservation program authorities through 2014 is proving to be very helpful. At the time the appropriations bill was written, however, the extension served a very different purpose. The FY 2012 appropriations bill stole over $900 million in farm bill conservation funding - through something called "changes in mandatory program spending" or "chimps" in Hill-speak - to make up for shortfalls in the discretionary agricultural spending under the purview of the Appropriations Committee, as opposed to the mandatory farm bill spending that is the purview of the Agriculture Committees. (Roughly 80 percent of USDA funding is mandatory, with most of that coming through the farm bill.)

Were it not for the extension of authority to 2014, the 2012 "chimps" to conservation spending would have permanently altered the farm bill budget baseline and made the task of agreeing on a new farm bill all the more difficult. To prevent that long-term negative impact, the extension was agreed to.

So here in a nutshell is the admittedly complex conservation program situation on October 1:

* EQIP, WHIP, AMA, and FPP are all in good shape due to the extension until 2014. USDA can hold normal enrollments for those programs this fall and winter. The just-passed Continuing Resolution holds over from 2012 the "chimps" to those programs, so their funding levels are lower than they would be otherwise, but they are operative and farmers can enroll without interruption. The same thing holds true for the various EQIP subprograms and special initiatives.

* CSP would be in good shape (due to the extension until 2014) except for a huge new problem in the new Continuing Resolution. The Continuing Resolution has the effect of limiting CSP funding to just the amount necessary to pay for existing contracts but not enough to pay for any new ones. At least until Congress takes corrective action, hopefully during the lame duck session, new FY 2013 CSP enrollments are on hold.

* GRP, WRP, and CRP (including the conservation buffer initiative or so-called continuous CRP) all have acres under their 2008 Farm Bill acreage cap remaining. There would, therefore, be funding available for these programs in FY 2013 if it weren't for the fact there is no legal authority to use those available acres and dollars after September 30. The same is true of the Chesapeake Bay Conservation Program (CBCP) - it has a funding baseline but no authority to actually spend the available money. Hence, there can be no new enrollments in any of these programs until Congress passes a new farm bill, extends the current farm bill, or extends these authorities in a new Continuing Resolution or final appropriations bill. Payments and maintenance of existing contracts from prior years is allowed.

* Special note - GRP, WRP, and CBCP are all consolidated into larger, overarching programs in the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed 2012 Farm Bills. Hence, if and when those bills pass, they will be known by different names. But their functions, as well as their remaining budget baselines, will all be carried forward.

Go back to question list

So, CSP, GRP, WRP, CRP, and CBCP are all shut down for new enrollments starting October 1. Are there other programs that also screech to a halt on October 1?

Yes, there are! A lot. The last two farm bills in 2002 and 2008 began the long-overdue process of providing farm bill funding for emerging priorities outside of the traditional farm bill areas (food stamps, commodity subsidies, and more recently, conservation assistance). These include, for instance, the following eleven programs that we at NSAC believe are among the most innovative and forward-looking programs the farm bill has to offer:

* Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
* Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentive Program
* Farmers Market Promotion Program
* National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
* Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative
* Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives
* Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
* Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
* Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program
* Specialty Crop Research Initiative
* Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG)

Each and every one of these programs, plus others, while they will still exist on paper, will have no renewed farm bill funding come October 1. This means that USDA will not be able to move forward with these programs in FY 2013. All the grants, loans, and research projects funded by these programs will be on hold until Congress acts. Two of the programs above - REAP and VAPG - will thankfully have small appropriated discretionary dollars to work with, though even those two would have far less money than they would likely wind up with under a new farm bill. All the rest, however, will have no farm bill or appropriations funding. Absent congressional action they will simply wither on the vine.

With the expiration of the farm bill, therefore, beginning farmer training opportunities and minority farmer assistance projects will dry up. Microloans and training for very small businesses - businesses that drive economic recovery in rural America - will cease. Emerging farmers markets in rural and urban food deserts will not have access to startup grants. Organic farming and fruit and vegetable researchers will not be able to compete for any dedicated research funds. No funds will be on hand to help transition land coming out of CRP into the hands of new young farmers. Incentives to create a new generation of sustainable biofuels based on perennial crops will stop. In other words, the programs that directly address rural and urban job creation, renewable energy, and improved production and access to healthy food will be left high and dry.

But wait! There's even more bad news. In addition to these programs that need renewed funding to continue, there are also programs that have funding, but as of October 1, lack the authority to use that funding. We address this question with respect to conservation programs in the preceding question. But those conservation programs aren't the only such stepchildren of farm bill expiration. Other important programs, for instance the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, have a strong continuing funding baseline but will now lack the authority to make use of it, so effectively they, too, will come to a halt until a new bill or an extension of the existing bill becomes law.

Go back to question list

Do these program expirations really matter?

We believe they do. In fact, we think they matter as much or more than anything else in the farm bill. Following the last hired, first fired rule in employment situations often yields terrible results for the long-term health, well-being, and productivity of a business. The same is true here. The newer, more innovative and forward-looking programs that will help create a new 21st century farm and food system should not be neglected. In fact, they should be the programs that are growing not shrinking or disappearing.

To date, it seems that Congress agrees, at least in part. Each of these programs is included for renewed mandatory funding in the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill, the House Committee-passed bill, or both. Only three are included in the pending 2012 bills at higher levels of funding than under the 2008 Farm Bill and most are unfortunately set at lower levels - a problem we hope Congress will fix before the new bill is finalized.

But be that as it may, it is clear that there is political support for these programs in the new farm bill. It is also clear that they have been left, for now, without funding for at least the next few months. What is not clear is whether, should the current farm bill be extended into calendar year 2013, these programs will get their funding restored for that interim period of time. We believe they should and that, in addition to reversing the misguided shut down of the Conservation Stewardship Program (see above), this should be top priority for any extension bill.

(Note to readers: We will be posting articles on each of these priority programs, starting next week and through to the lame duck session of Congress.)

Go back to question list

How does the disaster assistance bill factor into this discussion?

Both the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed versions of the 2012 Farm Bill include comprehensive disaster assistance provisions. Passage of the new farm bill in the lame duck session of Congress in November and December would eliminate any need to consider separate disaster assistance legislation.

If Congress fails to enact a new bill, then disaster assistance to respond to drought, freezes, and other disasters from the past growing cycle may get separate consideration. The House passed a disaster bill just prior to its August recess, but it was not a comprehensive bill and it paid for disaster aid through an incredibly short-sighted set of cuts to working lands conservation programs.

The best thing Congress can do to respond to disaster needs is to pass a new farm bill. If that does not happen and a separate bill is considered, Congress should pass it under the disaster aid provision provided for by the Budget Control Act of 2011 - not by raiding the very conservation programs that help farmers become more resilient and thus better able to deal with drought and other extreme weather conditions.

Go back to question list

What is the relationship between the farm bill and the Continuing Resolution?

As mentioned above, the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeps the entire government and all discretionary programs funded at nearly static 2012 levels through the end of March 2013. That is halfway through the fiscal year, which starts on October 1. The expectation is that Congress will either return to the regular, full year new appropriations bills, including the agriculture bill, in the lame duck session or in the new session of Congress that begins in January. Whenever that omnibus appropriations bill passes, it will govern discretionary spending for all government agencies through the rest of the fiscal year.

Also as noted above, the CR extended the authority of the SNAP or food stamp program through the end of March as well, freeing that program from any damage due to congressional inaction on the new farm bill.

Unfortunately, the CR did not include a much-needed provision to extend the authorities for new enrollments in the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program, and Chesapeake Bay Conservation Program. The failure to include such an extension in the bill for those programs or for programs like the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program or the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program means they become temporarily inoperative for new enrollments and grants beginning October 1.

Worse still, the CR included, unintentionally, a provision that effectively shuts down the 2013 Conservation Stewardship Program, at least until Congress fixes the mistake. By failing to adjust the CSP funding level to its 2013 amount before cutting the program, the CR essentially freezes the program in place with little or no room for new enrollments. That the CR robs farm bill conservation accounts (including CSP, EQIP, FPP, and WHIP) to pay for unrelated expenditures in the appropriations bill is wrong to begin with, but to then also make the cut from the wrong baseline funding level in the case of CSP adds a very big insult to injury. This error will hopefully be corrected in the lame duck session after the elections.

Go back to question list

What is the relationship between the farm bill and the automatic budget cuts scheduled for January 1?

The new farm bill, when and if it becomes law, will cut more spending from farm bill programs overall, on a net basis, than the automatic budget cuts scheduled to begin on January 1 under the requirements of the Budget Control Act of 2011. It has been assumed since the start of the farm bill debate that, by achieving greater savings and a larger contribution to deficit reduction than would be required under the automatic cuts (known in Hill-speak as sequestration), the farm bill would take the place of automatic cuts to mandatory agricultural spending. Our blog post on this subject goes into more details. Whether Congress postpones the start date for automatic cuts or in other ways amends the Budget Control Act when it returns to DC after the elections is one of the biggest issues hanging over the lame duck session.

Go back to question list

What are the farm bill choices that Congress has during the lame duck session?

There are two theories about what happens next. In one, the House returns after the elections and finally brings its bill to the floor, passes the bill with amendments, the House and Senate versions then get reconciled in a farm bill "conference" committee, and a melded final bill is approved by the conference, sent back to both bodies for a final vote, and sent to the President for his signature - all within the three to five weeks of the short "lame duck" session.

In the other theory, Congress returns after the election and works out the details of a bill to extend, with some modifications, the 2008 Farm Bill until a date in the spring, summer, or fall of 2013. Under this scenario, the new session of Congress that begins in January (and lasts for the next two years) will start the five-year farm bill process all over again, with both House and Senate Agriculture Committees formulating a new bill that will then go through the entire legislative process all over again.

One of the big factors that should concern food and agricultural interests with choice number two is the fact that a new farm bill finished in 2013 will operate under a different budget baseline than if the bill is finished in the lame duck session. It is too early to say for sure what the impact of the new baseline would be, but expenditures for crop insurance subsidies will most certainly be higher, increasing the total cost of the farm bill, and projected savings from changes to commodity programs in the pending 2012 bills will almost certainly be lower. Absent a reversal of the conservation cuts in the Continuing Resolution during the lame duck session, the conservation budget baseline will be lower, making that title more difficult to put together. All things considered, there is a very strong possibility that the new baseline alone will make the task for finishing a farm bill more difficult. And that does not even include factoring in the politics around any long-term budget deal that may or may not be reached next year.

Go back to question list

Could a new Congress next year simply revert to the farm bills passed this year?

No, not exactly. Legislation does not carry forward from one Congress to the next. The process must start all over again, with bills introduced, markups in Committee, and votes on the floor of both bodies. So in that sense, things really do start all over again. That said, if the leaders and members of the Agriculture Committees (some of whom will be new next year) decide to bring forth and approve essentially the same bill they produced in 2012, that is an option open to them. But it still must go through the normal process and be subject to amendments and voting all over again.

Go back to question list

What is the best path forward?

There can be little doubt that the best path forward is for Congress to finish its work on the 2012 Farm Bill in 2012. That will mean getting the House bill to the House floor very quickly when the lame duck session begins, but leaving plenty of time for debate and amendments.

In our view, while the House bill has a range of fairly good titles and program improvements, the farm program provisions in the House bill are in particular are in need of major reform. We expect major House floor debates on very important reform amendments.

(Note to readers: We will be publishing another post soon detailing the many farm program reform provisions in the Senate bill that are missing from the House bill, with additional thoughts on how to improve both bills to improve their effectiveness and lower their cost.)

The House bill also contains a handful of very bad legislative riders that harm competitive markets, environmental protection, and public health, that should be struck.

Assuming House passage of a new bill, hopefully a much improved bill compared to what came out of the Committee, there will then be a period of time needed to work through the significant differences between the Senate and House bill. Some of those differences can be worked out and settled ahead of time, but many of the most significant ones will come down to the conference committee, which is made up of representatives, usually the more senior members, of both committees.

If, however, the best path forward is not the chosen path come November and December, then an extension of the entire farm bill must be enacted before this session of Congress ends. That could be a short-term extension, until, perhaps the end of March or May, or it could be an extension through the end of the 2013 fiscal year and/or the 2013 crop year. Whatever choice is made about the length of the extension, we will insist the extension must actually extend all farm programs and not leave the smaller but very important programs listed in an earlier question above without farm bill funding for 2013.

Go back to question list

What can I do?

It's up to all of us to hold Congress accountable and get a 2012 Farm Bill done before the end of the year. All of our victories in the draft versions of the farm bill thus far - historic commodity payment limitation reform, conservation protection for highly erodible land and sensitive wetlands, grant funding for local and regional food infrastructure, and much more - are on the line. Calls from folks like you will be crucial in November when Congress comes back to Washington.

Help us get the best bill possible for sustainable agriculture - sign up for NSAC Action Alerts today and help us speak out!

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Farm Bill to Expire September 30; No Extension and No New Bill Before Elections;
Continuing Resolution Funds Government for Six Months

by Mary Fund

September 24 E-Report
by Mary Fund

Farm Bill to Expire September 30; No Extension and No New Bill Before Elections;
Continuing Resolution Funds Government for Six Months

by Mary Fund

Late last week it became official. There will be no extension of the farm bill that expires September 30, 2012; nor will there be a new farm bill any time soon. Instead, Congress left town for the campaign season, leaving the farm bill to the lame duck session after the November elections. And it is unclear what will happen then.

What expiration means from an administrative program perspective is unknown, though some say immediate impacts are few or small. CRP enrollments will be suspended, some programs will expire and will need to be reinstated in a new bill, but commodity program payments, crop insurance and nutrition programs will roll on.

But without action--either a new farm bill or an extension by the end of the year--programs will start to suffer from the uncertainty and lack of continuity. And many that expire (such as beginning farmer programs, local and regional food initiatives, and most of the organic programs) face an uphill battle to get reinstated in the new farm bill.

Expiration of a farm bill without even an extension of the current bill is unprecedented. At no time in history has Congress been so dysfunctional. During the lame duck session, there are a number of critical issues to address to avoid falling off a fiscal cliff by December 31, 2012. This refers to the expiration of billions of dollars of tax cuts and the triggering of automatic cuts that will kick in on ALL government programs January 2013 unless Congress acts. ( i.e. another example of kick the can down the road leadership as established in August 2011 when Congress refused to deal with the budget deficit.)

So, to say that determining the fate of the farm bill programs will be difficult against that back drop is an understatement.

Both the House and Senate farm bill drafts are far from ideal. But as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says, "renewal of important farm bill programs for economic growth and equity, new and beginning farmers, food system and market development, and conservation and renewable energy need to be included. Reforms to farm subsidy programs are desperately needed." Read more here.

Continuing Resolution. On September 20, Congress passed a 6-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund government at current FY 2012 levels through March 27, 2013. This generally provides 2012 levels of funding for discretionary farm programs with a six-tenths of one percent increase.

But mandatory conservation programs such as Conservation Stewardship Program, will be capped at 2012 levels which limits FY 2013 enrollment . Other conservation programs face reductions as well, as the CR's overall impact is to reduce the budget baseline of what conservation programs in the new farm bill can request. Coming at a time when many of the nation's farmers and ranchers have dealt with the second year of a major drought, this is unpardonable for the nation's food system and protection of our natural resources. Read more here.

Election Year Questions. Agriculture is not exactly front and center for many of the candidates, but as candidates for Congress and/or state races visit your neighborhoods and communities, be sure to ask questions about the farm bill status, local food system support, conservation programs, etc. Make food and farming issues part of the campaign season.

Calendar- October 16: Oxfam America invites you to participate in a World Food Day Dinner

When you sit down to eat every day, do you think about how the meal you're eating is the product of a complex, and broken, global food system? This World Food Day, Oxfam America is teaming up with a host of allies across the US and around the globe.

Oxfam encourages people and organizations to host a World Food Day dinner sometime around October 16th-- an event that fosters a conversation about where your food comes from, who cultivates it, and how you can take personal actions that will make the food system more just and sustainable.

You can sign up with Oxfam to host a World Food Day dinner . They will send you free materials to host a great event. The materials include placemats, recipe cards, and a discussion guide that can be used at a house party, church potluck, or wherever you people like to gather for good food and conversation.

The World Food Day dinners don't have to take place just on October 16, but they are a great way to make people aware that we all share a global food system, and that we can help to make our world more just and well-fed starting at our own tables. These dinners are part of Oxfam's GROW Campaign. Oxfam's GROW campaign aims to build a better food system: one that sustainably feeds a growing population (estimated to reach nine billion by 2050) and empowers poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive.

For more information, contact Jim French, jfrench@oxfamamerica.org or go to World Food Day dinners.

November 13: Organic Farming Forum

The Kansas Rural Center is sponsoring an Organic Farming Forum in Salina, Ks. on Tuesday November 13 for organic farmers and want-to-be organic farmers. This day long event will feature presentations and panel discussions on issues and questions relevant to organic farming practices, certification, transition for beginning organic farmers, and marketing. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Michel Cavigelli, lead scientist for USDA's Farming Systems Project and organic farming research. More information to come later. Or contact Mary Fund at the Kansas Rural Center at 785-873-3431, or at ksrc@rainbowtel.net

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September 10 E-Report
by Mary Fund

FARM BILL UPDATE:
Who is on first? or what game are we playing?


The fate of the 2012 Farm Bill has been unclear all summer, but became even more so when Congress left town for the August recess without making any decisions. To refresh your memory, here is where it stood in early August. The House Agriculture Committee passed a bill in July, but House Republican leadership refused to hear the bill on the floor, (preferring to spend time on a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and other issues that were more political posturing than governance.)

The House Ag Committee bill made deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( the old Food Stamp program), offered no real reform of commodity programs, and missed an opportunity to offer protection to native grasslands (a national sodsaver provision) and repealed the livestock and poultry producer fair competition rules. Due to ongoing drought and pressure from much of farm country, the full House did pass a stand-alone disaster assistance bill for producers (one that took money from long term conservation programs to pay for short term assistance).

The Senate had passed their own version of the Farm Bill in June. Theirs included a broader disaster assistance package, so they would not pass the House's stand-alone disaster assistance bill before going on recess, which resulted in more partisan blame and name calling back and forth.

Despite the pressures of the drought and farm organizations and businesses to pass a comprehensive farm bill before the current bill expires September 30, 2012, there was no real movement over recess. BUT, Congress is back in town starting today, and the speculation is heating up and time is running out. The House has only eight days in session before heading back out of town to hit the campaign trails. The current Farm Bill expires September 30.

The Options.

In a nutshell here are the possibilities:

1) Although highly unlikely, due to the major differences between the House and Senate versions, they might still pass a full 5 -year reauthorization of the Farm Bill this week.

2) It is more likely they will pass an extension of the current bill but for how long? 3-months? 6 months: or one year?

3) They could do nothing and the current bill expires. If this happens, many assume permanent law from 1949 kicks in, leaving much of USDA in a strange limbo in terms of program administration. All speculation of what this would mean aside, it would also prompt immediate action for either an extension or action on a full Farm Bill by the end of the year.

If an extension is passed in September, will it be a 3- month (which puts them making decisions in the lame duck session), or a 6-month extension, which puts them in a new Congress, or a one- year extension, which puts them in a new Congress but gives them time to hold hearings and debates and discuss all over again. Any of the above could be attached to a stand -alone disaster bill that will likely be passed during Congress's brief time in town.

But with any extension, there are a number of programs or provisions near and dear to the sustainable agriculture community that will be lost unless they are part of the baseline funding in the extension, and the fight for them will have to start all over in the debate for a full 5-year Farm Bill.

This week is critical. Conservation programs are very vulnerable. The House went after conservation dollars to pay for their disaster program. And other programs advocated by sustainable agriculture advocates like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Organic Certification Cost-share, Value Added Producer grants, Rural Energy for America Program, Farmers Market Promotion, and others, will end without reauthorization to extend and fund these programs.

Congress needs to hear that passage of a full Farm Bill including authorization and funding for the above programs is needed. (See contact info below.) If we are to see a comprehensive adequately funded Farm Bill that addresses more than commodity payment programs, crop insurance and the more traditional provisions, we need programs to help the next generation of farmers, to encourage production of local or regional fruits and vegetables, to support diversity of crops as well as people involved in agriculture, and supporting the conservation measures so desperately needed to adapt to the increasing vagaries of climate and weather.

(To see a more detailed summary of the scenarios and their impacts on sustainable agriculture, click here.)

Sense of Urgency Increasing. With the added complexity of the November elections, the urgency to pass a full farm bill is increasing. Republican Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a strong critic of food stamps, and supports deeper cuts to other farm programs as well. Observers say that his supporters in the Tea Party and other conservatives may also want to delay passage of a Farm Bill, hoping to line up even more cuts if they can wait until 2013. Neither party has had much to say about farm policy, other than to sympathize with drought stricken farmers across the country.

Claiming the need for certainty in farm programs and disaster assistance due to the drought, major farm organizations led by the American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union and commodity groups, are calling for passage of a full Farm Bill before the current one expires September 30. The major farm organizations will be in Washington, D.C. for a rally on September 12 to urge passage of a full Farm Bill now. Concerns are clearly rising among farm interests that a delay until 2013 may see even greater cuts to all programs than if passed now (--a curious dilemma for those who often support cuts to other programs.) However, there are few in the Farm Bill arena who believe the debate and process in 2013 will be any easier.

KRC will post additional information and updates as action picks up.

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August 1 E-Report
by Mary Fund

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE
One Year Farm Bill Extension Pulled; New Bill Being Prepared


Just yesterday we issued an alert/update urging you to contact your congressman/woman asking them to vote no on simply extending the current Farm Bill-- and to take up action on the new Farm Bill.

Breaking news this a.m. is that House leadership - amid strong opposition from farm groups around the country and Democrats being against it - has pulled the plans to vote on an extension of the current Farm Bill.

Word is they will now work on a disaster relief bill for farmers and ranchers hard hit by drought. Then they will take up work on the 2012 Farm Bill with hopes of having a compromise bill passed by September 30.

Stay tuned for more details -- and thanks to those of you who called your Kansas Congressman!

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July 31 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
-  2012 Farm Bill Action Alert

Action Alert!
Just say NO to the farm bill extension!


Across the nation, farmers' livelihoods are withering in an intense, record-breaking drought. Congress could be doing something about this right now - they could be passing the 2012 Farm Bill, which funds critical disaster assistance programs that are our farmers and ranchers' safety net in times like these.

But are they working to pass the 2012 Farm Bill? No.

Instead, late last week, in a surprise move, the House of Representatives moved to extend parts of the 2008 Farm Bill through next year, including drought assistance but excluding programs like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

This is not a good-faith effort to help farmers. It's a dirty, cynical trick. It uses the real need for disaster assistance as an excuse to attack all sorts of important programs and kick the farm bill can down the road until next year.

The House is set to vote on the extension this week. There's no reason for this - there's a draft 2012 Farm Bill ready and waiting in the wings. The House is instead choosing to play politics at the expense of taxpayers, farmers, and the environment!

Contact your Representative and ask them to vote NO on the Extension of the current farm bill-- and ask them to do their job and take action on the reform Farm Bill that is ready for them.

NSAC Weekly Updates: From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update

House Farm Bill Extension Would Hurt Farmers and Economy, Undermine Conservation Efforts
July 27th, 2012

On Friday, July 27, the House Rules Committee posted the text of a one-year extension to the 2008 Farm Bill. In our earlier post, we noted that we strongly oppose a clean extension of the Farm Bill, given that the bill would allow many critical programs expire. Read more HERE.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: House Moves Toward Extension Rather than Reform
July 26th, 2012

With daily national press accounts on the serious drought affecting substantial segments of the heartland as backdrop, the House Republican leadership decided this week to use the drought as a cover story for extending the current farm bill for a year rather than passing a new farm bill with substantial reforms. NSAC opposes extending the current farm bill and continued to call this week for passage of a new farm bill with comprehensive reforms. Read more HERE.

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July 20 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
-  House Ag Committee Passed Bill: Waiting on Full House Action

Below are two articles, the first is the most recent news from NSAC on getting a Farm Bill to the House Floor to beat the Sept. 30 expiration of the current bill; and the second is KRC's summary of the House version of the House Ag Committee bill passed last week.

Congressmen and women need to hear from constituents that we want a Farm Bill debated and acted on before the August recess. With a drought in full force in much of the country, the fate of many programs which could help may be affected if political posturing and politics are allowed to trump action on behalf of the nation's farmers and food system.

While both the House and Senate draft farm bills are far from perfect, lack of action is inexcusable.
- Mary Fund, KRC

From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update
Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: House Jockeying Continues

July 20, 2012

The future of the 2012 Farm Bill remains unclear. While many members of Congress, and agriculture, environment, and advocacy groups have repeatedly called for the farm bill to be brought to the House floor, leadership continues to stonewall the effort. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor apparently do not plan give a contentious bill floor time during an election season.

Today, 82 members of both sides of the aisle of the House of Representatives sent a letter to their colleagues in leadership urging them to send the House Agriculture Committee's farm bill to the floor for debate. The effort was led by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and includes members representing the political spectrum, indicating that though lawmakers don't agree on all provisions of the bill, they want the opportunity to move it through the full political process.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) released a statement today saying, "There is no excuse not to bring the farm bill to the floor. We've wasted the last two weeks on political messaging bills that are going nowhere. If the House Republican Leadership were serious about creating jobs and growing our economy they would bring up this bill. There is no good reason to put one of our nation's economic bright spots, the rural economy, at risk."

Earlier in the week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to NSAC and the American Farm Bureau Federation echoing their support for bringing the farm bill to the House floor. Pelosi acknowledged that the floor debate would not be an easy process with the vast differences between the left and right on issues such as SNAP and crop insurance, however, she stated that gives "all the more reason to bring the bill up for a vote under an open rule."

While many people, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), have voiced concern over expiring disaster aid in light of the current drought, CQ Roll Call reports Boehner does not view this as pertinent to bringing the bill to the floor, noting crop insurance will cover any drought losses. Though true for grain and cotton farmers, livestock, dairy and other specialty crop and smaller producers will not benefit as fully from insurance protection. Both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill include disaster assistance extensions for livestock and would retroactively provide assistance for 2012 crops.

While opposed to the bill reported out of the House Agriculture Committee, NSAC continues to advocate for floor debate of the bill in order to have an opportunity for Representatives to offer amendments to make the bill more of a reform bill and more favorable to sustainable agriculture interests.

If the status quo does not change and there is no House floor action during the two weeks left before the scheduled summer recess starting August 3, when Congress returns in September, attention will be fixed on extending the current farm bill for some period of time, likely a period of several months. Debate will focus not only on timing, but also whether or not to begin the reform process of reducing or eliminating direct payments and keeping farm bill programs alive whose existing funding also expires on September 30 as part of the short term extension.

If the new farm bill does not go to the House floor, and once an extension of the current farm bill is hammered out and passed, the working assumption is that then the leadership of the two committees will attempt to work out a final version of the farm bill and, if that is successful, then attach it to one of several "must pass" bills during the lame duck session of Congress in November and December and try to pass it in that unusual manner.

KRC Summary of House Ag Committee Bill
July 18, 2012

House Ag Committee Passed a New Farm bill Out of Committee; Waiting on Full House Action
by Mary Fund

On July 12, the House Agriculture Committee voted a new farm bill out of committee. But there are serious concerns whether or not the full House will act on it, and whether or not there will be any floor action prior to the current bill's expiration on September 30. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) has consistently refused to guarantee the farm bill any floor time.

Time becomes the crucial element as the House bill must pass the floor of the House, and then go to conference committee for House and Senate agreement before the September 30 deadline. Neither of these tasks will be easy, and some say they are next to impossible given the differences in the House and Senate in the commodity policy and food stamp (Supplemental Food and Nutrition Assistance) provisions.

The House bill projects to save $35 billion over the next decade by cutting $16 billion from nutrition programs and $6 billion from conservation programs, while increasing crop insurance subsidies and decreasing commodity subsidies for a net savings of $14 billion.

Debate on the nutrition title took up most of the Committee's time, but in the end no changes were made to the $16 billion in cuts proposed in the House draft bill. Amendments were offered (and failed) that would have restored the cuts and that would have replaced the House draft with the Senate-passed farm bill version, which would have reduced the overall nutrition cuts to $4.5 billion. Attempts were also made by Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp and others to make even deeper cuts in the nutrition programs, but these failed as well.

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the House version contained a few positive provisions for farm families, rural communities and the environment, but overall failed to include farm program reform into the bill. "The bill needs very significant improvements if it is going to emerge as a bill that expands opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant communities," noted Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for NSAC.

House Farm Bill Pluses. On the positive side, the Committee accepted a farm to school provision that allows greater flexibility to small rural schools and establishes pilot projects to allow schools to use program dollars from the USDA food distribution program to purchase produce from local farmers. The Committee also included a number of improvements to spur economic growth through local and regional agriculture, and included some improvements for beginning farmers and ranchers.

House Farm Bill Misses. However, the Committee also failed to act on a nationwide sodsaver provision, allowing the continued destruction of native grass and prairie lands. Basically according to Hoefner, the committee condoned the use of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the destruction of native grass, basing their opposition to the sodsaver act as protecting property rights.

The Committee also repealed the livestock and poultry farmer protections established in the 2008 farm bill, and undid the compromise on poultry protections established just last year. "By agreeing to repeal the livestock and poultry farmer protections, the Committee threw America's livestock and poultry farmers under the bus," stated Hoefner. "Adding more insult to injury, the Committee reneged on a broadly supported compromise to protect poultry growers from abusive behavior on the part of poultry processors."

The House version also eliminated the National Organic Certification Cost-share program, which currently provides the nation's organic farmers with limited assistance to help pay for certification fees for standards set by the federal government. This is one of the very few programs that specifically benefits organic farmers. (The Senate version would continue this program.)

Furthermore and perhaps most telling about who and what the House Committee serves there was no action to place a lower cap on commodity subsidies and to close the current payment limitation loopholes that attract widespread abuse and allow virtually unlimited payments with taxpayer's money. In fact, they increased crop insurance subsidies-without even any lip service to strengthening conservation compliance for such payments.

Environmental Riders. The House Committee farm bill also includes riders that impact environmental protection. According to NSAC, "one provision significantly weakens USDA's ability to regulate the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms. It would greatly narrow the scope of the environmental assessment for GE crop approvals and would limit the amount of time that USDA has to review GE crop applications. It would also authorize USDA to do a study to look into exempting certain GE crops from the (weakened) regulatory process (and from regulation) and to make recommendations for a national low-GE presence in supply chain policy."

Another provision reverses the court decision re-affirming the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to regulate pesticide pollution under the Clean Water Act.

What If There is No New Bill....

If the House fails to bring the bill to the floor, there are several scenarios being batted around. One is for a clean extension of the current farm bill with no changes; another is for an extension with limited changes; other scenarios include short- term extensions (lame-duck session this fall), or a one year extension. Another scenario is for the House bill to go directly to a House-Senate conference committee, who could theoretically agree on a final bill. This bill could then be attached to an end of year must pass legislation including appropriations for FY 2013, extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, increasing the debt limits, etc.

While options fall to the side as the clock keeps ticking, many are urging the House to take action now. On July 13, NSAC joined 45 national farm, commodity, conservation, rural and religious organizations in sending a letter to House leadership urging them to schedule floor debate on the House Ag Committee's version of the Farm bill.

(With help from the NSAC Weekly Updates; Click HERE for more from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)

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July 11 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
-  Save CSP Funding
- Support Beginning Farmer Program
- Support Farm to School Amendments
- Funding Comparisons between Senate and House Versions
- House Draft Farm Bill Highlights

2012 FARM BILL ALERT
House Mark Up Today; Calls Can Still Be Made

Calls to House Agriculture Member on Farm Bill Needed Today

Mark-up of the House Agriculture Committee bill is taking place today-- meaning that debate over key primary provisions as well as some smaller provisions may be determined by the end of the day.

There are problems with numerous parts of the draft bill they are working on (such as the commodity portion that lacks any true reform) that at the Committee level we may not be able to influence , but there are a few key areas where contacting Rep. Huelskamp may help. See below for more information on the:
* Conservation Security Program,
* Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, and
* Farm to School.

Once passed out of committee there will also be opportunities for input during floor debate.

Contact Rep. Tim Huelskamp
Kansas House Agriculture Committee member
Phone : 202-225-2715
Fax: 202-225-5124

  • Save Conservation Stewardship Program from Cuts

    The House Agriculture Committee draft farm bill released last week and being debated today includes big cuts to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). This program rewards farmers and ranchers for the on-farm environmental benefits they produce (such as restoring native prairie grasses on pastureland, creating wildlife habitat, rotating crops to improve soil). This is a win-win for the producer and for water quality and soil conservation.

    At the same time the House Ag Committee is proposing to cut CSP, they propose an increase in the payment limitation cap on the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) up to $450,000 . The bulk of these payments end up going mega-livestock operations.

    Let Rep. Huelskamp know that you support funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program --a working lands program with multiple resource benefits.
  • Support Beginning Farmer Program Amendments

    The House Agriculture Committee's draft farm bill targets highly successful beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs for 50% funding cuts - why should our nation's next generation of farmers bear this burden while we continue to subsidize industrial mega-farms?

    Our nation's farmers are aging, and we can't afford to wait any longer to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers get off to a strong start. Programs that invest in the future of American agriculture and provide assistance to beginning and historically underserved farmers and ranchers deserve full support in the Committee's bill.

    Contact Rep. Huelskamp and ask him to vote for these amendments:

    - Rep. Fortenberry and Rep. Walz's amendment to improve and strengthen the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program and other critical beginning farmer efforts across the country.

    - Rep. Gibson and Rep. Boswell's amendment to establish a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison at USDA.

    - Rep. Fudge and Rep. Fortenberry's amendment allow USDA to make small business loans tailored to meet the needs of small, young, beginning, and military veteran farmers and ranchers.
  • Support Farm To School Program Amendment

    In the House Agriculture Committee bill released last week, it missed a critical opportunity to make it easier for schools to purchase fresh healthy, local food for children's lunches. Produce and meat from nearby farms and ranches on school lunch trays seems like a good way to create farm opportunities, create jobs, spur ecoonomic growth and provide fresh wholesome food for kids.

    Ask Rep. Huelskamp to support the Ellmers-Pingree-Gibson Farm to School amendment.

    The amendment will make it easier for farmers to supply food to local school districts. It establishes pilot projects to allow schools to use program dollars from USDA Foods (a school food distribution program) to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.  A win-win proposition for farmers and kids alike.

Funding Comparisons Between Senate and House Versions of the Farm Bill
From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) July 9, 2012

Program funding decisions are always front and center in farm bill debates. Generally, most of the attention goes to the big money titles - nutrition, crop insurance, commodity programs, and conservation. Though smaller programs for beginning farmers, rural economic development, renewable energy, organic agriculture, and healthy food get less attention, those funding choices are nonetheless critical for the communities they serve. That is even more the case in the 2012 Farm Bill debate because the vast majority of those smaller programs do not have the same automatic renewal of their mandatory funding authority that the big money title programs are favored with. Thus, whatever does not get renewed funding in the pending farm bill becomes a dormant program for the next five years.

To help readers keep track of the decisions made by the Senate when it passed its version (Agricultural Reform, Food, and Jobs Act) of the 2012 Farm Bill and by House Committee leadership in introducing their draft bill (Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act) last week, we are publishing the charts below (and linked here). As House Committee markup and floor action take place, we will update the charts to reflect any amendments that pass that impact funding for any of these programs. Click HERE for charts.

Draft Farm Bill Highlights

The NSAC highlighted areas include commodities and risk management, conservation and energy, local food and rural development, organic agriculture, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, research, education and extension, and environmental regulations. To read these highlights, click HERE.

To read an even more detailed list of specific provisions, click HERE.

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July 9 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
- House Releases Draft Farm Bill; Committee Mark-Up Begins This Week

Debate on House Draft Farm Bill to Begin July 11

Amid speculation of whether the House Agriculture Committee can come up with its version of a Farm Bill, and whether it is possible in today's highly charged political campaign season to reach a compromise between the Senate and House versions and pass a 2012 Farm Bill by September 30 ( when the current bill expires), the House Agriculture Committee keeps pushing forward.

On July 5, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Minority Member Colin Peterson (D-MN) released the House Ag Committee's draft Farm Bill, which is scheduled for House Ag Committee mark-up beginning Wednesday July 11.

There is some question of whether House leadership will address the Farm Bill on the floor even if the Ag committee provides them a mark up; instead of taking care of business, the House leadership has instead chosen to focus on posture -taking debate and vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act ahead of other business. But the House Ag Committee leadership is committed to getting a bill to move forward.

The House draft bill is far from ideal and differs from the Senate version in many key ways. It generates $35 billion in savings by cutting over $16 billion from nutrition programs and more than $6 billion from conservation programs, while increasing crop insurance subsidies and decreasing commodity subsidies for a net farm safety subsidy savings of over $14 billion.

According to Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director, NSAC is pleased that the House is moving forward but is disappointed with the draft overall.

"This is an anti-reform bill - bad for family farmers, rural communities, and the environment," Hoefner stated. " It will need to be reworked very substantially to gain the support of our coalition of farm and rural groups as the process moves forward."

Under the draft bill, federal crop insurance subsidies would balloon to an unprecedented average of $10 billion per year - with no subsidy caps, no targeting, no income limits, and not even minimal conservation requirements. "At a time when our nation faces record deficits, the draft bill is fiscally irresponsible, providing unlimited premium subsidies to the nation's largest farms and wealthiest landowners." said Hoefner.

The draft bill would increase the commodity payment limit by 250 percent above the already generous Senate-passed levels, and unlike the Senate-passed bill, would leave wide-open the current loopholes that allow mega-farms and absentee landowners to collect farm payments. "Subsidy loopholes that enable waste, fraud, and abuse in commodity programs are alive and well in this bill," noted Hoefner.

The draft bill significantly limits the tools that farmers have at their disposal to deal with soil and water improvements in the face of increasingly unpredictable weather and production conditions. "A modern, fiscally responsible farm safety net would not just pay farmers for a loss but help them to prevent it in the future," said Hoefner. "By cutting acreage for the Conservation Stewardship Program by a whopping 30 percent, the draft House bill is telling farmers to 'go it alone' if they want to be proactive about smart land management."

While the draft bill includes a Sodsaver provision to protect native grasslands, the provision is regional - not national - in scope. "The Committee has ignored the call by sportsmen, conservationists, and farmers for a national Sodsaver provision," said Hoefner. "The bill includes a piecemeal Sodsaver provision that would cause administrative headaches and farmer anger over arbitrary lines and inequities."

The draft bill cuts in half the funding for USDA's keystone programs for beginning farmers and minority farmers, and cuts funding for rural economic development by 88 percent when compared to the average funding levels of the past three farm bills.

"Creating jobs in rural America and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national priorities for American agriculture," said Hoefner, "but the draft House bill punts on funding for these priorities, leaving rural communities and beginning farmers in the lurch."

Among the many programs the draft bill repeals is a program that assists organic farmers with the costs of complying with regulations. "Organic is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture," noted Hoefner. "A repeal of organic certification cost share is an attack on this growth."

The Committee is scheduled to markup the draft bill on July 11. "The Committee should address these major deficiencies when it meets to markup a bill next week," said Hoefner. "To the extent that does not happen, we are confident that these will be topics of major amendments when and if the bill reaches the House floor."

(With help from NSAC News Release, July 6, 2012)

Draft Farm Bill Highlights

NSAC has provided highlights on key parts of the House draft farm bill. These areas include commodities and risk management, conservation and energy, local food and rural development, organic agriculture, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, research, education and extension, and environmental regulations. To read these highlights, click HERE.

To read an even more detailed list of specific provisions, click HERE.

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June 22 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
- Senate Passes 2012 Farm Bill

Senate Passes 2012 Farm Bill
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Backs Senate Version, Encourages House Action

by Mary Fund

A week ago the Senate was mired in 300 amendments to the federal farm bill. But early this week they came to agreement to consider just 73 of those amendments, and from there initiated a whirlwind of actions that resulted in passage of a bill by Thursday afternoon, June 21.

Of all the amendments considered, a handful were of particular concern to sustainable agriculture proponents. These focused primarily on crop insurance reform and payment limits, conservation compliance, and beginning farmer programs. At the end of the week and countless calls and e-mails from its members to their Senators, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition could state its support for passage of the farm bill as amended after three days of Senate debate.

"NSAC congratulates Senate leaders for moving ahead with this bipartisan legislation," said Ferd Hoefner, NSAC Policy Director. "This debate and vote were important hurdles to overcome for Congress to pass a full reauthorization before the current bill expires on September 30."

Hoefner went on to say that while the bill includes historic commodity payment limit reforms and renewed investments in a variety of sustainable farm and food programs, the Senate-passed bill is far from perfect.

"The bill would benefit greatly from more agriculture reform, a greater local and regional food focus, and a much greater commitment to economic development and jobs," said Hoefner. "We are also disappointed with the $3.7 billion cut to conservation programs on working farms and ranches."

Several major amendments adopted by the Senate-and supported by NSAC and its members- made significant improvements to the bill:

  • Brown (D-Ohio) amendment- funded critical rural development and beginning farmer and rancher programs, after the initial Senate Ag committee bill left this funding out.

  • Durbin (D-Illinois)-Coburn (R-Oklahoma) amendment: adjusted (lowered) crop insurance subsidies for those participants whose gross annual income is over $750,000.

  • Chambliss (R-Georgia) amendment- extends basic conservation compliance requirements in the commodity title to crop and revenue insurance programs.

  • Grassley (R-Iowa) amendment- limits subsidies at $75,000 per person or entity per year on marketing loan payments.

  • Merkley (D-Oregon)- directs USDA Risk Management Agency to complete the development of the organic price series so that organic farmers can receive higher crop insurance payments in line with their higher premiums.

Other amendments were rejected, such as the attempt to eliminate the program that provided cost-share assistance for organic certification, and the attempt to remove farm coops from participating in the Value Added Producer Grant Program, and the attempt to repeal the Conservation Reserve and Conservation Stewardship Programs.

As for Kansas's Senators, both Moran and Roberts voted against the NSAC positions on all but two of eight amendments NSAC highlighted, with Moran voting for the amendment to improve organic crop insurance and against removing farm coops from VAPG Program grants; and Roberts voting for the Grassley amendment to limit marketing loan payments, and also against removing farm coops from the VAPG Program.

This means they voted against support for the beginning farmer programs and rural development, against requiring conservation compliance for crop insurance subsidies, and against support for cost-share for organic certification.

Now the attention turns to the House, where leaders have pledged to both "move Hell or high water" to get a bill moved after the July 4 recess AND to "push the pause button to assess the political situation." The clock is ticking in terms of having a bill done by September, when the current bill expires.

To read the full NSAC news story, click here.

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June 16 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Summary of Kansas State Legislative Session:
- Court Sets Redistricting and Scrambles Election Year Bids;
- Mega-Tax Bill Promises Future State Budget Cuts
- 2012 Federal Farm Bill Debate is Underway:
- 300 Amendments Muddy the Water;
- Will there be a bill passed this summer?

Court Sets Redistricting and Scrambles Election Year Bids

The Kansas Legislature spent months battling over maps to redistrict the Congressional and legislative districts. Alas no compromise could be reached. Kansas became the only state in the country unable to accomplish this task. Three federal judges held two days of hearings and produced new maps in a week. The judges were not worried about protecting incumbents. The judges held to a much stricter standard of population deviation between districts. The judges were more concerned with drawing more contiguous, compact districts and recognizing a community of interest. These new maps have shaken up the political landscape in Topeka. Time will tell what these new districts will do to the balance of power in the state.

The Kansas House had settled on a map of 125 districts that had no incumbents facing one another. Three House members were retiring so those districts were moved to Johnson County to account for that population growth over the last decade. In fact, this map received fairly strong bipartisan support in the House. This House map allowed for a five percent variance in population count so some districts were five percent over and some five percent under - thus an overall 10% variance.

The federal judges could not accept this population variance and lowered the variance to 2%. The new House map from the federal court put 25 incumbents into districts facing another possible incumbent. The court's new map drew 25 districts that had no incumbents. Some existing House members moved to have a residence in one of those 'non-incumbent' districts. Sixteen members of the House announced their retirement including the Speaker of the House Mike O'Neal. State Senator Ray Merrick decided to return to the House in a district with no incumbent. He has no opponent in the primary or the general election and he has announced his intention to become the next Speaker of the House.

The Kansas Senate map that passed narrowly - 22 to 18 - had just two incumbent Senators in the same district. The Kansas Senate map seemed more favorable to certain moderates by moving certain conservative challengers out of the moderate's district. The federal judges drew a map that had four Senate districts with two incumbents and four Senate districts with no incumbent. Three Senators retired so there will be two Senate races with incumbents squaring off. (Senate district #15 with Sen. Dwayne Umbarger of Thayer versus Sen. Jeff King from Independence and Senate district #40 with Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer from Grinnell versus Sen. Allen Schmidt from Hays.) There are 6 races where House members are challenging incumbent Senators.

The battle between the moderates and conservatives will be fought out in several Senate races this year.

The federal judges drew a Congressional map that moved Riley County (Manhattan) into the big 1st District. The federal judges released their maps on the evening of Thursday June 7. The filing deadline for candidates was not changed from Monday - June 11 at noon. This gave the political parties four days to line up candidates for 25 new House districts and 4 new Senate districts.

When the filings were completed, 100 candidates had filed for the 40 Senate districts and 250 candidates filed for the 125 House districts. As usual there are around 20 House races with no opposition. In fact, three new House candidates have no opposition and won their district by just paying the filing fee. One Senator in district 16 - Ty Masterson - has no opponent in his Senate race.

The August 7 primary is just 7 weeks away. There will be some spirited campaigning especially in those House races of incumbent versus incumbent or those Senate primaries of Senate incumbents and House challengers. Kansas has never term limited its House or Senate members as many states have, but these new redistricting maps forced substantive changes never before seen in Kansas. Will this experience motivate Kansas' lawmakers to alter our redistricting process?

(To view the new maps: click HERE.and follow the links provided to the detailed maps for U.S. Congressional Districts, State House Districts, State Senate Districts and State Board of Education Districts.)

Future of the State Budget

The FY 2013 Kansas budget (July 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013) is finally finished. Now the scramble begins to assemble a FY 2014 Kansas budget that can balance. The mega-tax bill signed by the Governor had little impact on the 2013 budget but for 2014 the impact is far greater.

Lost tax revenue for 2013 was just $231 million but for 2014 the lost tax revenue jumps to $802 million. FY 2013 budget has an ending balance of $509 million in the black while the FY 2014 budget has an ending balance in the red of $242 million.

The Governor is already looking for budget cuts to handle this imbalance. The Governor vetoed $800,000 for the Local Environmental Protection Program. (This is the only state/county program that tests private water wells and sewer systems.) The Governor reduced from $1.1 million to $600,000 funding for the Wichita Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project funding. (This project stores treated river water in the Equus Beds aquifer for future water needs.) The court case over school funding has begun and that may play into more funding for public schools directed by the Kansas Supreme Court. The Medicaid managed care plan known as KanCare may not begin by January 1, 2013 so the assumed savings will not materialize.

An economic renaissance for Kansas will have to happen soon to offset the loss of income tax revenues. The $242 million state budget deficit in 2014 jumps to $914 million in 2015 and to $2.4 Billion by 2018. Good luck to the new Kansas Legislature in 2013 to solve these budgetary and revenue issues.

2012 Federal Farm Bill Debate is Underway
300 Amendments Muddy the Water
by Mary Fund

The Senate moved slowly on the farm bill last week, and the path forward, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, is unclear and uncertain. Almost 300 amendments have been filed to the fill passed to the Senate floor. Some of these are germaine to farm programs, and some are not. Coming to agreement as to how to handle these amendments and how many of them to allow for debate is proving difficult. If Senate agriculture leaders (which includes Kansas Senator Pat Roberts) can come to an agreement on a list of amendments to debate, then the bill discussion can move forward next week. Other options include staying the course of moving slowly forward while negotiations continue on narrowing the list of amendments to consider. And of course, if no deals can be made, the farm bill could die on the Senate floor.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (the Kansas Rural Center is a member) has a set of amendments, focusing largely on advancing agriculture reform, food and jobs, that we are supporting through the process, and urging that these become part of any list of amendments to be considered.

This past week saw action alerts on three of these. KRC urges you to contact Senator Roberts and Moran on any or all of these.

  • The Coburn-Durbin amendment limit crop insurance subsidies to the wealthiest farmers and the Cardin amendment reattaches basic conservation requirements to crop insurance, as was the case until 1996.
  • Sherrod Brown amendment supporting the beginning farmer and rancher development program, value added producer grant program, micro-entrepreneur assistance, etc.
  • Sanders -Leahy amendment to support farm to school purchasing.

One page information sheets are available on these and other NSAC supported amendment on by clicking on the following:
http://sustainableagriculture.net/take-action/ 

To view the full details of the NSAC Weekly Update click HERE.

KRC will send additional alerts or updates out as needed.

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June 5 E-Report
by Mary Fund

In This Edition:
- Farm Bill Budget and Floor Amendments
- Field Notes

While Kansas citizens are left reeling from the 2012 State Legislative Session and the massive tax cuts passed, KRC turns its attention to the 2012 federal Farm Bill now before Congress. Once every four or five years this mammoth piece of food and farming legislation, which has its roots in the New Deal programs of the 1930's, is reviewed, reformulated and recast. It covers the gamut of food and agriculture issues including nutrition programs (think Food Stamps -now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- and school lunches) to conservation to complicated and often controversial commodity crop subsidies and revenue programs.

Senate debate is expected to begin this week, and may last as long as two weeks. The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin work on their version of the bill the week of June 18. So, June will be critical in terms of whether or not there will be a new Farm Bill done by September 30, 2012 when the current bill and many of its programs are set to expire. If no agreement can be reached between Senate and House versions, an extension of the current Farm Bill will be attempted, which also would need to be done by September 30. Given the rancorous partisan environment in Congress and high profile mud-slinging of an election year, coming to any agreement will be difficult.

And, yet the process wheels roll on with both Senate and House set to take up the debate.

The big questions as always revolve around what kinds of revenue program or commodity crop subsidies or crop insurance program will be adopted, and what kind if any payment limits or conservation compliance requirements will be tagged onto these. Also what happens to conservation programs at a time when huge chunks of pasture and grassland are being broken out for crop production? what happens to rural development programs? and to local or regional food system support?

Farm Bill Budget and Floor Amendments

BUDGET

It all ultimately comes down to the budget. The Senate Committee approved bill would cost $970 billion over the next decade-and this is with cuts to all programs. Seventy-nine percent of that ($768 billion) is for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-the program that provides food assistance to the nation's needy and most vulnerable. The House Agriculture Committee will try to cut this amount which will lead to acrimony over the Farm Bill overall from colleagues who are loathe to make such cuts when the number of people needing food assistance is growing.

As for commodity subsidies, the Senate Committee includes $138 billion over the next decade (or about $14 billion/year), which is about $15 billion less than if the current bill and spending were extended. However, crop insurance subsidies will exceed commodity payment subsidies by a greater than 2:1 ratio. The commodity crop and insurance subsidy portion represents 14 percent of the total farm bill estimated budget. This switch from commodity crop subsidies to revenue insurance is significant for two reasons.

One, it insures that the biggest farms continue to reap the biggest benefits, and two, insurance payments are not linked to conservation compliance as commodity crop payments are. Basic conservation requirements on highly erodible land and wetlands was a condition of receiving crop subsidies since 1985. Now that the largest subsidy program will be crop insurance, basic conservation compliance should be attached to those payments. This seems especially important when so much grassland and pasture is being broken out due to high crop prices.

The top three conservation programs would all suffer cuts: the Conservation Reserve Program by 16%, the Conservation and Stewardship Program 11 percent, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program would suffer a 9.6% cut.

Funding levels for rural development are left out of the Senate Committee bill and funding for beginning and minority farmer programs are left on life support. Local and regional food system support programs are also impacted although the exact degree is not yet known.

(For more on the Senate Ag Committee funding levels, see the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog Senate Mark-Up and Funding Levels by clicking here.

FLOOR AMENDMENTS

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), amendments to the Senate Committee bill will be offered on the floor as the bill is debated. A partial list of amendments includes:

  • funding for key rural development, job creating programs
  • increased funding for beginning farmer and rancher and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher programs
  • cap commodity subsidies and apply income eligibility standards to receipt of crop insurance subsidies
  • re-link highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements to the receipt of crop insurance subsidies
  • provide new flexibility to assist schools in procuring food from local farms to boos farm-to-school programs
  • ensure support for development of new public land and animal breeds to advance sustainability

This is by no means a complete list but contains some of the key issues KRC is following.

Stay tuned for additional updates and alerts as the debate unfolds.

FIELD NOTES

EWG RELEASES REPORT ON CROP INSURANCE SUBSIDIES BY STATE
June 1st, 2012, NSAC


On Thursday, May 31, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a report detailing crop insurance subsidies by state. The information, gained through a Freedom of Information Act request, is the largest disclosure of federal crop insurance subsidies to date, and the study examines over 686,000 policies held by over 486,000 farming operations. EWG found that more than 10,000 individual farming operations received federal crop insurance premium subsidies over $100,000, and 26 operations received more than $1 million.
In contrast, the bottom 80 percent of farming operations received only $5,000 in premium subsidies on average. These premium subsidies are not means tested, there is no limit on the payments a farming operation can receive, and the subsidies are not tied to conservation requirements. Taxpayers foot an average of 62 percent of crop insurance premiums, yet USDA does not disclose the names of premium subsidy beneficiaries to the public.

The report includes breakdowns of subsidies by state and by crop insured, and details operations that received over $1 million in premiums in 2011. A synopsis and the full report can be accessed here.

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO PROTECT NATIVE GRASSLAND

On Thursday, May 31, Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Tim Walz (D-MN) introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect our nation's remaining native prairies and prime grasslands. The Protect Our Prairies Act aims to enact a nationwide "Sodsaver" provision that will tighten farm subsidy program rules to diminish the taxpayer-funded incentive to destroy critical grassland resources. Read more here.

PACKER BAN AMENDMENT SUPPORTED BY 108 ORGANIZATIONS

On Thursday, May 31, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition joined a total of 108 organizations on a letter delivered to U.S. Senators urging them to support an amendment that Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) are expected to offer during floor debate on the Senate farm bill. The amendment would ban meatpackers from owning, feeding, or controlling livestock for more than 14 days before slaughter in order to prevent them from using livestock they own to manipulate livestock markets. The amendment provides exemptions from the ban for cooperatives and for packers that slaughter 120,000 animals or fewer per year. Read more here.

INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE RELEASES REPORT ON HEALTH, OBESITY AND AGRICULTURE

"Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation"
has been released by the institute of Medicine, and reviews previous studies and their recommendations. It presents five key recommendations to accelerate meaningful change during the next decade, and urges a systems approach to makign widespread changes. The report's recommendations highlight the connection between agriculture policy and public health and urge Congressional and Administrative action. The debate on the current Farm bill offers several opportunities. Read more here.

The full report and more information are available here.

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May 25 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- 2012 Session Concludes
- Ks. Food Service and Lodging Act
- Ks. Meat and Poultry Inspection Act

HISTORIC 2012 KANSAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION OVER

The final ceremonial gavel for this historic legislative session will come down on June 1. The Governor signed the mega-tax cut bill and the gamble is on.

The belief by the Governor and conservatives is that reducing and eliminating some income taxes will generate enough new revenues to offset losses from this tax bill. This belief will be tested soon as the projection for the 2014 State budget is $303 million in the red. The mega-tax bill had a direct impact on the 2013 State budget as few previous budget cuts were restored and a large ending balance was necessitated in preparation for the lower income tax revenues in 2014. The redistricting battle ended in an impasse with Kansas being the only state in the country unable to find consensus on the district maps. The redistricting for Congressional and legislative districts will be done by federal judges.

The mega-tax bill is now law. The existing three-bracket structure for individual income taxes (3.5, 6.25, & 6.45%) is collapsed to a two-bracket system of 3 & 4.9%. The bill totally exempts certain non-wage individual business income tax reported by limited liability corporations (LLC's), Subchapter-S Corporations, and sole proprietorships. (Note: Kansas has 191,000 such filers now. Tax experts predict an increase in such filings as individuals incorporate and move income from salaries to non-wage income. By next April, wage-withholding amounts will be reviewed. Kansas is the first state with such a dramatic change.)

The Senate Committee of the Whole increased the Governor's initial tax proposal by reducing the state sales tax from 6.3 to 5.7%, removing the proposed repeal of itemized deductions (mortgage deduction being the most important) and increasing the standard deduction of joint filers. This mega-tax bill from the Senate was intended to be a bargaining position with the House tax bill. Procedurally this Senate tax bill had been substituted for House Bill 2117. That gave the House the opportunity to just concur with the changes and send it on to the Governor for his signature. The first vote on this mega-tax bill was a 20 to 20 tie which meant it failed. The Senate leadership pressured certain members to change their vote with assurances this was just a bargaining position with the House and it than passed 27 to 12. It was reckless to pass a substituted House bill and Senator Anthony Hensley correctly predicted the House would take the option to just concur with this tax giveaway gift.

The revenue consequences are immediate. For 2013, the loss is $231.2 million. In 2014, that revenue loss jumps to $802 million and the loss increases to $933 million in 2018. The ending balance for the 2013 budget is $497 million. For 2014, the ending balance is a negative $303 million - an $800 million reversal in two years. By 2018, the ending balance is a deficit of $2.96 BILLION! These projections are built on an assumption of revenue to Kansas growing 4% annually. The Governor has assured Kansans that lower income taxes will generate significant new development via new jobs that will increase individual income taxes and more sales tax. The Governor has promised that he will find more savings in governmental spending.

The simple reality is that a few government programs account for 85% of the budget (50% to public schools, 15% to higher education, 20% to social services - primarily health care - and 15% for all other services such as prisons & highways.) Unless this gamble on increased economic development and associated new revenues materializes, there is a structural deficit and decline built into state budgets for years to come. No telling what happens if the world economy along with the United States fall into a second recession and revenues collapse as they did in 2008, 09 & 10. Kansas will have no ending balance or rainy day fund to balance the losses.

The mega-tax bill had a profound impact on the 2013 budget. The restoration of base state aid per pupil to public schools was whittled down to $40 million thus increasing aid $60 per student ($3,780 to $3,840). In 2007, the per student base aid was $4,400. Local property tax relief of $45 million was eliminated. A 1% increase for executive branch state employee salaries - costing $9 million - was deleted. Such employees have gone four years with no salary increase. The longevity bonus pay for eligible state employees was reduced from $50 to $40 for each year of service. However, $3.6 million was added to cover a few more developmentally and physically challenged clients. $5 million was added to the state mental health block grant that serves the uninsured at community mental health centers. (Note: this grant is now $15 million compared to $30 million in 2007.)

The Local Environmental Protection Program (LEPP) was retained with $800,000 from the State Water Plan. Overall, expenditures from the State Water Plan will fall from $16.8 million in 2012 to $14.9 million in 2013. The 2013 State budget is $14.3 Billion down from $14.75 Billion in 2012. The Kansas Legislature added just $46 million to the Governor's proposed state budget. Full time employees numbered 39,149 in 2012 while in 2013 the number is down to 38,842.

Redistricting is now in the hands of the federal district court. Hearings are scheduled for May 29 and 30th. The number of interveners is near 27. The federal court will decide both the Congressional and state legislative district maps. The Kansas Supreme Court will not be a player in deciding maps. 'Oversee Kansas' voters must have their ballot 45 days ahead of an election by federal law so the mailing deadline for an August 7 primary would be June 23. It seems likely that these federal district court judges will choose the district maps soon after the May hearings. It is possible that the candidate-filing deadline of June 11 may be pushed back a week or so.

The Kansas House map is pretty settled. The key decision over the Kansas Senate map is whether two existing Senate districts (either in Western Kansas or Southeast Kansas) will be collapsed together or not. The last Kansas Senate map that passed 22 to 17 did collapse two districts. Whereas the Kansas' House and Senate district maps vary by up to 5% in population, the Congressional districts cannot vary in population at all. The federal court may not allow the 5% variance in state legislative districts given a U.S. Supreme Court ruling so that would clearly impact western Kansas. To this point, the Kansas Legislature has not agreed to a different method to redistrict.

KANSAS FOOD SERVICE AND LODGING ACT
KANSAS MEAT AND POULTRY INSPECTION ACT


Senate Sub. for House Bill 2730 amends various sections in the Kansas Food Service and Lodging Act, and the Kansas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act. On the food service and lodging act, this bill consolidates definitions and penalties into one section of law. It allows the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a $1,000 fine per violation after providing an opportunity for a hearing. This bill establishes application fees and annual license fees for each food establishment and food processing plant. It changes the license renewal date from January 1 to April 1. This bill establishes in statue the list of business entities that are exempt from licensing and inspection. This bill clarifies that administrative and enforcement provisions are consistent with the Kansas Administrative Procedure Act.

This act adds new sections and amends existing sections in the Kansas Meat and Poultry Act. It contains provisions for when inspection services are required and instructs the Secretary to take into account the efficient and effective use of personnel when approving inspection work schedules. All slaughtering of animals would be done under the direct supervision of an inspector and with reasonable speed. This bill establishes the procedures for approving a work schedule for processing and slaughter operations. The Secretary is authorized to prescribe, through rules and regulations, the process by which an establishment may request a change in its work schedule. The Secretary is authorized to prescribe rules and regulations for the examination and inspection of methods by which livestock, domestic rabbits or poultry are slaughtered. Custom slaughter and preparation are subject to the humane slaughter and humane handling provisions of this bill. Kansas has 42 state inspected meat processors that can sell meat retail but only in Kansas. Kansas has 48 custom meat processors but this meat cannot be sold retail.

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May 18 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Redistricting
- Fracking Update
- Utility Rate Increases
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

VETO SESSION SHOWDOWN

The Kansas Legislature continues to struggle - now in the 96th day of a 90-day legislative session. The same major tasks remain unfinished - tax reform, the 2013 State budget and redistricting of Congressional and state legislative seats. The end may be in sight.

The tax debate on a compromised, conference report will be held on the House floor today with great uncertainty if there are enough moderates to defeat the mega-tax bill now sitting on the Governor's desk. The shape of the 2013 State budget will be determined by the reduction in revenues caused by the final decision over tax reform policy. The battle over redistricting continues to worsen with no compromise in sight. The courts will force a final decision over the next three weeks.

Tax Debate
A procedural vote of 66 to 49 in the House was necessary to even bring the new tax conference committee proposal to a floor debate today. There is no certainty that the moderates can hold these same votes to pass this less costly tax bill on to the Senate for debate. Many conservative House members are absolutely certain that all tax cuts generate even more tax revenues to the state through expanded economic development. On the Senate side, many moderates believe Kansas is giving up essential revenues for schools and state services thus guaranteeing structural deficits for years to come. It is still uncertain if there are the votes in the Senate to pass this tax conference compromise.

While the new tax compromise leaves positive ending balances through 2018, there are key assumptions built into these projections. One is that the courts will not force the Legislature to fund schools at a higher level as now mandated by Kansas' statue. A second assumption is that KanCare - privatized Medicaid managed care plans - will save Kansas $367 million over the next 5 years. A third assumption is that the federal government will not force Kansas to spend more to take clients off the waiting lists for disability services. If these three factors were fully funded, Kansas would have a $1.5 Billion deficit by 2018.

The 2013 budget debate has come down to the funding of public schools. The House is waiting for the final decision on tax policy to determine what is available for schools and still maintain a very sizeable ending balance. The Senate is prepared to add extra funding for schools by taking it from the ending balances. The Senate has developed a new budget bill that incorporates the items agreed to by the House-Senate appropriations conference committee and took the Senate position on the items the conference committee could not agree on such as school funding.

The Senate may well pass this budget bill and adjourn for the session forcing the House to adopt this Senate budget bill. This same procedure happened in 2009 and 2010. If the House would not pass this Senate budget, the Governor might be forced to call a special session to finalize a budget. At some point exhaustion and frustration takes over with the desire to leave town overriding thoughtful, reasoned decisions.

REDISTRICTING

The end of the rope has been reached with redistricting. It is assumed by most policymakers that the courts will settle this redistricting mess. A federal lawsuit has already been filed and a federal district court judge has scheduled a hearing for May 29. It seems more and more certain that a candidate filing deadline of June 10 and an August 7 primary will have to be pushed back.

While the federal court will decide the congressional map, the federal court may pass on redistricting state legislative seats and that would be argued before the Kansas Supreme Court. Dozens of maps have been drawn for congressional and legislative districts. Different ones have passed either the Senate or the House so the courts will have to choose. The Kansas Supreme Court may force the Kansas Legislature into special session to finish the task. This historic battle is in uncharted terrain with legal experts speculating on multiple paths. The Kansas House will debate a new congressional map today that splits Douglas County between the 2nd and the 1st district. Check the latest maps out here.

For a complete list of redistricting maps that have been proposed or passed: click here.

SENATE SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL 2597 ON 'FRACKING'

This bill would enact provisions of law to the disposal of solid waste generated by drilling of oil and gas well through land-spreading. The land-spreading would be done in accordance with best management practices and maximum loading rates developed by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Secretary in coordination with the Kansas Corporation Commission Conservation Division. With existing law, land-spreading is not allowed and the choice is to build an on-site pit or haul the debris to a certified landfill. (Kansas has only one such landfill in Harper County.) In groundwater management districts, the groundwater management boards will have approval rights over land-spreading. In areas of Kansas with over 25 inches of rain, the land-spreading must be accomplished by incorporation of this waste into the soil. There are serious funding questions over the cost of administering this program and monitoring this land-spreading for several years. The KCC must report on the cost next session. This bill must pass the House before being sent to the Governor.

For information on this bill, click here.

UTILITY RATE INCREASES

The Kansas Corporation Commission has decided on several electric rate increases over the past month. There are more rate increases being considered in the next few months. The Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) is the advocate for residential and small commercial customers. The May 2012 issue of their newsletter 'CURBside News' has detailed information on the major cases decided and issues pending before the Kansas Corporation Commission. Read CURBside News here.

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Next Steps in the Senate and the House
May 17, 2912 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition


The burst of activity a few weeks ago around the Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill markup was an important step in the multi-step farm bill reauthorization process. In an earlier 10-post series we summarized action and results of the Senate markup. The next steps in the Senate and the House are the subject of this post.

Senate
Now that the Senate Agriculture Committees version of the farm bill the Agricultural Reform, Food, and Jobs Act has been passed out of committee, the bill heads to the Senate floor for consideration by the full Senate. On Wednesday, Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Roberts (R-KS) held a press conference to reiterate their support for the committee-passed bill and emphasize their desire to have the bill go to the floor soon.

The timeline for floor action is not yet clear, although Chairwoman Stabenow indicated during the press conference that she is working closely with Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) to schedule floor time and that she is confident that it will happen in the next few weeks. Based on current information but quite subject to change we estimate that the bill will go to the floor in June, most likely in mid-June. Read more here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
House Hearing on Commodity and Crop Insurance Subsidies
May 17, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NSAC)


The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management held a series of farm bill hearings this week to examine commodity and crop insurance programs in advance of writing their version of what will hopefully become the 2012 Farm Bill. The full House Agriculture Committee expects to mark up and vote on a new farm bill sometime in June, likely the second half of June.

The first hearing was held on Wednesday May 16 and included two panels, an economist panel and a farm and commodity group panel. The second hearing was held on Thursday, May 17 and also heard from two panels that included additional producer groups and representatives from the crop insurance industry. Click here to read more.

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May 11 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Redistricting
- Animal Health
- Corporate Swine Legislation
- Field Notes
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

VETO SESSION TWILIGHT ZONE

The Kansas Legislature has entered into the twilight zone as they attempt to finish the 2012 session. The key, final decisions on tax policy, the budget and redistricting have not been accomplished. The 90th day of this legislative session is today. The Kansas Legislature can delay the final gavel for a few days until the budget and redistricting is passed or pass a resolution by a 2/3rds vote in each chamber to add more days and more expense to this session. The battle between the conservatives in the House and the moderates in the Senate continues to worsen. This historic, harsh legislative session will not soon be forgotten.

The tax battle between the House and Senate has turned into a war. The Senate passed a very large tax package just to start the discussion with the House to find an acceptable, balanced tax policy. The House-Senate tax conference committee met several times to find an agreement. Just as the Senate started a floor debate on this tax conference agreement, the House jumped ahead to pass the Senate's large tax policy and send it to the Governor.

The Governor helped orchestrate this maneuver since he was concerned the Senate would not pass the tax conference agreement. The Speaker of the Kansas House rammed through the Senate bill by closing off the debate by technical rule and closing the vote so House members could not reconsider their yes vote. The vote was 64 to 58 with a 63 vote necessary on final action to send to the Governor. This may well have been the swan song by the Speaker since his four years in the Speaker's chair is over and historically Speakers serve just four years before leaving the House.

The Governor has ten days to sign this tax package or let it become law without his signature. The political strategy here is to force the Senate to pass an acceptable tax package to the Governor or live with this horrendous, costly tax bill that will gut state revenues for schools, public safety and social services.

Now that the House and the Senate have each passed $14 Billion State budgets for 2013, a conference committee has started meeting to work out the differences. The Senate spent $165 million more than the House. There are approximately 100 items of difference and after meeting four times only 20 differences have been tentatively settled.

The House increases per student school funding by $25 million while the Senate increases this school funding by over $50 million. The House takes this school funding from the highway program while the Senate takes this funding from the State General Fund ending balance. The Senate has some increased funding for state employees while the House does not. The Senate increases funding for foster care contracts by $2.6 million while the House does not. The House adds $2 million for litigation costs for potential redistricting litigation court battles while the Senate adds $500,000 for such litigation costs.

Both chambers add $16 million from tobacco settlement receipts for several children's programs. The Senate added $900,000 for the Local Environmental Protection Program (that tests private water wells and septic systems) in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment while the House did not. Property tax relief for local government is now found in the tax debate not in these budget bills. Clearly, the final tax package will have an impact on revenues to Kansas in 2013 and the final State budget.

Duane Goossen - former Kansas budget director and now at the Kansas Health Institute has a blog on the revenue/budget picture from the tax conference bill.
Go to http://www.khi.org/weblogs/budget-blog/2012/may/04/worrisome-budget-projection/

REDISTRICTING

The redistricting debate continues on. The House passed a Senate district map that does not collapse any senate districts and puts conservative House challengers into their preferred senate district. The Senate has now unveiled three new senate district maps. All three maps do collapse one senate district forcing two senate incumbents into one district. These three maps take House conservative challengers out of a senate district in Wichita and a senate district in Johnson County. Kansas has now become the last state in the union to not complete the redrawing of Congressional and legislative districts

ANIMAL HEALTH

Senate Substitute for House Bill 2596 enacts new statues and amends existing statues regarding animal health. The bill amends the definition of 'livestock' through rule and regulation at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The bill defines feral swine and prohibits the operation of a contained hunting preserve of swine. The bill tightens the regulation on public livestock markets. The bill makes various changes to the Kansas Pet Animal Act in licensing and regulating kennels. The bill amends 'The Farm Animal and Field Crop and Research Protection Act' to make it easier to charge persons for taking unauthorized pictures of confined animal operations.

CORPORATE SWINE LEGISLATION

House Bill 2502 is now on the way to the Governor after passing the House 98 to 26. Under the new provisions, a board of county commissioners would be authorized by resolution to permit or deny a corporate swine facility within its county. The permission or denial would be subject to a petition protesting the decision within 60 days of the resolution signed by five percent of the county voters in the last Secretary of State election. The submission of the petition would result in the issue being placed before the qualified voters during the next state, county, or special election. Under current law a denial by the county commissioners is an absolute rejection but the new law makes that decision subject to a protest petition. If the county commissioners refuse to take any action, the electorate of the county can circulate a protest petition on their own accord. (For the record Kansas has less than 1,400 hog farms today - down from 13,500 in 1980 - with 319 large hog operations doing 95% of all swine sales.)

FIELD NOTES

BLUE-GREEN ALGAE OUTBREAKS IN KANSAS

Last year, 16 lakes in Kansas had serious 'blue-green algae' outbreaks with it lasting most of the year at 3 - Milford, Marion and Logan State. Health officials cannot predict what will happen this year. Blue-green algae is a form of cyanobacteria that can cause allergic reactions and sickness. Five dogs died last year at public lakes drinking this polluted water. Runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous from yards or farms can cause the excessive algae blooms. For more information and a Kansas Department of Health & Environment website, read this article by Phil Cauthon at the Kansas Health Institute:
http://www.khi.org/news/2012/may/10/state-officials-prepare-more-algae-outbreaks-lakes/

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: House Credit Hearing
May 10th, 2012 (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, NSAC)

The House Agriculture Subcommittee held a hearing, Thursday May 10th, to examine federal credit programs as they take up writing the 2012 Farm Bill. In addition to Chairman Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Ranking Member Fudge (D-OH-11), Reps. King (R-IA-5), Crawford (R-AR-1), Baca (D-CA-43), and Pingree (D-ME-1) were also in attendance.

The panel of witnesses were chosen from both Chairman Fortenberry's and Ranking Member Fudge's home states of Nebraska and Ohio, along with a witness from Maryland. The panel was comprised of a mix of bankers and producers, and included the following witnesses:

Bob Frazee, Farm Credit Council (Maryland)
Jeff Gerhard, Independent Community Bankers of America (Nebraska)
Matthew Williams, American Bankers Association (Nebraska)
Michael Walton, Tunnel Vision Hoops (Ohio)
Justin Doerr, Beginning Farmer (Nebraska)

In his opening statement, Chairman Fortenberry stressed the importance of federal credit programs in meeting the needs of young and beginning farmers who often face difficulty obtaining commercial credit due to their lack of an established credit history. He also mentioned that federal credit programs need to be receptive to the financial needs of producers who sell to local markets.

Ranking Member Fudge focused on the specific challenges that urban farmers face when trying to obtain credit through direct or guaranteed loan programs, and emphasized the unique perspective that these producers can bring to federal credit policies and programs.

Beginning Farmers

The specific credit needs of young and beginning farmers was a hot topic at today's credit hearing, which is not all that surprising, given that the Chair of this subcommittee is also the leading Republican sponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R.3236). Read more by clicking here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: House Holds Specialty Crop and Nutrition Hearing
May 11th, 2012 (NSAC)


Tuesday, May 8th, the House Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture held its fourth of eight hearings in preparation for a 2012 Farm Bill. The hearing consisted of two panels, the first of which discussed specialty crop programs and the second, nutrition assistance.

Chairwoman Jean Schmidt (R-OH) opened the hearing by stating, "In order for us to reauthorize and craft responsible farm programs, it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that every dollar spent is a wise dollar spent. Investing wisely in specialty crops and ensuring that nutrition programs are being administered effectively is critical at this time."

Schmidt highlighted the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) because it has no baseline funding going forward. She cited SCRI as a "critical element" of specialty crops, and one that promotes health- "A diet with more specialty crops is more nutritious."

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME) echoed the interrelated nature of nutrition and specialty crops as both "important links in ensuring that all families have the option of putting fresh and good food on their tables." According to Pingree, thinking about how to link nutrition programs to farmers involves expanding local markets.

"When farmers sell to local markets, they get to keep a bigger share of the dollar. It's a win for farmers and it's a win for our families," said Pingree.

The first panel included five witnesses involved in production and packing of specialty crops. Read more here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
Farm State Editorials Call for Re-linking Conservation Compliance and Crop Insurance Subsidy
May 8th, 2012 (NSAC)


Changes in the 2012 Farm Bill coming out of the Senate Agriculture Committee are set to expand the role of crop insurance as the single largest crop subsidy. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that federal crop insurance subsidies under current law will total $90 billion over the next decade. The Senate Committee-passed bill further increases the cost of the program, yet does not require the recipients of the subsidies to take basic precautions to protect natural resources. To read more, click here.

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May 4 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Veto Session Scramble Part 2
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

VETO SESSION SCRAMBLE - PART 2

The political scramble between Republican moderates and conservatives continues to worsen as the Democrats watch from the sideline. It is very unclear when this veto session may end.

The State budget is slowly coming together but significant differences will have to be compromised between the Kansas House and Kansas Senate. By extending the reduction in income tax rates, a tax reform deal may have been reached with a promise of less revenue loss in future years. The true blood sport under the dome is redistricting and the future political control of the Kansas Senate. It is possible no compromise can be reached but the political clock - on candidate filing deadlines and the August primary - continues to tick. This 2012 Kansas Legislative session may well leave bitter and long lasting political grudges for years to come.

The Senate version of the 2013 State budget has been completed. The House Appropriations committee has completed their budget but this budget has not been debated on the floor of the House. Once this House floor debate happens early next week, the two versions will have to be reconciled and passed before this legislative session can end. There are substantial differences over extra funding for public schools, maintaining level funding for certain children's programs, foster care contracts, reducing waiting lists for the disabled, and state employee pay increases. Property tax reduction for local governments is included in the Senate budget reflecting the compromise in the tax reform bill.

The House - Senate appropriations conference committee will have to work to split these differences to find a compromise that can pass both the House and the Senate. The 90th day of this legislative session is next Friday - May 11. It seems more and more uncertain that the Legislature can reconcile the State Budget, pass tax reform and finish redistricting in just five days.

The tax reform deal was finalized by the four Republicans but rejected by the two Democrats on the tax reform conference committee. This tax bill reduces Kansas' three income tax brackets to two with the top bracket decreasing from 6.45% to 5.9% while the lower bracket for income under $15,000 ($30,000 for couples) drops from 3.5% to 3%. The top bracket is scaled back to 4.9% over five years.

Non-wage individual income tax by limited liability corporations (LLC's), subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships is eliminated for income under $100,000 next year. Over five years, all of this non-wage income tax will be eliminated costing Kansas $164 million annually. (Note: 191,000 tax filers file this non-wage income. There is little data to prove these filers live in Kansas, are just passive investors in commercial developments or are special tax havens by very large corporations - think Koch Industries.)

Low income tax filers will have to choose between the Kansas' Earned Income Tax Credit or the food sales tax rebate - which ever is the highest. Political pressure was brought by advocates to bring back the childcare and dependent care tax deduction.

Right now, the scoring of this tax bill shows a drop in ending balances to the Kansas' State General Fund from $680 million in 2013 to $165 million in 2018. This $680 million ending balance does not factor in the increased spending for schools and social services passed by the Senate. This revenue projection assumes a savings in Medicaid of $367 million over five years by implementing the private, managed care health plans of KanCare. KanCare will have to be accepted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in very short order to be able to start KanCare by January 1, 2013. This is such sweeping reform to cover all 90,000 Medicaid disabled and elderly clients in managed care plans that projecting $367 million in savings is speculative at best.

This tax bill has no "claw back" clause so if the reductions in income tax do not generate extra economic development and more sales tax, the income tax reductions cannot be readjusted. By eliminating individual income tax on 'non-wage' income, Kansas is burdening wage earners to fill this revenue loss through more regressive sales and property taxes. This tax gamble will put adequate education funding, social services and public safety at risk.

The redistricting battle has become brutal. Breaking with precedent - where each chamber draws its own map -, the Kansas House is set to draw a Kansas Senate map starting Monday. The Kansas Senate map that did pass 21 to 19 merges two western Kansas Senate districts, adds a district in Johnson County and attempts to change existing districts very little.

The Kansas House map of the Senate districts will not collapse the two western Kansas districts but will fundamentally change districts of moderate Senators and virtually guarantee fewer Democratic State senators. The passed Kansas Senate district map had 13 Republican and 8 Democratic votes but the Governor is demanding the Senate map have 21 Republican votes. This stalemate could last a long time.

May 10 is considered the final date to pass the Legislature and the Governor's office in time for review by the Kansas Supreme Court to keep the June 1 filing deadline and the August 7 primary. If a compromise cannot be reached, the Kansas Attorney General may have to go to the Kansas Supreme Court to solve this impasse. This is uncharted territory and various legal experts differ on the process. Stay tuned!

The legislative session is grinding to some type of finish. Today, May 4, was the final day for secretarial support in the offices of lawmakers. There is a 90-day limit on legislative sessions in even number years so extra funds would have to be allocated if this session goes beyond May 11.

If this redistricting mess brings the 2012 legislative session to a halt, the Governor may have to use a special session to finish the budget and enact tax reform. Hard to believe that average voters in Kansas will not take notice and express some outrage in the coming elections.

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
Senate Markup - Commodity and Crop Insurance Subsidy Provisions

May 4th, 2012 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Note to Readers: This is the tenth in a series of posts by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on the 2012 Farm Bill reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26.

The main storyline of the commodity title emerging from Senate Agriculture Committee markup of the 2012 Farm Bill is the elimination of direct payments and counter-cyclical payments and the creation of a new replacement program to be known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) payments. ARC builds on and replaces the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program option from the last farm bill. ARC would cover wheat, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, rice, soybeans, other oilseeds, pulse crops (dry peas, lentils, chickpeas), peanuts, and possibly popcorn. Read more here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
Senate Markup - Local Food and Rural Development

May 1st, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Note to Readers - This is the eighth in a series of posts on the 2012 Farm Bill reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26.

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act - the proposed name for the 2012 Farm Bill - out of Committee on Thursday, April 26. The markup and negotiations that immediately preceded the markup resulted in some improvements in the bill for local food systems and rural development, though there is still work to be done to ensure the final bill fully captures the economic opportunities to be gained in these areas of our nation's agriculture and food policy.

What follows is a breakdown of provisions offered last week that were (and were not) included in the Farm Bill that emerged out of the Senate Committee markup. A previous blog post on local food and rural development summarizes the provisions as presented in the original draft bill that was released on Friday, April 20. We will not repeat that information here, but refer interested readers back to the earlier post. This post focuses on changes adopted immediately before or in the Committee markup. Read more here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
Senate Markup - Organic Agriculture
May 1st, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Note to Readers - This is the seventh in a series of posts on the 2012 Farm Bill reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26.

Overall, the bill that was reported out of Committee last Thursday supports key pieces of the suite of unique programs that serve the organic sector. Most of the organic provisions included in the draft bill presented by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) we reported on early last week remained unchanged in the package that the Committee approved. Several organic amendments were filed before the markup, and two of them were included in the bill passed out of Committee. An overview of the organic provisions follows here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill:
Senate Markup - Research, Education, Extension

May 1st, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Note to Readers - This is the ninth in a series of posts on the 2012 Farm Bill reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26.

The bill that the Senate Agriculture Committee voted out of committee last week now makes its way to the Senate floor and hopefully will be taken up by the House later this spring. While there were some key highlights included on commodity program reform, organic agriculture, and local food, there was not much headway made on sustainable agriculture research priorities in the current bill that came out of the Senate.

A detailed breakdown regarding what research provisions were (and were not) included in the draft bill presented to the Committee by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) is available in this earlier post. This post focuses on amendments to the bill pursued before and during Committee markup last week. Read more here.

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April 27 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Corporate Farm Law
- Field Notes
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

VETO SESSION SPECULATION

The veto session is now in progress and the bartering has begun to pass certain key priorities. Constitutionally, the Kansas Legislature is only mandated to pass a budget every year and redistrict every 10 years. These 'must pass' issues provide the leverage to force resolution on other political issues. This is the time for true 'sausage making' in the political process. What important issues are paired together to find that illusive compromise? Will a 'moderate redistricting map' for the Kansas Senate be traded for tax policy changes? Will a portion of increased State revenues be used for public education and social services to find 21 votes in the Senate and 63 votes in the House to pass a 2013 Kansas' budget? The Kansas Legislature has fifteen days left to make their deals and leave town.

The full budget debate will begin next week. The Kansas Senate Ways & Means committee is now fine-tuning the entire $14.1 Billion mega-appropriations budget that will be debated on the Senate floor next week. A similar process is happening in the Kansas House Appropriations committee and the full Kansas House will debate their budget next week. Several amendments will be offered to change the budget in both chambers. On the House side, the rules mandate that any additional funding must be offset by reductions in other programs. It is more likely on the House side that further budget cuts may be offered.

Once the budget is passed in each chamber, there will be a conference committee of 3 House members and 3 Senators appointed to find that compromise between the two budgets. The compromise budget from this conference committee is not subject to any amendments when debated on the floor of the House or the Senate. The only option is to vote down the budget and force the conference committee to redo the budget. Often times it takes 2-3 versions of the state budget to find the necessary votes for passage. Since the Legislature has waited so long to pass the State budget, the Governor will be able to veto particular line items in the budget and the Legislature will be unable to override a veto.

Outside the mega-budget debate is legislation to increase funding for public schools and provide state funds to assist cities and counties to lower property taxes. The Senate has passed both bills on school funding and lowering property taxes. It is now up to the House to debate these measures. House leadership may well try and leverage these Senate budget requests for policy changes such as a future growth cap on state spending?

The Governor is now responding to the staffing and accreditation problems at Larned State Hospital by requesting an additional $2 million. The Kansas Courts have suspended future Friday furloughs of court employees for now with the promise that the Kansas Legislature will fund the $1.4 million shortfall for this fiscal year that ends June 30. The Senate has funded longevity bonuses for some state employees and increased salaries for certain underpaid state employees but the House has refused this request. Such discrepancies will have to be settled in the conference committee.

Redistricting and tax policy may be linked to find that illusive compromise. The Kansas Senate has passed a senate redistricting map that makes it much easier for several moderates to battle for their seats. The Governor's top priority is tax policy that will start eliminating income taxes for individuals and businesses. Senate leadership has voiced much stronger support for lowering property taxes before lowering income taxes. A compromise may be in the works for the Governor to support the Kansas Senate map if a tax bill passes eventually eliminating the income tax.

To avoid changing the candidate filing deadline and the August 7 primary, the Kansas Legislature must pass the redistricting maps by May 10 so the Governor can sign the maps and the Kansas Supreme Court will have 15 days for review. The candidate-filing deadline would stay at June 1 and the primary would not be moved from August 7 to August 25. None of this deal making is cut in stone and Kansas House conservatives may object to the senate map. Kansas is now the last state in the union to draw a new Congressional map. The debate goes on over dividing Topeka or putting Manhattan in the 1st.

The Senate and House Tax conference committee has several more items to settle to find a true compromise. The conference committee has agreed that eliminating the sales tax on groceries will not be part of the final package. The food sales tax rebate and the earned income tax credit for low income households will be decreased to provide funds to lower income tax rates for wealthier households. The $9.5 million tax credit for childcare and dependent care may well be eliminated.

There is great uncertainty and lack of data concerning 'non-wage' income for sole proprietorships, limited liability corporations and subchapter S corporations. In 2009, 1.3 million tax returns were filed in Kansas. 191,991 of these returns had some 'non-wage' income totaling $2 Billion in business income. 34,570 of these 191, 991 returns had 52% of this business income. Their income bracket is $100,000 and over. There is no data on passive investors or out of state Kansas' filers with Kansas losing this income tax payment to New York or Texas. The entire cost would be $164 million annually. The House has proposed a complete elimination over five years.

CORPORATE FARM LAW

House Bill 2502 changes the Kansas Corporate Farming Law to streamline the approval of corporate swine facilities. A conference committee met to settle the differences between the Senate and House version of this bill. A compromise was reached and report filed. The Kansas Senate has now approved the bill 36 to 4 and the Kansas House will take it up shortly before it is passed and sent to the Governor. In essence, if a county commission passes a resolution approving corporate hog operations the residents have 60 days to collect signatures from 5% of the voters in the last general election to force a vote. It does not matter if a county has voted down corporate hogs in the past. To see more click here.

It is possible that the Kansas Corporate Farming Law is unconstitutional. Constitutional provisions limiting corporate agriculture in both Nebraska and South Dakota have been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts because they infringe on interstate commerce (known as the 'dormant commerce clause'). A request from a Kansas Representative has gone to the Kansas Attorney General asking if the Kansas Corporate Farming Law is similar to the Nebraska and South Dakota rulings. The Attorney General has been researching this question for several weeks. So far no opinion has been issued.

FIELD NOTES

TRADITIONAL REPUBLICANS FOR COMMON SENSE FORMED
April 25, 2012

'Today, a group of 46 former traditional Republican legislators from across the state have joined forces to form Traditional Republicans for Common Sense. The group will advocate for common sense policy positions - like job creation, funding our schools and providing for common sense tax policy.'

"As former legislators, with over 500 years of collective service to Kansas, we care deeply about what happens to our communities, our homes," said former Assistant Majority Leader and State Chair of the Republican Party Rep. Rochelle Chronister. "Unfortunately, deep-pocketed special interest groups are spending millions of dollars attempting to buy the 2012 elections and silence voters. We will not allow that to happen without a fight."

"If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is," said Chronister. "You don't need an economist to tell you that if you virtually eliminate the income tax then you are going to see a sharp rise in property and sales taxes. Increased property taxes are exactly what Kansans do not need."

"We have a moral obligation to the citizens of this state. If we want to ensure our long-term success then we cannot mortgage our children's future. Every farmer will tell you that you reap what you sow. Our children's future and the stability of our state is too important to gamble away with accounting tricks and the newest fad from a Washington, DC think tank."

(Rochelle Chronister - (620) 325-2026 - rrc@terraworld.net)

CAGE-FREE PROMISE

On April 25, 2012, Burger King (with 7,200 restaurants nationwide) announced that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017. Today 9% of the company's eggs and 29% of its pork are cage-free. Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in battery cages that give them roughly the same footprint an an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper. 90% of the nation's 280 million laying hens are confined. Most pork comes from sows that are confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates unable to turn around. In 2008, California's Proposition 2 passed by a landslide banning chicken cages and swine gestation crates by 2015. Wal-Mart and Costco have transitioned their private-label eggs to 100% cage-free. This year, Smithfield Farms - the largest pork producer - and Hormel committed to ending the use of gestation crates by 2017.

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE:
SENATE AG COMMITTEE PASSES FARM BILL OUT OF AG COMMITTEE


On April 26 the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a draft farm bill out of committee. The Senate version must go before the full Senate for passage; expect amendments and further debate over key areas. The House Agriculture Committee is in the process of holding eight hearings on the farm bill, so has yet to agree on their version. Most expect it will be the Senate version that the two houses will work from to come together for a final bill.

At the same time the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a new farm bill out of committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The House Agriculture Appropriations Sub-Committee has to date not set a mark up for its bill. However it did establish its own discretionary spending allocations that lowers the caps agreed to by both House and Senate last fall. This sets the stage for a rancorous battle over next year's agriculture budget.

(See related articles from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) below.)

NSAC Comments on Senate Farm Bill Markup and Passage
From NSAC, April 26, 2012

Washington, DC - The Senate Agriculture Committee voted a new farm bill out of committee today by a vote of 16-5. The committee bill saves $23 billion over the next ten years according to budget estimates.

The committee bill includes historic reforms to commodity subsidies. In addition to replacing automatic direct payments with a shallow loss revenue-based payment, the bill limits payments to not more than one farm manager per farm operation. Under current law, mega farms collect multiple payments worth millions of dollars through passive investors and landowners who are counted as farm managers.

"We applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee for including common sense rules to commodity payments and ending years of abuse by closing program loopholes," said Ferd Hoefner, Policy Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "Thanks to Senator Grassley's (R-IA) tireless leadership, the Committee was able to make sure that hardworking farmers - not mega farms and absentee investors - are the key beneficiaries of farm programs."

The Committee also enacted a nationwide "Sodsaver" provision to protect native grass and prairie lands. The provision reduces crop insurance premium subsidies and tightens program rules in a manner that will reduce the taxpayer-funded incentive to destroy important grassland resources.

"By agreeing to a nationwide 'Sodsaver' provision championed by Senators Thune (R-SD), Brown (D-OH), and Johanns (R-NE), the Senate Agriculture Committee made sure that taxpayer dollars are not subsidizing the destruction of native grass and prairie lands," said Hoefner. "These lands are diminishing at a rapid rate and protecting them provides ranching opportunities and economic, environmental, and recreational benefits to rural communities."

While the Committee made progress on these commodity and crop insurance issues, there are several outstanding gaps in the proposed changes to the farm safety net.

"By failing to place limitations on crop insurance subsidies and to re-attach soil erosion and wetland conservation requirements to crop insurance programs, the Committee has failed to do the full reform that is needed. We intend to continue to press these issues as the bill moves forward," continued Hoefner.

The Committee also made progress on critical programs that underpin economic growth.

"The leadership of Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Senators Brown (D-OH), Leahy (D-VT), Harkin (D-IA), and Casey (D-PA) ensured that programs that spur economic growth in rural communities built on gains from the 2008 Farm Bill," noted Hoefner. "The Committee reauthorized critical local food and organic programs, such as the Farmers' Market and Local Food Promotion Program and National Organic Certification Cost Share."

Despite progress, there were glaring shortfalls and omissions in the Committee's draft.

"Sens. Harkin (D-IA), Johanns (R-NE), Casey (D-PA), and Nelson (D-NE) championed various beginning farmer provisions, but the bill lacks a cohesive strategy to assist the next generation of American farmers," said Hoefner. "Most noticeably, the Committee failed to provide adequate funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, thus limiting critical resources that new farmers need to succeed."

The Committee did not fund the rural development title, nor did it make needed improvements in farm to school programs. It also limited the funding for programs targeted to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

"We regret the Committee's decision to limit funding for minority farmers in the new bill, and will work to see that funding restored," said Hoefner. "We also echo Sen. Brown's (D-OH) concluding statements: without a strong investment in rural development programs we will miss the opportunity to truly make this bill a jobs bill," said Hoefner.

"Overall, the bill released out of Committee is an improvement over last year's draft bill," said Hoefner, "but there is a still a ways to go to produce a bill that expands opportunities for family farmers to produce good food, sustain the environment, and contribute to vibrant communities. We look forward to working with the Committee and the full Senate to ensure further progress toward that end."

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Senate Markup - Beginning Farmers
From NSAC, April 27th, 2012

(Note to Readers - This is the first in what will be a series of posts from NSAC on the 2012 Farm Bill reported out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on April 26.)

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act - the proposed name for the 2012 Farm Bill - out of Committee on Thursday, April 26. The markup and negotiations that immediately preceded the markup resulted in some significant improvements in the bill for beginning farmers, though the bill still needs to do more in this area in our view.

Last year, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) along with Agriculture Committee members Sens. Leahy (D-VT), Kloubhar (D-MN), Casey (D-PA), Brown (D-OH) and nine off-Committee sponsors introduced the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (S. 1850) as a template for provisions that should be included in the new Farm Bill. An identical bill (H.R. 3236) was introduced at the same time in the House by Reps. Walz (D-MN) and Fortenberry (R-NE).

Here's a title by title breakdown of what beginning farmer related provisions were (and were not) included in the Farm Bill that emerged out of the Senate Committee markup. This post focuses on changes adopted since a week ago when the the draft farm bill bill was first presented by Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Roberts (R-KS).

For more on the beginning farmer provisions click here.

Senate Committee Approves 2013 Agriculture Spending Bill
From NSAC, April 27th, 2012

On Thursday, April 26, while the Senate Agriculture Committee was busy passing their version of the 2012 Farm Bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee was also meeting to approve the Fiscal Year 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill. The spending bill covers the majority of the functions of USDA as well as the Food and Drug Administration. For details click here.

House Sets Government Funding Allocations
From NSAC, April 25th, 2012

On April 19, we reported that the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved discretionary spending allocations for the coming 2013 fiscal year. The size of the total spending pie, as laid out by the Committee, was completely consistent with the levels set by law in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Today, the House Appropriations Committee set its own discretionary spending allocations, but rather than abide by the spending caps agreed to by both the House and Senate in last year's Budget Control Act, it lowered them an additional $19 billion.

On the Senate side, the allocation allows the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to provide discretionary funding of $20.785 billion for USDA and FDA programs.

The House allocation, as it passed today, caps House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee discretionary spending on USDA and FDA programs at $19.4 billion, roughly $1.4 billion below the Senate level. (The House Democrats put forth an unsuccessful amendment to peg the agricultural allocation at $21.1 billion).

To put this $1.4 billion in perspective, the entire discretionary spending appropriation in FY 2012 for the Food Safety Inspection Service was $1 billion. The difference is also more than all discretionary spending for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and over half of all rural development spending in FY 2012.

As the House and Senate move forward with their respective agriculture appropriations bills, they will be moving on very different paths. Read more here.

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April 20 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Privatization of Medicaid
- Redistricting
- Water Laws passed
- Field Notes
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

VETO SESSION STRUGGLES BEGIN

The Kansas Legislative veto session that begins April 25 will be historic for the state of Kansas. Tough decisions will have to be reached whether to restore critical budget cuts to public education, social services and public safety. Now that revenues have increased to Kansas, will tax policy reduce revenue to Kansas with substantial budgetary implications for future years?

The largest health program in Kansas - Medicaid - is destined to be privatized and turned over to three managed care health insurance companies that promise quality services statewide. Legislative and Congressional districts must be redrawn reflecting the movement of persons from rural to urban areas in the midst of a battle over protecting moderate versus conservative political interests. All of these decisions could have a substantive impact on the future quality of life in Kansas.

The budget picture is starting to take shape. The Senate Ways and Means committee has decided to incorporate the State budget and the final Omnibus bill into one piece of legislation that will have to be finalized in a conference committee with the Kansas House. There are many key differences to be settled.

Will additional funds be provided for public education to increase base student aid per pupil (BSAPP)? (Note: BSAPP in 2009 was $4,400 - in 2012 it is $3,780) State hospitals are severely understaffed and at risk of losing their accreditation. Will additional funds be provided for hiring more staff and increasing salaries to attract more workers? The Kansas courts have announced furloughs on five Fridays into June to handle a $1.4 million budgetary shortfall. Will this funding shortage be settled soon after the veto session begins?

The tobacco settlement payment of $56 million has now been received. This money is used for several children programs but the Governor's budget assumed only $40 million. Will the full $56 million now be used for the children programs? With an increase of revenue to Kansas of $252 million over the next 18 months, the Governor's budget now has an ending balance of $673 million.

With the extra revenue of $252 million in the ending balance, the tax battle will be more spirited than ever. Is there an easier sell in an election year than to enact more tax cuts without a plan for funding basic programs in the future? With the extra revenue, it will be possible to enact tax reductions for 2013 and take that from the ending balance without doing further damage to existing governmental services. (Note: if the extra revenues go for income tax cuts, there will be far fewer dollars for restoring existing budget cuts or providing local governments meaningful property tax relief.)

Beyond 2013, revenues start to decline exponentially. The Senate tax bill income tax reduction jumps from $250 million in 2013 to $847 million in 2014 and the total 5-year reduction is $3.8 Billion. The House tax bill does not decrease income taxes nearly as fast as the Senate's tax bill but the House has a 3% growth lid on state spending. If there is further growth in tax revenues to the State beyond the 3%, than income tax rates are decreased even faster. (For the record, the Consensus Revenue experts on April 13 projected for 2013 a 5.6% growth in individual income taxes and a 5% growth in sales tax.)

This is truly a faith-based tax policy believing that just cutting or eliminating income taxes will automatically generate far more economic development and significant increases in sales tax. Once the income tax is reduced or eliminated, there is little chance to restore these cuts. Is Kansas on the road to a reduced quality of life comparable to Mississippi? (Mississippi has one of the lowest tax burdens in the country but also has one of the highest poverty rates.)

PRIVATIZATION OF MEDICAID

The privatization of Medicaid - KanCare - by January 1, 2013 is still on target as far as the Governor is concerned. Medicaid is serving over 380,000 Kansans. Kansas cannot accomplish this Medicaid conversion to privatized managed care for all Medicaid clients unless certain waivers are allowed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. (Medicaid is funded roughly 60% by federal dollars and 40% state dollars.) There are also important computer upgrades that must be funded by the Kansas Legislature to implement KanCare. Several lawmakers have expressed support to move KanCare implementation from January 1, 2013 to July 1, 2013. Twenty counties across Kansas have passed resolutions requesting that independent living services for the disabled not be part of the KanCare contracts.

The executive reorganization order built around these changes in Medicaid is now final and will be implemented July 1. The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services will be renamed the Department of Children and Families. State hospitals, mental health services and disability services move from SRS to the renamed Department of Aging and Disability Services. The independent Kansas Health Policy Authority that administered the Medicaid program has been eliminated and the Division of Health within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment will administer the contracts with the 3 private managed care health insurance companies. (Complete coverage on KanCare - Kansas Health Institute -- www.khi.org)

REDISTRICTING

The election and redistricting battles may be the most intense. Legislation has been introduced to move the primary election date from August 7 to August 25 if redistricting maps cannot be finalized by May 15. The filing deadline for candidates would be changed from June 11 to July 1. The Kansas House will vote again to move from January 1, 2013 to June 15, 2012 the mandate that proof of citizenship is required to register to vote. A federal court in Arizona ruled that a similar requirement in Arizona law was unconstitutional. House Substitute for Senate Bill 17 is the legislation to make this date change. After the Kansas House passes this bill early in the veto session, the Senate President will rule whether this bill has been materially changed. This ruling cannot be challenged. If ruled materially changed, the bill would be assigned to a committee.

WATER LAWS PASSED

The following bills have passed and been approved by the Governor.

SENATE BILL 310 sets up a process by which a local enhanced management area (LEMA) can be established within a groundwater management district (GMD). The process for establishment of a LEMA requires a GMD to recommend a plan to the Chief Engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources.

SENATE BILL 272 establishes an opportunity for water management practices to enable multi-year flexibility in the use of water authorized to be diverted under a groundwater water right, provided such flexibility does not impair existing water rights or increase the total amount of water diverted.

HOUSE BILL 2516 amends the statues relating to the establishment of water banking. The bill deletes language that limited the number of water banks. The bill clarifies when a water bank is subject to review after its initial charter.

HOUSE BILL 2517 extends the Water Right Transition Assistance Program (WaterTAP). The program is designed to permanently retire all or portions of irrigation water rights.

FIELD NOTES

PRELIMINARY SUMMARY OF LEGISLATION 2012 KANSAS LEGISLATURE

The above Kansas Legislative Research Department publication contains summaries of selected bills enacted by the Legislature by March 29, 2012. A supplement containing summaries of major bills enacted during the week of April 2, 2012 is also available. An additional supplement will be available after the wrap-up session in May. Go to http://skyways.lib.ks.us/ksleg/KLRD/Summaries.htm

HORIZONTAL DRILLING AND ROAD DAMAGE DESCRIBED

The April 2012 Kansas Association of County's 'COUNTY COMMENT' newsletter included a short article written by Norm Bowers, Local Road Engineer. It covers a visit to Harper County to see four horizontal drilling rigs at one site. Oil and gas drilling permits are handled through the state, and the county was not notified in advance. This drilling site consists of a level area of about 4 acres. Two to three feet of shale is hauled in and topped with one foot of crushed rock. 1,200 semi loads were required.

The 'fracking' takes about 2 million gallons of water which is the equivalent of 300 tanker loads. All told it takes over 2,000 truckloads of material and equipment for one drilling site. There are few county roads that can handle 2,000 truckloads without substantial damage.

Harper County has taken the position that they will not fix or repair roads so the drilling companies can get to their sites. That works well where the road is not a school bus route and people do not live on the mile. If drilling occurs in counties with a blacktop road network, they can expect damage to the blacktops. In Harper County most of the water has been purchased from farm ponds. Harper County has allowed the drilling company to place pipe in the road ditch for a fee. The county has just hired a codes enforcement officer to handle all the utility permits and to observe and document damage to the roads. Mr. Bowers ends the article with essential steps that should be taken in advance by a county. For more, see pages 6-8 of the April Issue of KAC's County Comment.

2012 FARM BILL UPDATE
SENATE AG COMMITTEE RELEASES DRAFT FARM BILL


On April 20, the Senate Agriculture Committee released its draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. In the summary of the draft that Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) released, she said that the bill achieves $23 billion in savings, which matches the Committee's proposal for the Super Committee last fall. The Committee is scheduled to mark-up the draft bill on Wednesday, April 25. Chairwoman Stabenow appears to be sticking to her goal of getting a bill out of committee and to the Senate Floor by Memorial Day.

Stabenow's summary stated that the draft "eliminates direct payments while strengthening risk management, consolidates and streamlines programs (about 23 existing conservation programs are consolidated into 13 programs), improves program integrity and accountability (although in the summary this appears to apply primarily to the nutrition programs and not commodity programs), and grows America's agricultural economy (the summary appears to focus on bio-based manufacturing).

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and others are currently analyzing the just released bill for sustainable agriculture priorities and will be publishing a longer analysis soon.

While the Senate is moving forward, the House situation is more complex.

On Wednesday, April 18, the House Agriculture Committee passed a budget reconciliation bill on a partisan vote that proposes to cut $33.2 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over ten years.

The House Budget Committee directed the House Agriculture Committee to cut $33.2 billion over ten years from the programs under the Agriculture Committee's jurisdiction, as part of the Fiscal 2013 budget resolution. The House budget resolution assumptions included a proposed $30 billion cut in commodity subsidies, but the Agriculture Committee chose to take all $33.2 billion from SNAP, the nutrition assistance program. The budget resolution is regarded as a formality that must be dealt with before the Agriculture Committee can move on to serious discussion of the farm bill; it is NOT expected to become law as the Senate has made it clear they will not take up budget reconciliation bills from the House.

House Ag Committee Chairman Lucas, in order to drive the point home that the budget reconciliation action is NOT to be confused with the real farm bill, announced a set of eight farm bill hearings just prior to the April 18th action. Click here for the hearing list.

However, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition notes that " Whether the pivot can be made successfully from a highly-charged political document cutting SNAP benefits to a comprehensive, balanced farm bill remains to be seen. It is clearly not an ideal context in which to deal with the farm bill, but it does not necessarily have to prove fatal. There is still time and there are still means by which a 2012 Farm Bill could be completed on time and in a bipartisan manner. Don't bet the ranch on it, but don't rule it out either. " For NSAC's complete article on the House Ag Committee's decision click here.

The next two to four weeks will be critical for the 2012 farm bill. Expect more updates as information becomes available.

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April 6 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Tax Reform
- KANCARE and Medicaid
- Redistricting
- Corporate Swine Legislation Update

VETO SESSION SCRAMBLE

The Kansas Legislature has left all of the hard decisions for the veto session that starts April 25. The $14.1 Billion mega-appropriations budget bill agreement between the House and Senate fell apart at the last minute over a funding source for public education. The conference committee on the Senate and House tax bills met a few times before the first recess but made little progress towards a compromise. The Governor's proposal to privatize the Kansas' Medicaid program via managed care - KANCARE - has raised great concerns. The toughest battle for this Legislature will be to redraw Congressional and legislative districts without a very bitter, ideological fight.

Developing and finalizing a 2013 State budget will depend on many moving parts. Tax cuts will have to be settled and factored into available revenues to determine the size of the 2013 State budget. The budget battle may be done in two steps where the mega-appropriations budget is compromised and passed soon after the veto session starts. Final adjustments such as the tax cuts, extra school funding and property tax relief would be put in the catch-all Omnibus bill that finishes the legislative session. The other path is to just use the Omnibus bill for all appropriations and tax policy changes.

The consensus revenues experts (economists from WSU, KSU, KU - Kansas Legislative Research Department - Governor's staff) will meet on April 12 to develop new 18-month revenue projections that must be used for developing the final 2013 State budget. It is very likely these projections will increase revenues to Kansas. The budget battles will be over the size of the ending balance, tax cuts of some magnitude and restoring budget reductions for schools, social services and public safety. See more of the veto session topics below.

TAX REFORM

The Governor's top priority is to reduce and eventually eliminate the income tax in Kansas. Both the House tax bill (House Substitute for SB 177) and the Senate tax bill (Senate Substitute for HB 2177) begin the process to reduce income rates. (You can read these bills and supplemental background notes by typing the italicized bill numbers into this site: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/measures/bills/

The House tax bill includes the elimination of sales tax on groceries. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates that 15% of all sales tax is for groceries. That number is $320 million but Kansas has a food sales tax rebate for lower income households that costs $43 million so the net loss in revenue to Kansas would be $267 million. The Senate tax bill has the immediate elimination of 'non-wage' income for sole proprietorships, S-Corporations and Limited Liability Corporations at a cost of $164 million in lost revenues to Kansas. Kansas would be unique in this tax cut. The big picture is that Kansas state and local tax revenue totaled $12.407 Billion in 2011, which equated to $4,339 per capita and 11.13 percent of Kansas' personal income. 32.3% came from property tax, 27.7% came from sales & use tax, 23.8% came from income tax, 3.5% from motor fuels and 13% form other taxes/fees. The income and privilege tax generated $2.9 Billion in revenue. How will the income tax be replaced?

KANCARE AND MEDICAID

The House and the Senate have both debated bills on developing oversight of the Governor's KANCARE proposal. Medicaid covers 380,000 Kansans at a cost over $3.4 Billion. The Kansas Legislature must appropriate the money for Medicaid but the Governor and executive branch has complete administrative control. The KANCARE plan will give three private managed care health companies a contract to serve Medicaid clients statewide starting 2013. The Governor's hope is that over five years $850 million in savings can be found. These managed care plans will cover all elderly and disabled clients with both medical and independent living services.

The existing independent living centers now serving the disabled are fighting to continue to provide the services they are presently providing without becoming part of these new managed care plans. It is uncertain where these Medicaid savings may come from. The Governor promises no reduction in eligibility or present services. These new managed care companies will have to monitor the health services of existing clients and prevent certain overuse of hospitals or prescriptions. Kansas has used managed care plans for children on Medicaid and HealthWave for several years but there have been no definitive cost saving studies done on these plans.

REDISTRICTING

Redistricting battles go to the heart of our political system. These battles deal with survival or elimination of present lawmakers. These battles are over developing safe districts for one party or the other. These battles are over raw political power going forward for the next decade. The House finally settled on a Congressional map that kept Manhattan in the 2nd District and put all of Douglas County in the 2nd but split Shawnee County (Topeka) between the big 1st and the 2nd. The House made a few changes to its House district map and combined the Congressional map with the House district map in one bill. The Senate voted down this bill decisively as the House had voted down the Senate's congressional map that kept Shawnee County in the 2nd but moved Manhattan into the big 1st. The Senate is still struggling to draw a senate district map. The House is now saying they may be forced to draw a senate district map. Normally, the respective chambers draw their own maps without input from the other chamber.

The Governor is publicly trying to interject his opinion into these redistricting maps. The Governor is demanding that 21 Republicans must vote for the senate map to get his signature thus ignoring any input from the Democrats. Once the legislative maps are signed by the Governor, the Kansas Supreme Court must review these maps. Congressional maps must be challenged to get federal court review. The June 1 filing deadline for candidates may have to be pushed back to June 10 depending on when the Legislature can finalize action.

CORPORATE SWINE LEGISLATION

House Bill 2502 changes the existing law in allowing corporate owned swine facilities to operate in a county. Existing law mandates that a county commission must hold an election to allow these corporate owned swine facilities. If the county commission wants to allow these operations, a vote must be held. Residents of the county can circulate a petition requesting a vote on allowing or denying these facilities. Corporate dairies are treated differently. A county commission passes a resolution allowing corporate dairies and county residents must circulate a petition within 60 days requesting a vote to see if the county residents want these dairies. Kansas has had over 20 counties voting to disallow corporate swine facilities in their county. There have been no such elections on corporate dairies. There are no similar restrictions on independent farmers or family farm corporations to build large swine or dairy operations.

HB 2502 changes the law so that corporate swine facilities will be treated the same as corporate dairies. The county commission will pass a resolution permitting or denying corporate swine or dairy operations. County residents would have 60 days to collect 5% of the signatures of voters in the last general election to request a vote on this resolution. There is no binding effect from the counties that have already voted down corporate swine. There is no limit on the number of times a county commission can pass such resolutions. County commissions cannot be forced to pass a resolution. County residents can circulate a protest petition to force a vote if they can collect enough signatures.

While many western Kansas counties are desperate for any economic development, there are very serious questions over finding a stable workforce and housing the new workers that would be recruited for these operations. For a 5,000 head swine operation, it takes 27 workers. The immigration debate has ended in Kansas and there will be no pilot program for undocumented workers.

Agreement between the House and Senate conferees on HB 2502 has been finalized, so a vote on the House and Senate floor should happen shortly after the veto session begins on April 25. There is no doubt this will pass and be sent to the Governor for his signature. This new law will be in effect within a few weeks of the Governor's signature.

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March 23 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Education Funding
- Downsizing Government
- Tax Debate
- KPERS
- Immigration
- Compromise Budget
- Redistricting Scramble

POLITICAL DEADLINES

The Kansas Legislature is headed into the final week of the regular session with numerous challenges to meet. The Kansas House and the Kansas Senate have passed their version of the 2013 State budget but that will have to be reconciled. Each chamber has passed legislation changing tax policy in Kansas but there are major, major differences between the two versions. The Kansas House did pass fundamental changes to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System that will have to be accepted by the Senate. Immigration bills will get more hearings next week. The greatest challenge and most divisive task that must be accomplished this year is redrawing Congressional and Kansas Senate districts.

The Governor's 2013 Budget of $14.1 Billion was closely adhered to by both the Kansas House and Kansas Senate. There were very minor tweaks by both chambers but the Governor's budget remained intact. The ending balance for 2013 is $460.3 million in the Senate's budget and somewhat higher in the House budget. This is where the final budgetary battles will begin in the veto session starting April 25.

EDUCATION

For public education, the Governor's budget keeps Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) at $3,780 for 2013 as it was in 2012 but by statue the amount should be $4,492. In separate legislation, the Kansas Senate has passed a bill raising the BSAPP with $50 million and allowing school districts to increase their local option budgets. This change will be fought over in the Kansas House. The Senate restored many children's program with funding from the Children's Initiatives Fund that comes from tobacco settlement funds. Programs include parents as teachers, early headstart, childcare, mental health services, etc. The total restoration was $16 million that must be reconciled with the House.

DOWNSIZING GOVERNMENT

Overall the Governor's effort to downsize state government continues on. 1,027 experienced state employees have taken part in the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program. Most of these positions have not been replaced. Even with a $460 million ending balance, the Governor recommended no general state employee salary increase for 2013.

Overall, the number of state employees has decreased from 40,253 in 2011 to 38,812 for 2013. In agriculture and natural resources, the employee count is down 65 to 1,214 as Kansas welcomes large swine operations and an explosion of 'fracking gas/oil wells'. For human services, the employee count has fallen from 7,943 in 2011 to 6,926 in 2013 - over 1,000. This comes at a time when our state hospitals are overcrowded and employees are working mandatory overtime. Public education administration in Topeka and higher education employees however increases 224 to 17,813 in 2013.

TAX DEBATE

The tax debate is far from settled. The Governor's tax proposal of keeping the sales tax at 6.3%, capping state spending at 2% growth annually and eliminating the individual income tax over 6 years was radically changed in the House and Senate. The House changes the spending cap from 2 to 3%, kept in law all of the refundable tax credits, kept the mortgage interest deduction, took out any increase in the severance tax, reduced the sales tax to 5.7% and took the sales tax off groceries. These changes would cost Kansas $350 million the first year and much more in future years.

The Senate's proposal took off any cap on state spending, kept all of the refundable tax credits, reduced the sales tax to 5.7% and made some income tax reductions. The Senate's bill price tag in lost revenue is several hundred million over the House bill. Severe cuts to all state programs - especially education - would be required to balance the 2013 budget. The Kansas Senate is conflicted over lowering property taxes versus lowering income taxes.

KPERS

The Governor supported legislation to change the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) into a strict 401-K plan for all new employees. (KPERS serve 277,000 members - 73,000 retired, 43,000 inactive and 161,000 active. Active membership includes 86,000 school employees, 26,000 State of Kansas, 35,000 county/municipality, 300 judges and 7,200 police/firemen.) The House passed a bill that offers new employees an option of a guaranteed 5% return on their contributions or a 401-K plan supervised by the employee. This bill along with legislation from last year increases the employee and employer contributions to tackle the $8 Billion deficit that KPERS has over the next 30 years. (The deficit started with teachers entering the system in the 1970's with no reserves for future benefits, skipped payments by the State of Kansas in lean years and generous benefit increases using inaccurate earning projections.)

IMMIGRATION

The Kansas House Federal & State Affairs committee has scheduled hearings on March 26 on immigration bills previously heard. One plan is to pass a bill forcing all employers contracting with the State of Kansas to have their employees 'E-Verified' - a federal immigration status computer system. Kansas House leadership is concerned about dividing their Republican caucus over this issue. If such a bill were debated on the Kansas House floor, several other harsher anti-immigrant amendments would be offered thus forcing lawmakers to make tough votes that might work against them in the elections.

COMPROMISE BUDGET

It seems likely that a compromised 2013 State budget will be passed before the Kansas Legislature recesses on March 30. The more contentious budget items will be held over for the final Omnibus bill during the veto session.

By mid-April, the consensus revenue estimators will meet to develop revenue projections over the next 18 months. The revenues were increased last time the estimators met last November so it seems very probable revenues will be increased in April. Costs for medical care and social services will also be increased but probably not as much as the overall revenue increases. This revenue increase will bolster the ending balances. Will the padded ending balance be used for income tax cuts or adequately funding public schools and the social safety net?

REDISTRICTING SCRAMBLE

The battle is truly on now. The Kansas House is scrambling to pass a new Congressional map while the Kansas Senate is scrambling to pass a new State Senate map. The Governor is not waiting for maps to veto but has made his opinion known on his map preferences now. If the maps are not finalized until the veto session in early May, the state legislative maps must be approved by the Kansas Supreme Court and the filing deadline for the new House and Senate districts will be pushed to mid-June. The primary is August 7.

The Kansas House Redistricting committee is a 23-member committee chaired by the Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal. The Speaker offered a Congressional map that had the Big 1st district reach all the way into Wyandotte County. The Big 1st needs to pick up 53,000 persons while the 3rd District (Wyandotte, Johnson & part of Douglas County) has to shed 58,000 persons. The committee vote on the Speaker's map tied 11 to 11 with the Speaker breaking the tie. On the Kansas House floor, Rep. Tom Arpke from Salina offered a map that kept Wyandotte County in the 3rd but changed around the 4th District with this Wichita district picking up Pittsburg in southeast Kansas. This map passed on the first vote but on final action the map was defeated 77 to 46. The Speaker has now stated he got the message on not putting Wyandotte into the Big 1st. If the plan is to put all of Douglas County into the 2nd and keep Manhattan in the 2nd, Topeka would have to be divided between the 1st and 2nd. Topeka will fight that change as hard as they can.

The Kansas Senate is in a tougher fight. Senator Jay Emler developed a Senate map - 'Ad Astra' that collapsed two western Kansas Senate districts into one and put a new Senate district in Johnson County where the population growth has been. Western Kansas Senators were outraged at the change. With no Kansas Senators retiring, collapsing two districts force an election among incumbents. The 'Ad Astra' map was much more favorable to the moderates in the Senate with certain conservative challengers being moved to new districts. Senator Abrams offered the conservative's map 'For the People' that kept all 40 existing Senate districts intact but made radical changes to the existing districts. At the Governor's request, Leavenworth County was given its own district. Senate Democratic districts were fundamentally altered and some were made far more Republican. The Kansas Senate voted down the Abram's map 21 to 19 but sent the map bill to the Senate Ways & Means committee for adjustments. The Governor has now stated he will not accept a Senate map that does not have 21 Republican votes period. This battle between the moderate and conservative Republicans will be bitter and brutal. (Check maps at: http://redistricting.ks.gov/

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March 16 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- Corporate Swine Bill Update
- LEPP Funding
- Field Notes
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

TAX POLICY POLITICS

The Kansas House tax battle began with a full floor debate and several amendments. The special interests flexed their political muscle to get their tax or spending breaks protected. The Kansas Senate Taxation committee has now passed their amended version of the Governor's tax proposal. The full Kansas Senate will probably debate tax policy this coming Tuesday. There are many moving parts with this tax policy of eliminating the income tax and very serious implications for the future of state programs and local governments.

The Kansas House passed a very amended version of the Governor's on a final vote of 68 to 56. The realtors across the state flexed their muscle to reinstate the mortgage interest deduction. The highway lobby flexed their muscle to protect full funding for the transportation plan. The oil and gas lobby flexed their muscle to remove any change to generous severance tax exemptions. The tax credits that are refundable for earned income, childcare, food sales tax rebates, etc. were fully reinstated to existing law although the earned income tax credit for 220,000 Kansas' households will be cut in half starting 2014.

On a vote of 76 to 44, the most surprising amendment adopted was to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. (Kansas is one of only 7 states with a full sales tax on food.) With all of these amendments, the revenue loss to Kansas for 2013 will be $323 million thus reducing the 2013 ending balance from $490 to $167 million. The revenue losses grow exponentially in future years. With the loss of sales tax on groceries, eliminating the income tax will be particularly difficult. The Kansas House leadership will work behind the scenes to reverse the grocery sales tax change.

The Kansas Senate Taxation committee changed the Governor's tax plan significantly before voting it out for floor action. This committee reinstated the Earned Income Tax credit. Unlike the Kansas House Tax bill that capped the growth in state spending at 3%, the Senate Taxation committee took out any cap on state spending.

Unfortunately, the Senate Taxation committee passed SB 445 that expands the homestead property tax refunds from $700 to $1200 for higher income homeowners by eliminating the refundable portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit ($60 million) and eliminating homestead property tax refunds to renters. These issues will be part of the full Kansas Senate debate on taxes.

Unintended consequences will result from this effort to eliminate income taxes as a fundamental funding source for state programs. The agri-business lobby was informed by economic experts that with the elimination of the income tax - expect significant increases in property taxes. The agricultural community has come to rely on income taxes from Johnson County and Sedgwick County to fund several tax breaks such as no sales tax on any farm machinery.

It is unclear what will happen with property taxes on farmland.

A constitutional amendment changed taxation on farmland from its market value to its 'use' value with a ten-year computation of this use value. As wheat prices have moved from $3 to $6 a bushel or corn from $2 to $6 a bushel, this higher use value will be factored into higher property taxes. As state programs are downsized with less support for county governments, will less populated counties across Kansas be forced to consolidate? With 288 school districts left from the last school district consolidation in the 1960's, will frozen or declining public education funding from Topeka force inevitable further consolidation?

These economic and political proposals are not very complicated. Higher income individuals and corporations are now funding their favorite candidates. Tax policy follows this investment. The Governor's tax policy will lower the taxes most for the wealthiest individuals by eliminating income taxes and non-wage income while building a greater reliance on regressive sales and property taxes.

Corporate Swine Bill Update

House Bill 2502 has now been amended by the Senate Agriculture Committee and passed to the full Kansas Senate. It looks like it will be debated on the Kansas Senate floor early next week. The amendment simplified the ballot language of the resolution that would be voted on if enough signatures were collected. The 5% petition threshold of votes cast in the last general election was not increased to the proposed 10%. Many rural counties had around 1,000 votes last November so the 5% petition threshold would be around 50 signatures.

To see the 2010 General Elections Official Turnout of Votes Cast click here. (Then click on 2010 General Election Official Turnout)

Local Environmental Protection Program (LEPP)

The Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment added $1.5 million, all from the State Water Plan Fund, for FY 2013 for LEPP. LEPP provides funding and technical assistance to local groups on the implementation of an environmental protection plan. These plans cover wastewater treatment, public water supply protection and non-point source pollution control. This was the only addition to this budget. Overall the Environment Division full time employee count falls from 487 to 473 and the budget decreases from the agency request of $77.7 million to $75.4 million.

FIELD NOTES

CORPORATE AGRIBUSINESS FEDERAL LOBBYING

The food industry - including dairy, livestock, poultry and eggs and all food processing - spent about $40 million on lobbying the federal government last year. During 2011, agribusiness, including the food industry, employed 1,081 federal lobbyists who were working for 443 clients at a cost of $123.6 million. For the fourth quarter of 2011, Tyson Foods topped the spending list with $464,837 and their top issue was eliminating corn ethanol tax credit. Third on the list was Cargill with expenditures of $360,000 and their top issue was Dodd-Frank implementation of commodity futures regulations. Smithfield Foods spent $265,000 and their top issue was opposing the ban on packer ownership of livestock.

KANSAS SENATORS TAKE ON "CITIZENS UNITED"

SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 1617
By Senators Holland, Faust-Goudeau, Haley, Hensley and Steineger
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION urging Congress to pass an amendment to the United States constitution to abolish corporate personhood.

Testimony by Senator Tom Holland

"Citizens United is wrong because it confuses people with corporations and speech with money. Speech is an expression of the people, while money is an expression of corporations. It is speech and people that the First Amendment is concerned with, not money and corporations."

"Citizens United says regulation of money impacts speech and violates the 1st Amendment. I do not believe that historically this is not what the drafters meant, and it is certainly not what we as U.S. citizens mean, or want. The Supreme Court has spoken and we must obey its rulings. But the Court must obey the Constitution, if the Constitution does not clearly enough say what we as the people mean, then we need to change the Constitution so that it does."

"Justice Stevens, whose dissenting opinion was joined by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, argued that the Citizens United ruling 'threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution.' Justice Stevens later concluded his dissent with the following: 'At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

2012 FARM BILL

NSAC Joins with Other Groups to Brief Senate on Conservation Compliance and Sodsaver
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 16, 2012)

On Friday, March 16, a broad coalition of groups held a congressional briefing to present their views to Senate legislative aides on the issue of conservation compliance and Sodsaver. The briefing, entitled "Conserving Soil, Sod, and Wetlands in the 2012 Farm Bill: the Future of Conservation Compliance and Sodsaver," examined the need to relink highly erodible land (HEL) and wetland conservation to subsidized crop insurance. It also detailed the importance of establishing a nationwide Sodsaver provision to prevent public subsidization of the destruction of the last remaining native and pristine grasslands in the country.

Two farmers flew in to Washington D.C. from the Midwest and Plains States to for the briefing. Varel Bailey, a farmer in Cass County, Iowa and former chairman of the National Corn Growers Association, spoke about the need to re-attach HEL and wetland compliance to crop insurance, explaining that federally subsidized crop insurance drives agricultural production on marginal lands. According to Bailey, reattaching conservation compliance to crop insurance is the most effective way to ensure that highly erodible soils are not lost. Farmers would still be allowed to farm HEL, but would be required to implement a conservation plan to maintain soil quality, quantity, and productivity into the future.

Following Mr. Bailey, Jim Faulstich, a rancher from Highmore, South Dakota told of the loss of native prairie and the ranching businesses that depend on it in his home state. Mr. Faulstich explained the need for a provision to protect the last remaining prairie in the U.S., and noted that the framework for this protection already exists. Both the Senate and House versions of the 2008 Farm Bill included a nationwide Sodsaver provision that would discourage conversion of native prairie to cropland by limiting crop insurance subsidies on native prairie converted to cropland. Unfortunately, the final bill had weakened Sodsaver provision - limited to Prairie Pothole states - that required the approval of state governors and was not implemented. Mr. Faulstich argued for a strong, nationwide Sodsaver provision in the next farm bill.

Relinking highly erodible land and wetland conservation requirements to crop insurance subsidies, as well as establishing a nationwide Sodsaver provision, are Farm Bill priorities for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. In preparation for the briefing, the groups developed a FAQ to address a variety of questions that producer associations and crop insurance industry have recently raised in regard to reattaching conservation requirements to subsidized crop insurance. For the FAQ, click here

The answers clarify a number of misconceptions, pointing out that producers will not be automatically out of compliance in the event of a weather event, producers will still be able to purchase crop insurance if they are out of compliance, and nearly all commodity producers are already subject to conservation compliance requirements linked to commodity program subsidies.

Moving Forward Toward the 2012 Farm Bill

Basic conservation requirements to protect against soil erosion and wetland drainage were made a condition of receiving farm subsidies in 1985. Conservation compliance dramatically reduced soil erosion on farmland and protected wetlands, keeping land productive and important natural resources intact. But in the 1996 Farm Bill Congress decoupled conservation compliance from crop insurance.

Today, the biggest farm subsidy paid by U.S. taxpayers is for crop insurance. With rise in the prominence of crop insurance and with proposed changes to the farm safety net that will accelerate this rise, compliance should be reattached to crop insurance subsidies, as it was up until 1996.

Producers and land investors who convert valuable native prairie and prime grasslands to crop production should not be rewarded by the public with commodity and insurance subsidies on those acres. Conservation compliance has protected the productivity of farmland by significantly decreasing soil erosion and protecting wetlands and other sensitive lands. The majority of producers who participate in current crop insurance programs also comply with conservation compliance through farm programs. With the receipt of subsidies comes a responsibility to protect resources for future generations. Most farmers agree with this, but are placed at a competitive disadvantage when poor stewards are allowed to cut conservation corners and reap the same public benefits. Conservation compliance also saves the government millions of dollars in disaster and crop insurance payments by discouraging the cultivation of marginal lands, while also protecting vital natural resources. Both Sodsaver and compliance on crop insurance are effective, efficient, manageable mechanisms that should be included in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Senate Examines Commodity Programs
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 15th, 2012)

On March 15, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its final hearing in preparation for writing the 2012 Farm Bill. The hearing addressed risk management and commodity programs, and included testimony from farmers, crop insurance agents, commodity and farm groups. Along with the need for a farm bill this year, crop insurance was a topic of much discussion and took center stage in today's hearing.

This hearing marks the end of a series of committee hearings, and the Senate Agriculture Committee will now sit down to begin writing a farm bill, which will almost certainly include revamping Title I commodity programs by replacing direct payments with some sort of revenue based insurance program.

"Key issues were raised by Senators and witnesses today, including what effect commodity and crop insurance subsidy proposals will have on crop diversity and flexibility, new farming opportunities for young and beginning farmers, program integrity, and conservation of precious soil and water natural resources," commented NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner.

"Those questions and comments are a good sign. Unfortunately, none of the major proposals on the table to date address these central concerns in a substantive and comprehensive manner, suggesting there is still a good deal of work to do before voting on a new farm bill." Read more here.

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March 9 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- KANCARE: Shift to Managed Care Plan
- Redistricting in Kansas
- Field Notes
- 2012 Farm Bill Update

THE BIG GAMBLE ON TAXES

The Kansas House of Representatives floor debate will begin on Monday March 12 to fundamentally change tax policy in Kansas. The Kansas House Taxation committee has passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 177. This bill will eventually eliminate the individual and corporate income tax in Kansas over several years. The existing balanced tax system of property, sales and income tax will give way to complete reliance on just the sales and property tax while downsizing public education and the social safety net.

House Substitute for SB 177 would direct the Secretary of Revenue to start reducing individual income taxes when growth in state revenues in income, privilege and excise taxes exceed 2% from the previous year starting in 2012. The three individual income tax brackets would be retained but the middle bracket would be reduced the quickest. This process would continue until all individual income taxes would be eliminated and then the process would start to eliminate the corporate income tax. Taxes for non-wage business income for LLC's, Subchapter S Corporations and sole proprietorships would be phased out by 2018. From 2013 to 2017, State General Fund receipts are reduced by $1.11 Billion in income taxes while sales taxes increase $250 million.

The bill also increases the number of counties in the Rural Opportunity Zones to 73. In these counties, out-of-state taxpayers who relocate pay no income tax, and up to $15,000 in student loans can be re-paid by county and state dollars. The earned income tax credit in 2014 is reduced from 17% to 9% of the filers' federal earned income tax credit. (Note: in 2010 - 191,000 Kansas filers received a state average EITC payment of $357.) Actually in 2013, the EITC, the food sales tax rebates, employer child day care assistance and several other refundable tax credits would become non-refundable so the aforementioned EITC refund check of $357 would be eliminated. These two provisions on the EITC and the elimination of refundable credits make this bill very regressive by increasing taxes for the lowest income households. There may be some amendments on the House floor to lessen the regressive nature of this bill.

House Substitute for Senate Bill 177 faces many challenges. $300 million of promised highway funding is diverted to make the numbers work. The severance tax exemption on new oil wells producing over 250 barrels a day would be repealed and certain out of state oil drillers are opposing this change. With all revenues over 2% dedicated to income tax reductions, funding will not be available for other vital needs such as social services or education. Over the last several years of budget cuts, millions have been diverted from the highway program and with the 2% cap these funds would never be repaid to the highway plan.

The debate on the Kansas House floor will start shortly after 11a.m. on Monday, March 12. You can listen to this debate over the internet by going to this website: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/ and clicking on Live Audio Broadcast/House. The Kansas Legislative Hotline - on this website - is also available for you to leave a message for your Kansas House member.

KANCARE: the Shift to a Statewide Managed Care Plan

KanCare is the Governor's proposal to privatize and convert the Medicaid program into a statewide-managed care plan. For context, the Medicaid program in Kansas serves over 350,000 residents now. It is the largest child insurance program in Kansas. It funds 40% of the annual 38,000 births in Kansas. It funds about one-half of all nursing home beds in Kansas. The Governor will have to receive special waivers from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to start KanCare. Medicaid funding is split 60% federal dollars and 40% state dollars. The Medicaid budget this year is $2.8 Billion.

The Governor has requested a 'global waiver' that would halt future increases in federal Medicaid spending in Kansas while freeing Kansas from federal Medicaid rules. The Governor's spending forecast is that with statewide managed care Medicaid plans for the elderly and disabled starting January 1, 2013, Kansas can save at least $850 million over five years. HHS Secretary and former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is under no federal law or regulation to consider this waiver request in six months or less. Florida submitted a similar waiver request on Aug. 1, 2011 but that waiver has not been accepted in total. Kansas has to first finish negotiations with the managed care companies before Kansas can finalize its waiver request to HHS.

A resolution urging the Governor to delay by six months (January 1, 2013 to July 1, 2013) the start of his Medicaid plan has been introduced in the Kansas Senate. There are 22 Senators and 40-50 House members who are supporting this resolution. There are many uncertainties.

Five managed care companies have bid on KanCare and three of them will be selected this fall. Similar reform efforts in other states have been chaotic. If there are problems with these new managed care plans, the State lawmakers will get the first call. State lawmakers are debating how to design an oversight role the Kansas Legislature can play over KanCare.

For complete coverage of the KanCare debate, visit the Kansas Health Institute website by clicking here.

REDISTRICTING UPDATE

The redistricting debate in Kansas over legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts continues on. The Kansas Senate has passed a Congressional map (SB 344) but the Kansas House is considering several different versions. On Monday, the Kansas House Redistricting committee will start voting on a Congressional map that will be different from the Senate's map. There is a website that lists the various proposed maps. It also gives you committee and census information. Click here.

FIELD NOTES

RURAL OPPORTUNITY ZONE PROGRAM (ROZ) REPORT

The Rural Opportunity Zone Program passed in 2011. It identified 51 rural counties to provide income tax breaks for out-of-state persons who re-locate to these counties. It also provided an opportunity for counties to share with the State in the cost of forgiving up to $15,000 in student loans over 5 years. Counties had to pass a resolution to start the student loan program and by December 31st - 44 counties had signed on. These 44 counties have pledged a total of $390,000 for student loans that will be matched by the State. So far 235 applications have been received for a total request of $227,000 in student loan buy downs. 54 of these applicants are working in education while 46 are working in healthcare. 148 have family connections to rural Kansas. 80 moved to ROZ counties from out of state. The income tax exemptions will start in tax year 2012 and it will be 2014 before good data is available on the cost of the program to Kansas.

CONSERVATION RESERVE PROGRAM (CRP) - TRANSITION INCENTIVES PROGRAM

The 2008 Farm Bill appropriated $25 million to provide an incentive for landowners to transfer land from an expiring CRP contract to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher to return the land to production for sustainable grazing or crop production, with additional measures to encourage good conservation. USDA stopped accepting offers on February 24 as the funding had been used up. 1,626 contracts covered 260,523 acres in 26 states. Kansas had 219 contracts. Currently 29.6 million acres are enrolled in CRP. Contracts for 6.5 million CRP acres nationwide are scheduled to expire September 2012 and an additional 3.3 million acres are scheduled to expire in 2013. Congress needs to come up with interim funding to allow this program to continue as so many acres come out of CRP this year and next.

KNOW YOUR FARMER, KNOW YOUR FOOD REPORT

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released this report to enhance coordination among federal programs that help build local and regional farm & food systems. Along with the report, USDA released an interactive mapping feature called the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass, which highlights accomplishments of USDA programs and success stories from across the country. This new web-based tool provides a state-by-state display of projects and case studies. Farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, or about 1.6% of the U.S. market for agricultural products. An estimated 107,000 farms (5% of all farms) are engaged in local food systems. For more click here.

ORGANIC AND HIGH TUNNEL DEADLINE APPROACHING

The second of three cut-off dates for organic, on-farm energy, and seasonal high tunnel cost share is coming up on March 30. The Organic, On-Farm Energy, and Seasonal High Tunnel Initiatives are offered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

NRCS will have three ranking periods in 2012 for the On-Farm Energy, Organic, and Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Initiatives, which will end on February 3, March 30, and June 1. These three initiatives are offered in all 50 states, along with the Caribbean Area and the Pacific Basin.

At the end of each ranking period, NRCS will evaluate all proposals submitted by that date for each initiative and determine which proposals receive funding. Click here for more.

2012 FARM BILL

Beginning Farmers Tell Their Stories at Hill Briefing
March 9th, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

This week, four beginning farmers and ranchers came to Washington, D.C. to participate in a congressional briefing on the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (S.1850, H.R.3236). The briefing was hosted in the House by Reps. Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), and in the Senate by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

The farmers came from across the country to tell their unique stories and talk about the struggles they have faced as beginning farmers just starting out. Collectively, they spoke about various challenges that are commonly reported among beginners, such as access to land, access to credit, technical assistance and training, financial assistance for conservation practices, and accessing USDA programs (see this report by the National Young Farmers Coalition which highlights many of these challenges). They also spoke about their experience with specific programs included in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, which helped them overcome these obstacles and helped them get started farming. Read more here.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Senate Holds Hearing on Healthy Food Initiatives, Local Production, and Nutrition
March 7th, 2012, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

On Wednesday, March 7, the Senate Agriculture Committee held the third of four hearings for the 2012 Farm Bill. Hearings are an important part in the farm bill process because they bring attention to critical issues and policy changes needed, informing the debates and deliberations around the bill.

The Health Food Initiatives, Local Production, and Nutrition Hearing focused on programs and policies in several Farm Bill Titles including Nutrition, Horticulture and Organic Agriculture, and Crop Insurance.

Opening Remarks

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) commenced the hearing by outlining the need to explore local food initiatives and healthy food access. She emphasized the role of local foods in job development.

"Local food systems mean a win-win for agriculture and the local economy; when we buy local, we support local jobs."

Sen. Stabenow also cited a study indicating that each American household spent $10 more per month buying local products, we would generate an additional $40 million in our economy.

Sen. Stabenow noted that local food is one way to connect communities in need with healthy food. Food policy councils, farmers markets, co-ops, and food hubs have helped farmers "bridge the gap" in an economic climate that has created a greater need for food assistance and minimized available donation resources. She mentioned a recent letter from anti-hunger and nutrition groups on key Farm Bill Nutrition priorities. Stabenow noted that this climate of fiscal restraint necessitates stretching dollars and eliminating duplication. Finally, she added that while local food is a small part of Farm Bill funding, it makes an enormous impact.

Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) began with a "special congratulations" to local food producers: "you are part of the fastest growing sector in American agriculture." He then reiterated the need to reduce duplication given the 27 programs he believes are geared towards local foods development (as noted in the recent USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) report).

NSAC issued a press comment in response to Senator Roberts characterization of the initiative, saying in part:

"There are not 27 programs for local and regional farms and food. Rather, there are conservation, farm credit, rural economic development, and marketing programs authorized by Congress for wide ranging purposes, which can include support for aspects of the urgent task of increasing new farming opportunities to capture these growing new markets. That is a chief goal of the Department's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative."

Read more here.

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March 2 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
-
The Public Policy Puzzle
- Water Issues
- 2012 Farm Bill

THE PUBLIC POLICY PUZZLE

So what now for the 2012 Kansas Legislature? The midway point has been passed and now the major priorities of this session must be addressed. By March 16, most committee meetings will be completed and the last two weeks of March will be floor debates along with conference committees to iron out legislative differences between the House and Senate version of bills passed.

A final 2013 State budget will have to be passed by April 1st or in the veto session. Redrawing districts for Congress, the Senate and the House is mandatory. A tax battle will ensue and it will directly impact future State budgets. Immigration law may be at a stalemate while fundamental change to school finance will probably be put off till next year - after the elections.

The revenue to Kansas in February increased slightly adding more dollars to the ending balances. Right now, most appropriations bills to fund State programs are tracking the budgetary recommendations of the Governor. The budgetary reductions of the last three years are not being rescinded. School funding is being held at the reduced 2012 level for 2013 even though existing Kansas' law mandates certain increases in education funding. The basic policy decision is whether an ending balance of $400 million will be used to cut taxes or increase education/social services or be left in the ending balances?

By mid-April, the revenue consensus experts will develop a new 18-month revenue projection for Kansas. The Kansas Legislature may pass a complete 2013 State budget by first adjournment at the end of March or more likely make all of these final decisions in the Omnibus bill during the veto session. The leaders in the Kansas House and Kansas Senate have been saving legislative days for an extended veto session.

Election year complications are now coming to a boil. The Kansas Senate passed a Congressional map and a Senate map that is now being openly questioned by the Kansas House. The Senate map passed 21-19 so the House leadership is questioning its authenticity.

The Governor has spoken disapprovingly of the Senate's Congressional map and the Senate map. The Governor wants one Senate district in Leavenworth County that would disrupt two other Senate districts now held by Democrats. The Kansas House map passed the House with full bipartisan support but may be held hostage if the Senate map is tampered with by the Kansas House. The Governor will have to sign-off on these maps. Depending on how politically these districts are drawn, it seems very probable that the Kansas Supreme Court will have a final review. For the Congressional map, a federal court review may be filed.

Candidate filing deadline is around June 10. The primary is August 8. While election officials are scrambling to implement the voter photo ID Kansas' law, they will have to notify registered voters of any changes in their legislative or Congressional district.

The immigration debate in Kansas may be at a stalemate for this session. The Kansas Senate and House leadership have expressed limited enthusiasm for a full-scale immigration debate this year. The pro-immigration 'undocumented guest worker' bills in the Kansas House and Senate committees blunted the harsh anti-immigrant proposals put forth by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The Governor has kept his distance from his Secretary of Agriculture who has been talking to the Department of Homeland Security to develop a pilot program in Kansas for undocumented workers. Most federal officials are waiting for a ruling from the United States Supreme Court on the Arizona immigration law to clarify the role states have in immigration enforcement. There will be anti-immigrant amendments to legislation put forth on the floor of the Kansas House. The Kansas Senate will debate HB 2437 - passed by the Kansas House - to force new voter registrants to prove their citizenship by June 15, 2012 instead of January 1, 2013.

There will be a House tax bill debated on the floor of the Kansas House in the next two weeks. This effort to start reducing Kansas' income taxes and capping state spending is the Governor's highest priority. The Kansas House will try and leverage any other 'must pass' legislation to force the Kansas Senate to accept some version of these tax and spending changes.

The Governor's priority of privatizing and turning all of Medicaid into managed care plans is moving along for now. There are many concerns from Kansas Legislators but it is unclear what control or supervision the Kansas Legislature may have over these changes? There are many questions over changing the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System into a defined contribution - 401K - system for new employees.

The legislative elections this year will have a fundamental impact on the outcome of these issues next year. If the Kansas Senate turns as conservative as the Kansas House, income taxes will be reduced and Kansas will depend on more regressive sales and property tax. State government will be further downsized with less environmental protection as a result

WATER ISSUES

Groundwater Levels

The Kansas Geological Survey conducts an annual measurement of groundwater levels in more than 1,400 wells in 47 western and central Kansas counties. The measurements taken a month ago showed an average decline of 2.25 feet during 2011. In 2010, the average went down 1.18 feet. Since 1996, the average levels have fallen more than 12 feet.

For more go to: http://www.kgs.ku.edu/HighPlains/maps/

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Nutrient Reduction Plans for Delaware and Marion Lake Watersheds

The Kansas Water Office commissioned a benefit and cost analysis of nutrient reduction plans for Delaware Watershed (Lake Perry) and Marion Watershed. The 32-year Delaware River Nutrient Reduction Plan has an estimated cost of $9.01 million and is expected to generate $49.21 million in net benefits, a 546% return over investment across the projects entire life. The 25-year Marion Reservoir Watershed has a cost estimate of $5.51 million and is expected to generate $5.99 million in net benefits, a 109% return over the entire project life. The evaluated benefits of the nutrient reduction plan were limited to: Savings to public water treatment costs; Savings from avoided losses in tourism; Savings from prevented lake dredging; Farm savings with nutrients staying in the fields; Value residents place on cleaner waters. The vast majority of the savings came from avoided dredging costs. Presently, the Kansas Water Office does not have the resources to commission nutrient reduction plans for other watersheds.

HB 2685 - Reservoir Improvement District

House Bill 2685 would establish the procedures that allow eligible water right holders to create a reservoir improvement district on any particular reservoir. This bill is based on the Watershed District Act. Eligible water right holders could petition to form a district if signed by the holders of more than 20 percent of the combined quantities of water rights within the proposed district. If the petition is deemed sufficient by the Secretary of State and approved by the Kansas Water Office, an election can be held. If holders of more than 50% of the combined quantities of water rights within the proposed district vote in favor, the district would be formed. Eligible water right holders would elect a board of three to five persons. This board would develop a general plan and cost to implement. Kansas Water Office would have to approve the plan. Upon approval, the board would adopt a resolution that imposes a charge to each water right holder.

In support, the Kansas Water Office testified that storage in the federal reservoir system serves as the primary or back-up water supply for roughly two thirds of Kansas' citizens. This system is under threat from sedimentation that depletes storage capacity. Westar Energy and KCP&L's main concern was the existing water purchase contract the Wolf Creek Generating Station has with Kansas and whether Wolfcreek would be required to pay twice if brought into a reservoir improvement district. HB 2685 passed the Kansas House 116 to 5.

2012 FARM BILL

Senate Agriculture Committee Highlights Conservation Programs
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 28, 2012)

On Tuesday, February 28, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its second Farm Bill hearing of the year. The hearing, entitled "Strengthening Conservation through the 2012 Farm Bill," brought together three farmers, representatives from three national non-profit organizations, and the heads of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) to testify to the value of the Farm Bill conservation programs. Read more here.

Senate Briefing on Local Food and Nutrition
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, March 2nd, 2012)

On March 1, a briefing on local food policy issues held in the Senate Agriculture Committee room helped educate Senate offices in advance of action on the 2012 Farm Bill. Entitled "Spurring Economic Growth and Expanding Access through Food and Farms: A Briefing on Local Food and Nutrition," the event highlighted four local organizations that are currently creating jobs, improving community access to healthy foods, and leveraging nutrition programs to increase food security. The briefing was organized by NSAC, Fair Food Network, Community Food Security Coalition, and Feeding America. Read more here.

Federal Investments in Local Food Boost Economic Growth - USDA Releases Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Report and Compass
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 29th, 2012)

Today USDA released a comprehensive report on its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, launched in 2009 to enhance coordination among federal programs that in various ways help to build local and regional farm and food systems.

"This is a very timely report," notes Helen Dombalis, Policy Associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "The ongoing revitalization of regional farm and food systems depends on the continuation of key 2008 Farm Bill programs whose funding expires later this year if Congress does not act."

The expiring farm bill programs range from Value-Added Producer Grants, which help farmers develop new products and markets while increasing their share of the consumer food dollar, to the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which helps create and expand venues for direct farmer-to-consumer sales of local foods.

Also up for farm bill funding renewal are the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program, National Organic Certification Cost Share Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers, Rural Energy for America Program, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, and Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

"Congress should renew and expand funding for these innovative programs in the 2012 Farm Bill," says Dombalis. "Local and regional agriculture is a major new driver in the farm economy. There are very significant emerging market and business opportunities, but major research, infrastructure, and technical assistance gaps need to be filled to reap the full benefit. We need all of the existing farm bill tools available in the future to grow rural jobs and to increase new farming opportunities." Continue reading here.

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February 24 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- School Finance
- Tax Reform
- Waste disposal from Oil and gas drilling
- Updating the Kansas Meat and Poultry Inspection laws
- Corporate swine law revisions
- How to Contact Your State Legislator or Congressman

SCHOOL FINANCE AND TAX POLICY UPDATE

The Governor's school finance proposal is slowly being reviewed while the Governor's tax proposal has gained some traction. On school finance, the Governor's proposal is being reviewed in the Senate Education Committee but there are many, many questions that are being researched. The Governor's tax proposal has undergone many changes in the Kansas House Taxation committee's proposal. The Kansas House Taxation committee bill has been further amended by the full committee in decreasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. Expect a full Kansas House debate sometime in the next two weeks.

The Kansas House Education Committee did not introduce the Governor's school finance proposal and are waiting on what may come from the Kansas Senate. Hearings were held before the Senate Education Committee on the Governor's proposal. The Senate Education Committee was trying to decide what parts of the Governor's proposal they could adopt and what parts needed to be changed.

In the Governor's proposal, there is no special funding given for at-risk students. One amendment in the Senate Education Committee would have added an extra $100 million for at-risk students although the definition of at-risk was altered. A second amendment would have allowed counties the option to increase the sales tax to support their schools since many poorer school districts have limited ability to raise much money from increased property taxes. A third amendment would help with the higher transportation costs faced by many rural districts. The Senate Education Committee has requested more time to fully understand the ramifications of the Governor's proposal. The Governor's 2013 budget has no increase in per student funding. The 2014 funding under the Governor's school proposal would equal per student funding at the 2007 level.

The Kansas Senate Tax Policy Committee appointed by the President of the Kansas Senate decided not to develop its own tax proposal. The Kansas Senate will wait to see what tax policy will pass the Kansas House. The Kansas Senate has concerns over reducing the revenue from income tax in Kansas. Many Senators are opposed to a hard 2% cap on state spending since this may force further reductions to public schools or vital social services.

The battle over the State budget and tax policy will occupy several hours of debate on both the Senate and House floor over the next month. Moderates and Democrats are pressing for more property tax relief as opposed to income tax reductions. The Governor wants to retain the existing 6.3% state sales tax while the Kansas House wants to reduce the state sales tax to 5.7% and lower individual income taxes but must take $310 million from the highway plan to accomplish their plan.

AGRICULTURAL LEGISLATION

SENATE BILL 375 allows the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to authorize persons to carry out activities without a solid waste permit, which includes allowing the disposal of solid waste generated by drilling oil and gas wells through land spreading. The land spreading would be done in accordance with best management practices and maximum loading rates developed by KDHE. The solid waste disposed of through land-spreading would be required to be incorporated into the soil in areas that receive over 25 inches of rain yearly. No land spreading would be allowed to occur on any area where the water table is less than 10 feet below the surface or on an area where there is documented contamination as determined by KDHE.
Senate vote: 39 to 1.

SENATE BILL 357 deals with complaints over wind erosion. Upon receiving a complaint that dust, any plant or weed is blowing from any particular land in the county, a board of county commissioners would first inspect the land to determine if there is any extreme and immediate physical danger to public safety. If an extreme and immediate physical danger is found, the board of county commissioners would order corrective action which would include any recognized method of dust control in United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) NRCS field office technical guide. If no danger were found, the board of county commissioners would refer the complaint to the local conservation district.
Senate vote: 40 to 0.

SENATE BILL 302, the Kansas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act, updates all statutes pertaining to the 90 small meat plants in Kansas. This bill retains the state inspected program administered by Kansas and ensures that Kansas is in compliance with the rules and regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This ensures that USDA and the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) will share equally the $2.4 million cost of the state inspection program. This bill allows more flexible work schedules for KDA inspectors to fit the needs of state inspected and custom plants.
Senate vote: 40 to 0.

HOUSE BILL 2502 changes the approval process by County Commissioners to allow corporate swine facilities in their county. If a County Commission passes a resolution allowing or denying corporate swine or dairy facilities, a protest petition - garnering 5% of electors in the last general election in 60 days - will force a vote on the resolution. HB 2502 passed the House 106 to 8. The bill has been heard before the Senate Agriculture committee but has not been voted out of the committee yet.

FIELD NOTES

USDA'S COMMUNITY FOOD PROJECTS PROGRAM


On February 15, USDA announced 27 grants to local organizations to build community food systems and fight hunger. The primary goals of the Community Food Projects program are to (1) meet the food needs of low-income individuals; (2) increase the food self-reliance of low-income communities; (3) promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm and nutrition issues; and (4) meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs. The new projects totaled $4.8 million. Cultivate Kansas City (formerly known as Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture) received $124,587. www.cultivatekc.org/ 

USDA ANNOUNCES BEGINNING FARMERS AND RANCHERS WEBSITE

On February 16, USDA announced the launch of an online tool to support beginning farmers and ranchers. http://start2farm.gov/ a collaboration between USDA's National Library and the American Farm Bureau Federation provides information on funding, training, networking, and legal and technical assistance. The site also chronicles beginning farmer and rancher success stories.

KANSAS CORPORATE FARMING LAW CHALLENGE

Representative Sharon Schwartz has requested that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt compare the similarities between the Kansas Corporate Farming Law to similar laws in South Dakota and Nebraska that have been held to be unconstitutional and in violation of the dormant commerce clause by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. There are different opinions on the enforcement of the dormant commerce clause and the role of states in regulating commerce. (Creighton Law Review - Vol. 37 - 2004: South Dakota Amendment E Ruled Unconstitutional - Is There A Future For Legislative Involvement In Shaping The Structure of Agriculture? - Roger McEowen & Neil Harl)

KANSAS LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH DEPARTMENT (KLRD)
APPROPRIATION COMMITTEE & SUBCOMMITTEE REPORTS


This website allows a person to follow the subcommittee and full committee budget reports as they are accepted by the House Appropriations or Senate Ways & Means committee. There are also the write-ups done by KLRD staff on the specific state agency budgets proposed by the Governor. To access the website, click here.

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR OR CONGRESSMAN

To contact your Kansas State Senator, go to this website
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/chamber/senate/roster/
It provides telephone numbers for their Topeka offices and e-mail addresses.

To contact your Kansas State House Representative, go to this website:
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/chamber/house/roster/
It provides telephone numbers for their Topeka offices and e-mail addresses.

If you are unclear as to who your Senator or Representative is, the Institute for Policy and Social Research website has a "How to Find Your Legislator" interactive map.

For the 2012 directory of U.S. Congressional Senators and Representatives (D.C. offices and state offices), Kansas State Legislators and Committees, click here.

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February 17 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- 2013 Budget and Tax Reform- Will higher ending balances be used to restore funding cuts, or to cut taxes?
- What will new Congressional and Legislative Districts look like for the fall elections?
- Will Kansas establish adequate regulation of "fracking" for oil and gas?
- Will new water conservation laws provide real conservation of the Ogallala?
and Hearings begin in Washington on the 2012 Farm Bill.

A TIMELINE FOR THE 2012 KANSAS LEGISLATURE

By February 24, the 2012 Kansas Legislature will have reached its halfway point. Most bills that were introduced in one house must be passed by that house and move to the second house. (There are exceptions with certain appropriation, tax and federal/state bills that have no deadlines.) This coming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the Senate and House will meet all day on the floor working as many bills as they can. The regular season will end on March 31 and the veto session will convene on April 25.

2013 Budget. The Kansas Legislature has to complete a budget for 2013. So far, different budgets have been flying through with very little change to the Governor's recommendations. So the budget cuts made the past three years have not been partially restored. Now that state revenues are increasing somewhat, the ending balance increases from $188 million in 2011 to $375 million in 2013. The critical policy decision is whether to use this ending balance to rebuild inadequate public school finances and social service programs or to use the extra revenues for tax cuts? These final decisions will be held off until the end of April in the veto session.

Redistricting. The Kansas Legislature has to redraw the districts for the Kansas House, the Kansas Senate and 4 Congressional seats. The Kansas House Map looks done with three western districts eliminated and three new districts added in Johnson County. The Kansas Senate map is proving much more difficult. Johnson County must be given a new Senate seat so the other 39 Senate seats have to be reworked. One suggested Senate map had two incumbents in the same district.

The Congressional map is equally as challenging. The Kansas Senate passed a map that put Douglas County entirely in the 2nd district and Manhattan in the 1st district. The Governor and the Kansas House are not pleased, so multiple maps have been drawn. The hope was all the maps would be done by February 24 but it seems very improbable. Filing deadline for the elections is June 10.

Tax Reform. The Governor's tax plan has not been received with much support. The Kansas House is now working their own tax plan that is not quite as regressive as the Governor's but does take $300 million from highway funding to make the numbers work. The Senate is now in the process of reworking the Governor's plan. The Governor and Kansas House both put a 2% cap on growth in state budgets and use any extra revenues to further reduce income taxes. The Senate leadership is worried that with growing medical costs and extra payments for the retirement fund - KPERS - that all other programs will be frozen out. It is hard to say if fundamental tax policy can be accomplished during this session or instead be the center of the debate in the fall elections.

FRACKING LEGISLATION

The Kansas Legislature is trying to get ahead of the curve on regulating fracking (horizontal drilling) in Kansas. Senate Bill 375 addresses the issue of applying drilling solids to farm fields. Right now the one choice is constructing pits on site and putting the concentrated solids there. This concentrates the salts and makes the land unusable. One amendment made to SB 375 was that for the parts of the state with over 25 inches of rain/annually, the sludge would have to be incorporated into the land. A second amendment eliminated any spreading of solids on land where the aquifer is within ten feet of the surface. There are also restrictions on how close the spreading can be to waterways. A third amendment forces the drillers to disclose any special chemicals they use in this initial drilling of the hole. The Kansas Corporation Committee will be the primary agency controlling these drilling permits and monitoring the best management practices of these permits. Right now the fee is set at $250 but everyone agrees that the issuing and monitoring of these permits will be far more costly.

The Kansas House has passed HB 2526 that explicitly gives rule and regulation authority over horizontal drilling to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC). The KCC's Conservation Division is the one in charge of regulating oil and gas operations in Kansas. This Division has a total of 91 employees statewide with four field offices. If there are a few thousand fracking wells coming to Kansas, will the Conservation Division have adequate staff? Kansas now has over 14,000 unplugged natural gas and oil wells. The KCC is only capable of capping 300-400 of these unplugged wells a year because of inadequate funding. Will this same inadequate funding interfere in proper regulation of fracking wells?

Over the past two years, hundreds if not thousands of oil and gas leases have been signed in south central Kansas. The KCC should develop model landowner agreements. These agreements would spell out clearly the cost and liability for the drillers. The drillers are the primary parties liable for environmental damages. There should also be a local impact fee developed to protect counties from the extra damage to the roads from all these tanker trucks. An average fracking well that uses 1-2 million gallons of water will have 160 trucks delivering this water and half of that polluted water will come back out of the well to be carried to a deep injection well.

'FRACFOCUS' is a nationwide, voluntary website listing the wells and chemicals used. Kansas now has 22 wells on this site. Kansas should mandate that all fracking wells use this website. See http://fracfocus.org/

WATER LEGISLATION

Several water bills are moving through the legislative process to enactment. One bill changes the culture of 'use it or lose it' in the closed groundwater districts. A second bill develops 'flex accounts' allowing a water right holder to use their water over five years. A third bill makes water banking a permanent program. A fourth bill allows the division of water rights so the water can be targeted to the best land. There is $924,000 added to the State Water Plan to purchase water rights in the Ogallala aquifer through the conservation reserve enhancement program and the water transition assistance.

In talking to the water experts under the Dome, the estimate is that Kansas has over 35,000 active water rights. 70-80% of these water rights are in the groundwater management districts in central and western Kansas, and are over-appropriated. In essence, many of these water rights would have to be changed to force less use of non-rechargeable water in the Ogallala. So while the above mentioned water bills are a good first step in water conservation, more substantive changes will have to be made if Kansas wants to extend the Ogallala another 50+ years.

CORPORATE FARM BILL HEARING

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on HB 2502 on February 15. The current statutes establishing the rights of citizens to vote on allowing corporate swine facilities in their counties were passed during the "hog wars" of the 1990's when western Kansas citizens mounted a grassroots campaign against the facilities. HB 2502 has been pushed on a fast track, with economic development and jobs claimed as primary benefits. KRC Executive Director Julie Mettenburg presented the following testimony in opposition to the bill. KRC raised questions about the possible impact statewide environmentally and economically, and questioned whether the state has taken into account how corporate solutions will keep our small farmers and local businesses healthy. The bill is expected to pass out of Committee.

KANSAS RURAL CENTER TESTIMONY
ON HB 2502
FOR THE SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE


The Kansas Rural Center is opposing HB 2502, amending the procedure for a county to grant permission to establish corporate swine production facilities, on the following grounds:

* We are concerned about the fast-track nature of this bill through the legislature thus far, despite its potential for great economic, environmental and quality-of-life impact on the citizens and farmers of our state. When originally crafted some 20 years ago, this law provoked significant public contention, protest and controversy, indicating that it is not a matter to be rushed or taken lightly. We would request more time for public review and inquiry into the merits of these changes to the original law.

* We are concerned that Western Kansas has received the bulk of attention because it has been targeted as an opportunity zone for large-scale corporate swine facilities, but this law would be applied throughout the state. Has enough attention been paid and review provided as to the regulatory framework statewide, before we would welcome corporate facilities in our more populous areas? Kansas is downsizing environmental programs, especially for water quality. Will there be enough programs with staff to ensure an environmental balance to these large swine facilities, once approved by county commissions?

* We are concerned that large-scale corporate swine facilities may result in unanticipated economic consequences for our small farmers, food security and rural economic development. Has the Department of Agriculture ensured it has fully embraced Governor Brownback's Road Map for Kansas, by also taking into account how to keep our local businesses vibrant (of which small and existing farms should be included)? Will these facilities take local workers from local farms, or entrap farmers into potentially disadvantagious contractual arrangements? What are the average wages of the majority of the jobs they will bring, and are they quality jobs or exploitive jobs? If pork is a great business opportunity, why do we need to make it easier for out-of-state corporations? Why not assist our current operations in expanding, or assist beginning farmers, to keep profits in Kansas?

* We are concerned that removal of the public review for corporate swine permits decreases our rural citizens' role in their own future.

For these reasons, we ask that the proposed amended law be submitted for public deliberation and regulatory review, allowing these issues to be thoroughly examined by the officials and citizens of Kansas.

2012 Farm Bill Update

Path to 2012 Farm Bill: Senate Kicks Off Hearings
February 15th, 2012 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update

In its "Path to the 2012 Farm Bill" series, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) gets into the details of the 2012 Farm Bill debate.

On Wednesday, February 15, the Senate Agriculture Committee held its first in a series of four hearings for the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. Hearings are an important part in the farm bill process because they bring attention to critical issues and policy changes that are needed, informing the debates and deliberations around the bill.

Titled "Energy and Economic Growth for Rural America," the first hearing covered programs and policies in the Energy and Rural Development Titles of the farm bill.

Read here for more on Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow's timeline for the Farm Bill, Senator Pat Roberts (Ranking Minority member) on rural development issues, and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's comments.

NSAC Comments on Obama Ag and Farm Budget Proposals
February 13th, 2012

President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget request sent to Congress today includes a smattering of 2012 Farm Bill proposals, including most prominently the same $32 billion in 10-year farm bill cuts he issued last September and a proposed one-year cut to farm bill conservation programs of $432 million.

NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner offered these comments on the proposal:

"The Obama farm bill budget cutting proposal is not terribly interesting," said Ferd Hoefner, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's policy director. "It follows the emerging consensus to do away with direct payments but offers no alternative safety net proposal other than renewing a largely discredited and expensive farm disaster program. It also proposes an across-the-board two percent cut to farmers' crop insurance premium subsidies. Both the commodity payment and crop insurance proposals fail to target the cuts, and thus their impact would be felt most heavily by small and medium-size farms. Neither proposal addresses the critical issue of whether the public should be given assurances that natural resources are protected in return for their large investment in farm production subsidies. Nowhere in the President's request is any indication given that the farm bill has an important role to play in economic recovery, job creation, and improved public health through renewal of funding for innovative programs that expire at the end of 2012. Frankly, the proposals are relatively lame and not at all progressive. Clearly, all the heavy lifting is left to Congress."
Read more here.

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February 10 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
- State Budget proposals and the environment
- Future of Kansas Agriculture
- Corporate Swine Bill Hearing
- 2012 Farm Bill

CONNECTING THE DOTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT

Kansas is now wide open to the development of large agricultural operations and 'horizontal fracturing' oil/natural gas wells. The Governor and his administration have been publicly recruiting this development. In light of this promotion, will the necessary balance between development and environmental protection be maintained? As environmental budgets and staff are reduced, will Kansas have an adequate response to the accelerated development? Beyond these budgetary reductions, there will be a push next year to rewrite basic environmental laws.

The Division of Environment within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is the primary agency that protects the environment and public health through compliance, enforcement and proactive activities. After several years of budget cuts, the Governor's 2013 budget continues those reductions. In the Bureau of Water, 3 employees of 6 in management took early retirement so the Governor decided to not replace these 3 key positions. This Bureau issues permits for livestock entities. The Local Environmental Protection Program works with 104 counties in Kansas to offer basic public health services such as being the only program to test private water wells. (1 of 9 Kansans use private water wells.)

The Kansas Legislature restored $750,000 in 2012 but the Governor zeroes out the budget for 2013. The Governor reduces funding for non-point source pollution projects from $3 million in 2011 to $1.9 million in 2013. The entire State Water Plan is reduced from $16.8 million in 2012 to $14.1 million in 2013. The Kansas' budget has a projected $374 million ending balance for 2013.

The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) Conservation Division regulates and issues permits for oil and gas wells in Kansas. The Governor appoints the KCC commissioners with the approval of the Kansas Senate. The Governor's first appointee last April was Mark Sievers who was voted the Chairman of the 3- member commission. A second appointment will come in April so the Governor will have control.

While the Governor has actively recruited oil/gas drillers to Kansas, the KCC will adopt new rules and regulations for 'horizontal fracturing'. These 'fracking' wells produce millions of gallons of sludge and dirt in the initial drilling.

Senate Bill 375 is a bill to allow the spreading of this sludge on nearby farmland as opposed to building football size sludge pits on site. 'Fracking fluids' are than used to produce the gas and oil with the fluids hauled off site and disposed in deep injection wells. Projections are that Kansas will have 500 wells by next year and far more in coming years. The Conservation Division has 85 employees now and is getting 6 more field technicians to monitor these wells. There are so many questions concerning environmental protection regarding wells that generate millions and millions of gallons of polluted fluids in Kansas.

THE FUTURE OF KANSAS' AGRICULTURE - PART TWO
(Part One published in Issue #4, January 27, 2012)


It is a good question who will be farming in the next twenty years? Right now in Kansas, only 7% of Kansas' farmers are age 35 or younger while 32% of Kansas' farmers are over the age of 65. In a recent Nebraska land sales survey, only one-third of land sales were to existing farmers while the other two-thirds went to investors. A significant number of Kansas' counties have over 50% of their farmed land rented or leased. For Ag Census, click here.

While Kansas has around 65,000 farms, just 3,268 accounted for 75% of the $14.4 Billion in farm sales in 2007. Kansas' dairies have declined from 5,691 in 1978 to 420 today with 20 large dairies having 65% of the 120,000 dairy cows. Kansas' hog farms have declined from 13,329 in 1978 to 1,454 today with 310 accounting for 95% of all pork sales in Kansas. The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture is actively recruiting these larger dairies and swine operations.

HB 2502 will make it easier for desperate western Kansas' counties to invite in corporate swine operations. HB 2603 will establish a 'guest worker' pilot program for 'undocumented' workers for employment at these corporate agricultural operations. Kansas has eliminated the estate tax and the highest priority for agribusiness groups is to eliminate the federal estate tax. The independent family farm continues to die-and opportunities for beginning farmers along with it-- while farms become larger and larger and resources more concentrated.

However, there is a growing consumer interest for local foods. Kansans buy over $750 million dollars of fruits and vegetables annually ($250/per person) but only $32 million (4%) of this produce is grown in Kansas. Kansas had over 140,000 acres in produce in 1910 while today Kansas has just 6,700 produce acres. It would only take 77,000 acres in fruits and vegetables to grow 100% of the primary fruits and vegetables consumed in Kansas. (For comparison, Kansas has 9 million acres of wheat, 4 million acres of corn and 3 million acres in soybeans.)

The number of Kansas' farmers markets has doubled to 102 in the last 10 years. At the same time, 82 of 213 supermarkets closed in smaller Kansas' communities under 2,500 in population since 2007. Several Kansas dairy producers are pasteurizing, bottling and packaging dairy products on-farm. Kansas has 90 small meat plants statewide. The simple truth is that all efforts by the Governor and his cabinet are to recruit large agribusinesses, while little if any attention is given to capturing locally some of the $2,577 spent yearly by a Kansan on food.

For information to find local foods in Kansas go to http://www.ourlocalfoodks.org/
or go to http://www.ksfarmersmarkets.org/

Corporate Farm Bill Hearing Scheduled

House Bill 2502 makes it easier for counties to allow corporate swine facilities. Once a county commission passes a resolution allowing corporate swine operations, county residents will have to circulate a petition to request a county vote. 5% of voters from the last election will have to sign this petition. HB 2502 passed the Kansas House with 108 votes. Now on the fast track in the Senate, the Senate Agriculture committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday - Feb. 15 - at 8:30 am in room 159-S in the State Capitol.

TAX DEBATE

Kansas Economic Progress Council Tax Report

The Kansas Economic Progress Council (KEPC) is a statewide not for profit organization of businesses, trade associations, chambers of commerce and individuals. They support pro-growth policies for communities and the state. KEPC commissioned Dr. John Wong- formerly with Wichita State University- to research the economic impacts of proposals by the Kansas House and the Governor to reduce income taxes.

Dr. Wong concludes that for every job created by a reduction in income tax rates, 1.63 jobs would be lost by an equal reduction in state spending. Similarly, for every dollar of labor income generated by a reduction in income tax rates, $1.78 would be lost by an equal reduction in state spending. This study divides Kansas taxpayers into ten income groups, and estimates combined taxes in each income group before and after the income tax reduction. The conclusion is that the proposed changes make taxes more regressive because progressive income tax receipts balance the regressive residential property and retail sales tax.

The final report is: Economic Impact of Proposed Tax and Spending Reductions in Kansas. To download the document in pdf format, click here.

2012 Farm Bill Update

FARM GROUPS ASK CONGRESS FOR A FARM BILL IN 2012
(From National Sustainable Agriculture Weekly Update Feb. 10, 2012)

In a letter delivered today to Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow, Chairman Lucas, and Ranking Members Roberts and Peterson, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) joined farm and commodity, conservation and environment, rural development, specialty crop and organic, crop insurance, research, and religious organizations to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive farm bill this year.

By all accounts, the farm bill is a complex set of policies that covers a wide range of issues - from commodity subsidies and trade issues to nutrition and conservation programs, from credit and rural development policies to crop insurance subsidies and forestry. Each one of the programs and provisions included in the bill has support from a particular constituency, and it is rare that the major interests behind different pieces of the farm bill agree on something.

So, it is a big deal that major players in different parts of the farm bill debate came together with one ask: pass the 2012 Farm Bill in 2012.

The farm bill impacts multiple sectors of our economy, not to mention everyone who eats. Delaying a farm bill creates unnecessary uncertainty for people who receive nutrition assistance, for farmers making production and planting decisions, for food and farm businesses planning to grow, hire employees, and access new markets.

The longer the delay in passing a new farm bill, the more opportunities there are for there to be less funding for the bill. The less funding there is for the bill, the harder it becomes to pass a bill because programs that people in every state and district care about and benefit from compete for funding.

There are a number of major factors playing into whether or not Congress passes a farm bill this year. But the position of major farm bill organizations is clear: we are ready to work to make a comprehensive bill happen in 2012.

See the letter here.

USDA ERS PUBLISHED INFORMATION ON CONSERVATION COMPLIANCE
(From NSAC February 10, 2012 Weekly Update)

On Thursday, February 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS) published a graphic that displays new information on farm program enrollment and conservation compliance.

The Venn diagram shows the number of farms and farm acres that received conservation payments, direct commodity payments, and crop insurance in 2010, where those groups do and do not overlap, and to which groups conservation compliance requirements would apply if the Farm Bill eliminated direct payments or reattached compliance to crop insurance. For more info, see the NSAC website.

(Conservation Compliance refers to the rule that requires cropland producers who farm highly erodible land (HEL) to implement a soil conservation plan or risk losing their farm program benefits including commodity, conservation, and disaster payments. Currently crop insurance is not linked to conservation compliance at all.)

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February 3 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
-
State Budget Debate
- Redistricting
- Governor's School Finance Proposal
- Tax Debate
- Medicaid Shift to Managed Care Plans
- Water conservation policies
- Immigration
- Kansas Meat and Poultry Act
- Corporate Swine and Dairy

A POLITICAL PROGRESS REPORT

The 90-day clock for the 2012 Kansas Legislature is ticking. There will likely not be enough time to legislate on and enact the Governor's major proposals. The Kansas Legislature has to pass a 2013 State budget and redraw the district lines for Congressional, State Senate, State Representative and State Board of Education districts.

A new school finance plan is slowly being debated. A new tax policy to reduce individual and corporate income taxes has drawn mixed reviews. Privatizing the Kansas Medicaid program via a managed care plan is happening. Several bills on water policy have been moving. The fight over immigration law has just begun.

The Governor's proposed 2013 $14.3 Billion State Budget has been reviewed by the Kansas Legislative Research staff and will now be debated by appropriation sub-committees from the House and the Senate. After several years of budget cuts and staff reductions, the revenues to Kansas have improved developing an ending balance of $375 to $448 million dollars. Most state agencies are operating with 25% of their staffing unfilled because of inadequate budgets.

Will this result in lax enforcement of food safety laws or child abuse reports delayed or long lines for a driver's license? Will these larger ending balances be used for adequate staffing of programs, or a struggling community mental health system, or school funding? Or will these balances be used for tax reductions? The clock is ticking on all of these questions and more.

Redistricting

The maps for redistricting the state have now started to appear. The Senate redistricting committee voted out a Congressional map that moves all of Douglas County into the 2nd District and Manhattan into the big 1st District. Basically the big 1st needs more population and the 3rd District in the Kansas City area has too many people while the 2nd District in eastern Kansas and the 4th District around Wichita have about the right number of people. Politically, adding all of Douglas County into the 2nd District makes this Congressional seat a little more competitive for a Democratic candidate.

The Kansas House map reflects the reality that rural Kansas has lost more population while Johnson County continues to grow. There are three rural Kansas House districts where incumbents are retiring so those districts will be redrawn and three new House districts given to Johnson County. The Kansas Senate map may be the toughest to develop. There will be several contested Republican primaries between conservative challengers and moderate incumbents so the political make-up of the district will be very important.

Governor's School Finance Proposal

The Governor's school finance proposal will be debated before the Senate Education committee starting next week. The Governor's plan does not take effect until 2014 so it does not impact 2013. However the Governor's school funding proposal for 2013 is basically the same amount as 2012 and does not replace any lost funding from 2009 to 2011.

The chairman from the House Education committee has publicly stated there seems little chance that fundamental revisions to the school finance formula will be made this year. In 1992 -- when the last fundamental change to school finance was made, the Kansas Legislature debated the changes exclusively for 21 days - a time commitment probably unavailable in this election year. More than likely, the debate over school finance will come in 2013. The real question is whether a portion of the ending balances will be given over to school finance for 2013?

Tax Debate

The tax debate has just begun. The Governor's plan has had mixed reviews. The Kansas House leadership has developed a plan that keeps the mortgage and charitable contribution deductions while lowering the state sales tax by .6 cents. This plan assumes even tighter state budgets by holding any increase in state spending to 2%. The Kansas Senate tax study commission is finishing their review now and will unveil their plan in the next week or two.

Property tax is the primary funding source for local units of government while sales and income taxes are the primary sources for funding state government. The Governor's gamble is to reduce and eliminate the individual income tax assuming that increased economic development and employment will dramatically increase revenues from the sales tax thus replacing the lost income tax revenue. There are many lawmakers that are worried this gamble will not pay off and vital state programs such as public education will suffer. Another major concern is replacing a progressive income tax with a regressive sales tax that will raise taxes on lower-income working people. Kansas has a sales tax on food.

Medicaid Shift to Statewide Managed Care Plan

Kansas has a Medicaid program that serves over 330,000 persons. The Governor's plan is to develop a statewide managed care plan for the disabled and elderly administered by three private health insurance companies. Kansas would be the first state in the country to try this managed care approach for both the elderly and the disabled. Women and children on Medicaid have been in managed care plans for several years.

Six private health insurance companies are bidding on this Medicaid contract. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas has dropped their bid for this contract. The final decision on these bids will come on February 22. Right now the Kansas Legislature has a very limited role in this process. The Governor's plan is known as 'KanCare' and the Legislature may develop a supervisory committee to monitor the implementation of this managed care plan.

Water

Water bills are moving through the Kansas Legislature. House Bill 2451 has now passed the Kansas House. HB 2451 reverses existing water policy that forces water right holders in closed groundwater areas to either use their water or lose their right to that groundwater. Senate Bill 272 establishes a multi-year flex account process so a water right holder can use their water rights over a five- year period more efficiently. This bill has passed out of the Senate Agriculture committee. Senate Bill 310 creates Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMA's). LEMA's provide a process to support and implement a pro-active, locally-defined water conservation plan for a region within a Groundwater Management District. The Chief Engineer at the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Water Resources must approve these plans with two public hearings held for input. SB 310 is the most significant change to the Groundwater Management District Act since 1978. All major stakeholders in water policy supported this bill.

Immigration

The battle is on over immigration policy in Kansas. Four bills on immigration were introduced in the Kansas House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. HB 2575 mandates that Kansas must participate in the federal 'E-Verify' system so that all employees after January 1, 2013 must have their citizenship verified.

HB 2576 is similar to the Arizona law in that it prohibits any public assistance to 'aliens', makes it a crime to falsify citizenship documents and forces local law enforcement officials to check citizenship status.

HB 2577 mandates that any business entity receiving a contract or grant from government must verify citizenship of their employees.

HB 2578 further mandates that all government officials, agencies and personnel will fully comply with federal immigration law and turn over 'aliens' to federal immigration officials.

At the same time, a pro-immigration bill is being developed by the major farm organizations and the state chamber of commerce association to establish a 'guest worker' program for undocumented workers. The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture has been in Washington. D.C. discussing this potential pilot program for undocumented workers with the Department of Homeland Security. The United States Supreme Court has taken a case challenging the immigration law in Arizona. It is possible that the Supreme Court may give the States some authority over immigration law. This pro-immigration bill would be the legal basis for Kansas to exercise any immigration law authority given to the states.

Kansas Meat and Poultry Act Revision

Senate Bill 302 revised the Kansas Meat and Poultry Act . It authorizes the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture to ensure animals are handled and slaughtered humanely at state inspected meat plants. This change is necessary for the state inspection program to maintain its 'equal to' status according the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. SB 302 adds three new sections to the Meat and Poultry Inspection Act. Temporary suspension - up to 90 days - is added to enforce food safety laws. Voluntary inspection authority for non-amenable species (i.e. elk, llama, rabbit, etc.) is added thus allowing this meat to be sold in retail markets. The final new section establishes more options for approving flexible inspection work schedules. A $25 registration fee is established for all registrations. The present fee can be up to $250 giving Kansas the second highest registration fee of any state inspection program. The budget for the Kansas' Meat and Poultry Inspection program is $2.8 million evenly divided between state & federal funds.

The Kansas Meat Processors Association (KMPA) -- that represents 51 small meat plants and 42 processing plants - voted unanimously to oppose SB 302. KMPA testified this bill places too much power in one place with no third party watching over the Meat and Poultry inspectors. KMPA asserted this bill increases legal control over the small meat plants with no increase in food safety. This bill does not allow for flexibility, adaptability or communication, which are necessary for very small businesses.

The Senate Agriculture committee was taken aback by this opposition. There is great confusion over the necessity of maintaining a state-inspection program versus converting to a federal-inspection system. Kansas has 48 custom plants that cannot sell meat in retail. Kansas has 42 state-inspected plants that can sell meat in retail but only in Kansas. Kansas also has 16 small/medium federally inspected plants that can sell meat anywhere.

Corporate Swine and Dairy Update

House Bill 2502 was rushed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and has now passed the Kansas House. There were a few amendments made to this bill. Applying both to corporate dairies and corporate swine operations, a County Commission can pass a resolution permitting or denying such operations. Within 60 days of such a resolution passing the County Commission, a protest petition can be circulated and it will need 5% of the electors in the county who voted for the office of secretary of state. An election will be held on this petition within one year at a state, county or special election. On the ballot measure, this language is added 'Such facility shall be in compliance with rules and regulations of the Kansas department of health and environment, the Kansas department of agriculture and any other state agency.' This bill now moves to the Kansas Senate.

2012 Farm Bill Update

Chairwoman Stabenow Announces Farm Bill Hearings
(From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 1, 2012)

This week Chairwoman Stabenow announced four Senate Agriculture Committee hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill in February and March. The hearings will focus on the following:

  • February 15: Energy and economic growth for Rural America
  • February 29: Strengthening conservation through the 2012 Farm Bill
  • March 14: Health food initiatives, local production, and nutrition
  • March 21: Risk management and commodities in the 2012 Farm Bill

The Committee has yet to disclose witnesses and times for the hearings.

Last year, the Committee held a couple of field hearings and a few hearings in Washington, D.C. in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill.

Hearings were put on hold last Fall while the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees crafted a farm bill proposal for the Super Committee. With the failure of the Super Committee process, the Senate is resuming hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill.

Chairman Lucas has not yet announced any 2012 Farm Bill hearings in the House Agriculture Committee.

Path to the 2012 Farm Bill: Major Factors Influencing the Debate
(From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, February 3rd, 2012)

In its "Path to the 2012 Farm Bill" series, NSAC gets into the details of the 2012 Farm Bill debate. This first post in the series discusses the major factors influencing the 2012 Farm Bill timing and process.

With the failure of the Super Committee process last fall, Agriculture Committee leaders now resume work on the 2012 Farm Bill through a more normal process that involves hearings, committee mark-ups, and a committee and floor amendment process. The current farm bill expires on September 30, 2012, and Congress must take action on farm policy by then if it wants to avoid reverting to 1949 farm law - the fallback permanent law for the farm bill. That action can come in the form of passing a stand-alone farm bill, attaching a farm bill proposal to another bill, or passing a short or long-term extension of current law either as a stand-alone measure or attached to something else. Significant political, budget, and committee factors will influence that choice as well as the timing of the farm bill process this year. For more info, see the NSAC website..

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January 27 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
More CAFOs For Western Kansas?
Wind Energy Update
Water Legislation
Fracking Update
2012 Farm Bill: Beginning Farmers and Local Food a Focus in New Bill

THE FUTURE OF KANSAS AGRICULTURE:
More Corporate Swine and Dairy


Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman is very clear. Kansas is now open for large-scale, industrial agriculture with special emphasis to recruit swine, dairy and poultry operations.

The plan is to double Kansas' agriculture over the next decade. With a world population headed for 9 billion persons by 2050 and hundreds of millions of Chinese and Indians moving into the middle class, the demand for more protein can only skyrocket. While Kansas is predominantly a beef state, the size of the cattle herd is at a 70 year low so it will take several years to rebuild. In the meantime, large confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) for swine and dairy can be constructed in the next few years. For certain Kansas lawmakers, the battle over saving the independent family farmer is lost and the corporate, vertically integrated model is inevitable.

Poultry was the first agribusiness to vertically integrate by corporations shortly after WW II. Today there are just a handful of poultry processors. The chicken farmer does not own the birds but is merely paid to raise the birds to a certain size for minimal returns at best. Today, 98+% of all hogs are either owned by the packers or contracted to particular packers. There is no independent, free market left. In 1980, Kansas had 13,500 hog farms while today Kansas has less than 1,500 hog farms with 310 of these farms accounting for 95% of all hog sales in Kansas.

Kansas had 5,600 dairies in 1980 while today Kansas has just 420 dairies with 20 of these dairies having 65% of the 120,000 dairy cows in Kansas. In the beef industry, 70% of processed cattle are either packer owned or contracted to a certain packer. Four beef packers now account for 80% of all processed cattle. While lawmakers praise the essential role of small businesses in job creation, corporate agriculture continues on concentrating and consolidating.

The corporate agriculture welcome wagon is on the move. HB 2502, introduced early this past week, will ease the process to allow corporate swine facilities. Present law mandates that a county must hold a referendum to allow corporate swine facilities within the county. This bill will force voters to circulate a petition - within 60 days - to 10% of the voters in the last general election to reverse a resolution by the County Commissioners allowing these corporate swine confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's). A county vote would than be scheduled. (Note: independent hog farmers or family farm corporations are not impacted by this restriction on corporate CAFO's.)

HB 2502 was introduced last Monday (January 23), referred to the Kansas House Agriculture & Natural Resources committee on Tuesday the 24th, the public hearing was held on Wednesday the 25th, and probably passed out of committee today - the very definition of fast tracking. If and when passed out of Committee, the bill will go the House floor and if passe, go to the Senate Agriculture Committee. According to supporters, a depopulated Western Kansas will be a perfect sacrifice zone given the wide-open space, low humidity, adequate groundwater and a docile, controllable 'guest worker' work force.

Wind Energy Update:
2012 Wind Energy Expansion in Kansas


2012 will be a stellar year for the expansion of large wind farms in Kansas, according to remarks from Kimberly Svaty, Wind Coalition, to the House Energy and Utilities Committee. Svaty provided an update on wind energy in Kansas to the committee.

Installed wind energy capacity will double this year. Presently Kansas has 10 operating wind farms representing 7% of all installed electric capacity in the state. (Note: 72% of installed capacity is coal, 14% is nuclear.) Kansas has the second best wind resource in the nation primarily due to the constant wind in western Kansas. Kansas ranked 5th in the U.S. in 2010 for percentage of electricity delivered from wind. Much credit must go to former Governor Kathleen Sebelius for developing a renewable energy standard of eventually having 15% of electric power coming from renewable sources. The first wind farm was developed in Gray County in 2001 by Florida Power & Light while the latest wind farm in 2011 was developed in Elk County.

For 2012, 7 wind farms will be developed thus doubling the output from wind. There will be $2.7 Billion in new capital investment. Kansas will be in the top 5 states of wind energy investment in 2012. The largest project called Flat Ridge 2 is in Barber, Kingman, Harper and Sumner counties and involves a $1 billion investment. About one-third of the total wind energy production is committed to out of state markets. Kansas now has 5 wind component manufacturing plants in Hutchinson, Newton, Ottawa, Wichita and Junction City. New power lines are being constructed in western Kansas and the capacity is adequate for the proposed wind farms. Further expansion of wind farms will require more lines.

There is now a federal production tax credit for each 'kilowatt/hour' (kwh) of wind electricity. This credit amounts to 2.1 cents per kwh. The actual cost per kwh of new wind electricity is 5.1 cents/kwh. This tax credit ends in 2012. Right now there are no new orders for wind turbines in 2013. The wind energy association is lobbying for a one-year full renewal of this tax credit than a three-year phase out of the credit. The cost of the credit to the United States Treasury started at $1.5 Billion and has grown to over $4 Billion. Kansas passed a law exempting these large wind farms from paying property taxes. The wind farm owners and counties with the wind farms must develop their own fee arrangement and most agreements are not public record. The annual wind farm fee to Elk County will be $1 million. Today Elk County has a budget of $2.4 million before the fee. Most of Kansas' wind farms were financed by foreign or out-of-state investors so most of the profits leave Kansas. Smaller scale 'community' wind projects that could be financed by local investors or municipalities have made little progress in Kansas although the new wind manufacturer in Newton is producing 20kW and 60kW turbines that can be used by office buildings, casino's, retailers, etc.

For more info, click on "Wind Farm Map" under Quick Links on the KCC website..

WATER ISSUES

Senate Bill 272
voluntarily allows water right holders the option to apply for a five-year flex account from the Chief Engineer at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. For a water right holder, each county has a determined amount of groundwater that can be withdrawn annually. This new flex account would determine a five year block of water for a given water right holder so this holder could regulate their water use over this five year period. 2011 was the hottest and driest year on record in southwest Kansas. 2,200 water right holders requested special drought permits to be able to use their 2012 water appropriation in 2011. SB 272 develops a multi-year plan going forward.

The Upper Arkansas River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary, incentive-based program allowing producers to enroll targeted, eligible areas for 14-15 year contracts with the United States Department of Agriculture. This program permanently retires the associated state water rights on the enrolled acres, and establishes an approved land cover (typically a native grass) on the same acreage. The producer receives an upfront incentive payment from the Kansas Department of Agriculture and an annual rental payment from USDA. While 10 southwestern Kansas counties are enrolled, the primary three participating counties are Kearny, Gray and Finney totaling 11,013 acres saving 22,245 acre-feet of annual water appropriations from 95 wells. 4,370 acres have been added after September 30, 2011 for a total of 15,535 acres enrolled. The majority of these irrigated acres are on highly erodible sand hill soils that are unsuitable for dryland farming. The goal is to sign up 28,000 acres. For 2013 there is some uncertainty if funding can be found in the Governor's budget.

Sedimentation of Reservoirs. There is real concern over the future of the John Redmond Reservoir. It is one of the shallowest reservoirs in Kansas and the sediment flow into this reservoir is severe. The Kansas Water Office owns the water rights in this reservoir. The primary water user is the Wolfcreek Nuclear power plant. Three proposals have been discussed. One is to build a new reservoir if a site and funding can be found. A second proposal is to start dredging John Redmond. To dredge the entire reservoir could cost $500 million but it might be possible for Kansas to buy one or two dredges and stabilize the sediment flow. The third and most controversial proposal is to pipe water in from the Kansas River watershed. Legislation has been introduced to develop reservoir basin districts where the water users pay fees to fund improvements and repairs to the reservoir.

FRACKING UPDATE

Legislation has been requested by the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas Department of Health & Environment to allow oil and natural gas producers - who are using hydrological fracturing - the permission to dump up to 2 million gallons of sludge at the site of the well. The toxic, polluted water coming from the well would be hauled away and disposed of in deep injection wells but the toxic, radioactive mud, rock and sand could be left on site. Wonder what a severe Kansas thunderstorm could do to wash away this pollution?

2012 Federal Farm Bill Update:
Beginning Farmers and Local Food a Focus in New Bills
By Mary Fund

Now that the fall's Super Committee efforts to not only come up with a deficit reduction plan but to come up with a complete Farm Bill are more or less history, it is back to the usual format of Farm Bill development-- that is if anything in Congress these days can be characterized as business as usual., or if business as usual gets anything done.

The chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee (Sen. Stabenow, D-Michigan) claimed earlier this month that she hopes to have a farm bill ready by mid-year. This week there were rumblings of hearings on specific pieces of the bill to begin in February. Since the Farm Bill contains 15 titles on topics ranging from commodity and conservation, to nutrition to credit to livestock to research, it is a mammoth task undertaken only every four or five years.

Earlier this week, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) held its semi-annual member meeting near Reisterstown, Maryland. Every winter, NSAC members discuss, debate, and vote on the coalition's priorities for the year. This year they voted on their 2012 priority farm bill issues, which include:

* Working lands conservation and conservation partnerships;
* Local and regional food systems development;
* Support for beginning farmers:
* Sustainable agriculture research:
* and Fair and effective food safety rules.

Work on the Farm Bill never begins completely from scratch. There are of course the current and historic programs. Then there are marker bills. These contain a set of specific proposals to reform one or more Titles, and are deliberated on by the appropriations committees. They typically get introduced to Congress but are not discussed on the floor right away but their content becomes part of the larger debate during the hearings and discussions.

Two important marker bills for the 2012 farm bill were introduced last fall related to beginning farmers and local food and farms: The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Well over 150 organizations and interested groups, including the Kansas Rural Center, have registered their support by signing onto letters to Congress for these two bills.

The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act, sponsored by Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Sherrod Brown, will improve federal farm bill programs that support local and regional farm and food systems. This legislation will help farmers and ranchers engaged in local and regional agriculture by addressing production, aggregation, processing, marketing, and distribution needs and will also assist consumers by improving access to healthy food and direct and retail markets. The legislation will also provide more secure funding for critically important programs that support family farms, expand new farming opportunities, and invest in the local agriculture economy.

Local and regional agriculture is a major economic driver in the farm economy. There are now more than 7,000 farmers markets throughout the United States-a 150 percent increase since 2000, direct to consumer sales have accounted for more than $1.2 billion in annual revenues. Now, on the heels of that expansion, we are witnessing the rapid growth of local and regional food markets that have scaled up beyond direct marketing. Together these markets represent important new job growth and economic development. To learn more about the provisions in the bill, visit the NSAC bill summary page.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 [H.R. 3236 / S.1850] is a comprehensive bill intended for inclusion in the 2012 Farm Bill that highlights federal programs that help support economic opportunities for young and beginning farmers and ranchers. It addresses many of the barriers that new agriculture entrepreneurs face such as limited access to land and markets, hyper land price inflation, high input costs, and a lack of sufficient support networks.

The Act is a bipartisan and bicameral bill introduced in the House by Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN-1) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1), and in the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), along with nine original co-sponsors. The bill is a result of strategic collaboration among many individuals and farmer advocacy organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and many NSAC member groups, including Land Stewardship Project, Center for Rural Affairs, National Young Farmers' Coalition, California FarmLink, and Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance, among others.

Read more about the bill at the NSAC website.

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January 20, 2012 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

In This Edition:
More CAFOs For Western Kansas?
Wind Energy Update
Water Legislation
Fracking Update
2012 Farm Bill: Beginning Farmers and Local Food a Focus in New Bill

THE TAX TORNADO

The storm has just begun over the Governor's proposed tax plan. The income tax is increased for the poorest Kansans while all other Kansas' tax filers will see a decrease in their income tax. Adding insult to injury, the tax credits for income, food and rental assistance for low-income Kansas' households are eliminated. The core of this plan is to keep the existing state sales tax (6.3%) in place and use that income from our most regressive tax to lower income taxes - our most progressive tax. Existing law would have the sales tax decrease from 6.3% to 5.7%. The Governor believes that income tax rates are most responsible for future economic growth while the sales tax has little if any impact on future growth.

According to a chart of the 1.38 million Kansan' tax filers prepared by the Kansas Department of Revenue, tax filers with income under $25,000 will pay $156 more in income taxes while filers over $250,000 in income will see a tax decrease of $5,239. What has not been computed is the extra sales tax that all Kansans will have to pay because the sales tax rate does not decrease on July 1, 2013. Kansas is one of just a few states that still have a sales tax on food.

The Governor's plan eliminates itemized deductions and some credits. The largest itemized deductions are for mortgages ($162 million) and charitable contributions ($101 million). The impact of eliminating/modifying certain Kansas' credits is $180 million. 90% of these eliminated credits are from the earned income tax credit ($91 million), the food sales rebate credit ($53 million) and property tax rebates for renters ($13 million). The promise is that the $91 million from the earned income tax credit will be used for investments in social services and healthcare programs. So far the details of these investments have not been revealed but far fewer Kansans will be assisted. The political tradeoff has been to keep the sales tax on food but provide a food sales rebate credit to tax filers with incomes under $35,000. So with the Governor's plan, the state sales tax does not go down to 5.7%, food is still taxed and the rebate is eliminated.

This spirited tax debate has just begun. The President of the Kansas Senate has established his own study committee to develop a tax plan that will be compared to the Governor's plan. For the last twenty years, the ideal tax mix would be an equal contribution from property, income and sales. For 2011, the percentage of combined state and local tax revenue is 33% property, 28% sales and 24% income. The Governor's plan would further increase our reliance on sales tax while eliminating the individual income tax over six years and lower the corporate income tax. (Note: 59% of all corporate filers pay no income tax while only 700 corporations paid 95% of the $224 million in corporate income taxes.)

WATER ISSUES

HOUSE BILL 2451 - 'THE USE IT OR LOSE' ACT

HB 2451 applies only to the groundwater areas in Kansas that have been closed to new appropriations. These areas are primarily in southwestern Kansas and some in northwestern Kansas. These groundwater areas have over appropriated water rights. This bill changes existing law where a water right has to be used at least one year out of five or that water right may be lost. This policy has created a 'culture of consumption'. With this bill, a water right could not be lost if water was not pumped in these closed areas. There are approximately 30,000 water rights in Kansas and it is estimated that 2/3 of these water rights are in the closed areas.

For open areas, there are 11 'due and sufficient' causes that allow a water right holder to mitigate the loss of their water right. The basis of Kansas' water law is that the people of Kansas own the water not the water rights holder but the water rights holder is given the appropriation right. HB 2451 has had its hearing before the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee and should be on the House floor in the next couple weeks.

KANSAS WATERSHED RESTORATION AND PROTECTION STRATEGY (KS WRAPS)
The purpose of this program is to protect and restore Kansas' watersheds. This program is designed for citizens and stakeholders supported by scientists and technical service providers. The process consists of identifying watershed issues (reservoir sedimentation, blue green algae blooms, nutrient/bacteria abatement), establishing watershed goals, creating & implementing action plans. Resources are leveraged from federal, state and local sources. There is an emphasis on state and local coordination. The hope is to target resources for the greatest environmental benefit at the least cost.

KS WRAPS now has 36 projects covering 55% of Kansas. There is a particular interest in the watersheds with federal reservoirs. The plan vision is to effectively and efficiently increase the number of water bodies meeting surface water quality standards through targeted implementation of water quality practices. Only 16 of the 36 projects have developed funding plans for best management practices. The funding need (technical and financial assistance) for these 16 plans is $13.3 million but the budget is now proposed at just $2 million. The Kansas Water Office has recently completed a 'return on investment' analysis for watershed work at Marion Reservoir and Perry Reservoir. The analysis showed a 110% return for Marion and a 500% return for Perry.
See more on WRAPS here.

Kansas State University Research and Extension

2012 Plan of Work

K-State Research & Extension files a combined research and extension plan of work with the United States Department of Agriculture. The new 2012-2016 plan lists the seven planned programs that will utilize the work of 422 extension and 266 research employees. Within each planned program, there are specific knowledge areas that define the work, states the number of research and extension personnel for that planned program and lists the percentages of time given by research and extension employees on these knowledge areas. The 2010 plan of work had four planned programs while the 2012-2016 plan has seven planned programs: Global Food Security and Hunger; Food Safety; Natural Resources and Management; Childhood Obesity and Nutrition through the Lifespan; Healthy Communities: Youth, Adults, and Families; Sustainable Energy; and Climate Change. 'We cannot be everything to everyone; therefore, we have to focus on serving the highest priorities.' (2012 Plan - page 1)

The 2012-2016 Plan is 88 pages long. 'Within the planned programs, each of seven strategic opportunities identifies a broad issue that is being addressed, the research foundation associated with it, and changes that will be measured over time. The strategic opportunities define areas of emphasis for agents, specialists and researchers. Planned programs are mostly state supported ($50 million in state funds) and through grant funds ...' Compared to the general presentations made by K-State Research & Extension to the Kansas Legislature, this plan of work gives precise budgets, personnel committed and measured outcomes.

This site is the 2012 KSU Combined Research & Extension Plan of Work:
http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/Employee_Resources/doc6536.ashx

Note these two items from the 2010 Kansas State University Research and Extension Annual Report of Accomplishments and Results.

2010 Report (page 6):
'On the research side, K-State Research and Extension entered into a new collaboration around wheat variety development with a private company. This is significant in that private investment in wheat has lagged significantly behind corn and soybeans until 2010. Prior to the signing of the agreement, numerous public stakeholder meetings were held to gain input from growers, the seed and milling industry and other interested parties around the terms of the agreement. In the end, representatives of the Kansas Wheat Alliance, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Wheat Commission signed confidentiality agreements that allowed them to view and comment on the terms of the agreement. In the end, stakeholders valued the opportunity to assist in crafting an agreement designed to benefit the wheat industry.'
(Private company = Monsanto)

2010 Report (page 46):
'Atrazine Best Management Practices (BMP) Implementation: 95 farmers implemented atrazine BMP's on a total of 23,000 corn and sorghum acres. An automated surface water monitoring system was installed in the streams at the base of the watersheds targeted for BMP implementation and also at the base of two adjoining watersheds. Water quality monitoring of treated and untreated watersheds found 51% lower atrazine concentrations in streams in targeted watersheds in which BMP's had been implemented.

Sedimentation BMP Implementation: Outcomes included 25 farmers committing to implementing BMP's on 138 crop fields (4,810 acres) resulting in a reduction in annual sediment delivery to streams in the watershed from 9,219 tons to 2,926 tons."

Political Potpourri

Kansas Bioscience Authority Audit

The Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA) is undergoing a special external audit. Questions have been raised as to the operations of the KBA and grants made. The Governor is withholding a $15 million transfer from the State General Fund to the KBA until this audit is finished and released on January 25 at noon before a joint meeting of Senate Commerce and the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee in the Old Supreme Court Chamber - Room 346-S.

KSU Search for New Dean of Agriculture

Kansas State University has reopened its search for a permanent Dean of Agriculture. There are 3 candidates in the running including the Interim Dean of Agriculture at KSU - Gary Pierzynski. The selection should be made in the next couple of months.

Fatter Cows, Sicker People
Editorial - L.A. Times - January 13, 2012

'The FDA restricted the use of a minor antibiotic used by the meat industry. It's a small step to counter the widespread overuse of antibiotics on healthy animals, which helps create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that harms humans...Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given to chicken, pigs, turkey and cattle, not because the animals are sick but to fatten them and prevent illness from sweeping through crowded pens... Consider that this decision was announced just a couple of weeks after FDA backed away from a long-promised proposal to ban the routine addition of tetracycline and penicillin - far more commonly used medications - to animal feed. Instead the food safety agency announced, it would put its efforts into 'promoting voluntary reform'. Earlier in 2010, the FDA issued draft guidelines, but it hardly matters. The livestock industry isn't about to voluntarily restrain a practice that makes its work easier and cheaper. Treating resistant infections in the U.S. costs about $20 billion a year, but that's not money spent by feedlot operators."

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January 13, 2012 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

Issues covered in this report include Gov. Brownback's proposed 2013 State Budget, changes to school finance, income tax reform, funds for health and human services, public broadcasting funding cuts and the emerging issue of "fracking" for oil and gas in Kansas .

State of the State

On Wednesday January 11, 2012, Governor Sam Brownback gave his second State of the State address. The Governor's top priority is to transition Kansas from a high tax state to a low tax state. Kansas' state budget balance is in far better shape than it was one year ago. Kansas will question issuing more debt, and start paying down existing debt. From losing private sector jobs over the last several years, Kansas is now starting to grow the private sector workforce.

The Kansas retirement fund will transition to a defined contribution system from a defined benefit system. Kansas is now a top 5 state for wind projects under construction. From a wasteful use-it-or-lose-it water doctrine, Kansas will transition to preserving our most precious natural resource: fresh water.

With new tax policy in place and greater revenues expected, the Kansas Legislature will be asked to limit further growth in government expenditures to no more than 2% a year and devote all additional revenues to reductions in state tax rates. You may read the State of the State address on the Governor's website.

2013 State Budget

The revenue picture for the State budget has improved considerably over the last two years. From a zero ending balance in FY 2010, the ending balance grew to $192 million for FY 2011 and to a projected $378 million in this 2012 FY. (Tax receipts to the State General Fund increased from $4.98 Billion in FY 2010 to $6 Billion in FY 2012.) For the proposed FY 2013 Budget, the Governor's budget will have a $465 million ending balance that is 7.6% of expenditures. Overall spending for 2013 will be around $40 million less than 2012 so the significant reductions to public schools and many social services will not be reversed.

The new K-12 school finance proposal will not take effect till 2014 so spending for K-12 will fall from $3.070 Billion in 2012 to $3.026 Billion in 2013. $20.5 million is added to increase high school students access to technical education programs. $17.5 million is targeted to the Board of Regents for elite professorships, student financial aid, National Bio-Lab at KSU and other campus specific items. A new Kansas Highway Patrol trooper class will be funded to maintain adequate staffing levels. The forensic equipment lab at Washburn will be enhanced so students can be trained for future employment at the KBI lab.

In Health and Human services, the new KanCare managed care model for the elderly and the disabled is estimated to save $32 million. $1 million from the State General Fund (SGF) will be used for Healthcare Savings Accounts to divert certain employable clients from Medicaid. $2 million from the SGF will address shortfalls in the Home and Community Based Services program. The state children health insurance program will have additional resources in FY 2013. The Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities and the five local SRS area offices - that were proposed to be closed - will be fully funded. Adoption assistance caseload growth will be financed with SGF. Kansas has a combined consensus process for the Governor and the Legislature that projects both revenues to the state for the next 18 months and human service caseloads for several medical and social service programs. The Governor's 2013 Budget fully funds these human service caseloads.

Compared to the last three years when lawmakers were scrambling to cut budgets significantly and raise the sales tax by 1 cent, the 2013 budget will have adequate revenues to start a discussion over reversing some of these cuts to schools and social services. The Kansas Democrats have already started the debate on using some of these extra revenues for public schools. There will also be debate over the use of the new revenues from the casinos in Mulvane - south of Wichita - and the new casino at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. Democrats want more employment training programs while the Governor wants to use these extra revenues to pay down debt. Public Broadcasting will see a reduction from $1.48 million to $600,000 for operating grants. The Governor does use casino revenue to pay off the $1.3 million PBS equipment debt. Without adequate operating grants, rural public TV/radio stations will struggle to survive.

More information on the budget is available from the Kansas Budget Office.

Governor's Proposed Tax Plan

The Governor's tax plan will move from three individual income tax brackets (3.5%, 6.25% & 6.45%) to two brackets of 3% and 4.9%. This is a 14% reduction for income under $15,000 ($30,000 married filing jointly) and a 24% reduction for income over the $15,000 (and $30,000 joint filing). Kansas' top individual income tax rate will become the second lowest in the region. A small business owner with a 'LLC, S-corporation or sole proprietorship' will not pay any state income taxes on non-wage income impacting 191,000 filers. As revenues grow more than 2% per year, future excess revenues will be applied to reductions in individual and corporate income tax rates in future years. The overall strategy here is to eliminate the individual income tax and lower corporate income tax rates over the next 6 years.

This entire tax plan is portrayed as revenue neutral. 23 tax credits will be eliminated such as the earned income tax credit, the adoption credit, angel investor credit, historic preservation credit, etc., etc. The funds resulting from eliminating the earned income tax credit will be used to double the standard deduction ($4,500 to $9,000) for low-income Kansans and invest an additional $60 million in social service and healthcare programs.

The existing corporate income tax rate stays unchanged. The 6.3% state sales tax will remain instead of decreasing to 5.7% as provided for in existing law -- thus replacing lost income tax revenues with the more regressive revenues from the sales tax. The two-year severance tax exemption on new oil and gas wells - except for oil wells generating fewer than 50 barrels a day - will be eliminated. This tax debate has just started. The Kansas Senate president - Steve Morris - has convened his own committee to develop tax recommendations that will be compared and contrasted to the Governor's tax plan.

Emerging Issues

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) for Oil and Gas

Kansas get ready - this new style of horizontal drilling is coming to Kansas in a big way. There are estimates of up to 3,000 drilling leases planned for south-central and northwestern Kansas. 66 horizontal well permits were issued by the Kansas Corporation Commission in 2011 - more than the last three years combined. Kansas had the first 'vertical fracking' in 1947 and now has 57,000 wells fracked statewide. Horizontal fracking involves drilling vertical for over one mile and than drilling horizontal for another mile. This fracking process cracks open layers of rock across the horizon with a mix of water, sand and chemicals releasing trapped oil and natural gas. The Governor is welcoming large oil and gas developers from Oklahoma to come to Kansas and spend several billion dollars on horizontal fracking.

The promise is that these oil and gas deposits are far below the water aquifers so there is little opportunity for polluting the groundwater. One typical well will use up to 5 million gallons of water mixed with chemicals in the fracking process. It takes up to 160 tanker trucks to bring this water to the well site. 40-60% of the water used in this well will come back to the surface with the gas or oil. This water is highly polluted with traces of heavy metals and radioactive elements. This highly polluted water is than hauled away to deep injection wells. It is these injection wells that are suspected of triggering earthquakes in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio. By federal law in the 2005 Energy Act, the chemicals used in fracking are exempt from the clean water and safe drinking water acts.

There will be legislation proposed to list the chemicals used. There will be legislation proposed to do some pre-testing of water at the well site to see if any pollution results from the drilling. Some states allow the polluted water to be put in holding ponds but that issue will be debated in Kansas. In early December, an EPA report indicated that fracking may have contributed to polluted groundwater in Wyoming so Kansas should be very careful protecting our groundwater. The full cost of wear and tear on county roads should be calculated and paid for by the developers not the county taxpayers.

Learn more about fracking on the Sierra Club website.

2012 Federal Farm Bill Update

Stay tuned for a detailed post on the Farm Bill next week, courtesy of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

NSAC's 2012 Farm Bill campaign calls for reforms that will:

  • Ensure a sustainable future for American agriculture
  • Create jobs and spur economic opportunities
  • Equip rural communities for the 21st century
  • Level the playing field for producers
  • Support innovation for tomorrow's farmers
  • Protect our natural resources

NSAC reports that the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act are gaining momentum in Congress, and sustainable ag groups around the country will work to see the contents of both of these crucial bills included in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Check out more at the NSAC website.

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January 7, 2012 E-Report
by Paul Johnson

The political plate for the 2012 Kansas Legislature will overflow this session. The Governor will propose fundamental change on school funding, tax policy, state employee retirement funding and privatizing the Medicaid program. The Secretary of State has promised controversial immigration reform. The primary responsibility of the Kansas Legislature will be to pass a $14 Billion State budget for 2013.

The good news is that revenues to Kansas have improved slightly so drastic cuts to state programs will not be as necessary. The bad news is that budget and staffing reductions of the past three years to schools and social services will not be replaced. 2012 is also a redistricting year so that the four Congressional seats, the 125 Kansas House districts and the 40 Kansas Senate districts will be redrawn thus adding further political pressure to this session.

The Governor has stated he wants to reduce personal income taxes in Kansas by increasing sales tax collections, through eliminating some sales tax exemptions and possibly taxing some new services such as law or accounting. The promise is that these tax changes will be revenue neutral to the State.

Another big issue is the Governor's new school funding formula proposal for 2014. The funding formula will be simplified and based on a fixed dollar amount per student. Local school districts will be allowed to raise local property taxes - by local election - for extra funding. But the proposal will likely require long and heated debate and close scrutiny by all districts as to its impact.

The Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) will be changed from a defined benefit plan to a 401-K style investment plan for future employees. However, this change does not address the $8 Billion deficit the existing KPERS plan now has over the next 30 years.

The Medicaid Program in Kansas now serves over 330,000 Kansans covering 40% of all Kansas' births and one-half of all nursing home residents. In 2012, private health insurance companies will bid in 2012 to provide managed care plans for all disabled and elderly Medicaid clients starting in 2013. Kansas will be the first state to try managed care plans for the disabled and the elderly. The promise is that controlling use of hospital and pharmacy services through more preventative care will control and even decrease overall cost.

And last but not least, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will bring Kansas into the national spotlight as he has promised to introduce some version of the Arizona/Alabama immigration legislation (which he helped write) in the 2012 Kansas session.

STATE FARM, FOOD AND RESOURCE ISSUES

Kansas Department of Agriculture Legislative Objectives

Kansas Department of Agriculture representatives met with stakeholders in late December to review their legislative agenda for 2012. These include measures to address water conservation in the Ogallala, consolidating food and distribution laws, and licensing and inspection services. Specifics are:

Water Conservation:

  • Amend the existing water appropriation act to eliminate 'use it or lose it' for groundwater rights in areas closed to new water right development. The closed areas are primarily found in the southwestern corner of Kansas. Northwestern Kansas has similar water use restrictions but are not formally closed.
  • Amend the Groundwater Management Act to provide the authority to create Local Enhanced Management Areas for proactive conservation plans in the Ogallala aquifer.
  • Extend the Water Transition Assistance Program and the Water Banking program
  • Amend the flex account statue to provide more options and flexibility to manage water over multi-year periods.

Food Distribution, Processing and Storage laws, and Meat and Poultry Inspections:

Legislation will be introduced to consolidate all laws related to the distribution, processing and storage of food, drugs and cosmetics into one act. Other legislation will move to consolidate the food service establishment license and retail food store license into one 'food establishment' license impacting over 15,000 facilities statewide.

Other legislation will increase the cap for license fees and allow the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture to implement a risk-based frequency of inspection. While some fees may change for some facilities and the frequency of inspection will move from 12 to 9 months, the cumulative effect of these changes in fees will be revenue neutral to KDA. In regards to civil penalties, the maximum penalty will be $1000 per violation.

The Kansas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act will be fine tuned to follow the federal definition of humane slaughter and to provide for regulations for nighttime slaughter while allowing overtime flexibility for processing plants and inspectors. (Kansas has 42 state-inspected slaughter/processing plants and 48 custom slaughter/processing plants) Kansas will maintain its state-inspected meat-processing program for intrastate shipment of meat only. (Custom slaughter plants cannot sell meat in the retail market.) Small meat processors who want to sell meat in the interstate market will have to convert to the USDA federal inspection program. Kansas has 16 small/medium federal meat plants.

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/slaughter-availability.pdf
There is administrative authority to allow state inspected mobile meat plants.

Other Issues: Immigration

The Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has promised some version of the Arizona/Alabama immigration legislation will be debated in the 2012 Kansas Legislative session. Mr. Kobach helped write these state laws. The greatest battle may be over the federal 'E-Verify' system where employers must check the citizenship status of new employees.

Critics are concerned over the accuracy of this federal system so employers will be held harmless if records are inaccurate. Local police officials are worried about the extra cost of checking the citizenship status of potential offenders and taking them into custody if there is probable cause.

Given the economic interest in western Kansas to recruit more large dairies and hog farms and the prevalence of an immigrant-based work force, there may be legislation offered to establish a pilot program in Kansas to develop our own 'guest worker' program. There may also be legislation to loosen corporate farming laws especially for large dairies. The law allowing 'in-state' tuition at regent institutions for undocumented Kansas' high school graduates will be challenged this year, especially in the Kansas House.

2012 Federal Farm Bill Update

Federal Farm Bill Rebooted
by Mary Fund
(from Rural Papers, December 2011)

Now that the Congressional Super Committee failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan in November, it appears that Congress will revert to the more normal Farm Bill process of crafting a stand- alone bill in 2012, complete with hearings and debate. However, the proposed bill developed for the Super Committee by the four Agriculture Committee chairs will likely serve as the foundation for writing the new Farm Bill this year, starting in February.

Just days after the Super Committee failure to come up with an overall budget deficit agreement, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow spoke at the annual Farm Journal Forum in Washington, D.C. She indicated they would not be "starting from zero" but would use the work already done for the Super Committee as a launching point. She also expressed interest in getting a bill passed "as soon as possible."

However, with the current Congress keep in mind that almost anything can happen, so options are being kept open as Congress grapples with larger spending, tax, and deficit measures. Continue reading here.

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2011 E-REPORTS

2012 KANSAS LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY

This is the final KRC Legislative E-report for the 2011 Kansas Legislative session. The revenue picture for the state of Kansas remains unclear, and any substantial decline will force more budgetary maneuvers. Kansas Legislative leaders will meet in June to decide on what issues will be studied by interim committees. The Kansas House passed many substantive changes to immigration, selection of judges, tax policy, education reform, retirement system (KPERS) changes, and strip club limitations that were not accepted by the Kansas Senate. These same issues will be around next session and the Governor will play a key role in identifying his priorities to move some of these issues. 2012 will be an election year for the entire Kansas House and Kansas Senate so the electorate will have a substantial say on the future direction of Kansas' governance.

The Kansas Rural Center did not enter the 2011 Legislative Session with a specific agenda. The issues of defining 'sustainable agriculture' or mandating new labels for milk without artificial growth hormones were not re-introduced this year. KRC did present an update on farmers markets and local foods to the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. KRC gave a similar presentation to the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee with special attention to nutritional opportunities of local produce. KRC requested an informational hearing on the Beginning Farmers Loan Program before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committee and gave testimony. KRC organized a 'local foods seminar' for the leadership of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Water issues were the most active environmental items in this session. The new Smoky Hill River water benefit district was created allowing irrigators to purchase water storage rights in Kanopolis Reservoir. While this is precedent setting in allowing irrigators along with municipal and industrial customers to purchase storage rights, this situation is so unique - given Kanopolis' extra storage capacity - that it is very unlikely this situation will occur anywhere else in Kansas. The Water Conservation Reserve Program was re-established as a fee funded program but only in 'over appropriated' areas in Kansas. Future state funding for 'conservation reserve enhancement programs' such as the Upper Arkansas CREP in Kearny, Finney and Gray counties seems very unlikely given the existing budgetary deficits. The ongoing serious drought in southwest Kansas may have an impact on this debate.

While the Governor proposed eliminating the $980,000 for the Local Environmental Protection Program, the Kansas Legislature voted to restore $750,000 for this program from State General Funds instead of the State Water Plan Fund. The Kansas Water Office was given authority to grant easements on water related projects on the Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. The Wichita Aquifer Storage & Recovery Project - pumping treated Arkansas River water to recharge the Equus Beds aquifer - was increased in funding from $563,000 to $657,000. This is a planning grant while the project itself will be funded by increased fees from the water users.

Going forward, will KRC help develop and advocate a pro-active 'local foods and farm' agenda in Kansas? There are many templates in other states such as the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's legislative agenda in Iowa or the Michigan Good Food Charter or the 'Closer to Home' report from the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Oklahoma. In North Carolina, their extension service has developed a 10% Local Foods campaign to educate consumers and promote local producers.

From the work of Dr. Rhonda Janke at Kansas State University, we know that Kansans spend $767 million on fruits and vegetables but only 4.2% ($32 million) is grown locally. Comparable data on local meats or dairy products could be researched. From 2007 USDA Ag. Census data, only 7% of the 65,531 farmers in Kansas are under age 35 while 32% are over the age of 65.

Beginning farmers are desperately needed in Kansas as more and more senior farmers pass on ore retire. Only 10% of all Kansans consume a healthy diet of two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily. Two out of three adult Kansans are overweight or obese while one of every third Kansas' child is obese or overweight. Kansas is spending over $500 million a year for chronic diseases related to obesity. There is an opportunity here to improve diets with locally grown food that will benefit Kansas nutritionally, economically and reduce medical expenses.

http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/news/newsreleases/2011/011111_plan.html
http://www.kerrcenter.com/publications/closer_to_home/index.htm
http://www.michiganfood.org/
http://www.ncsu.edu/project/nc10percent/about.php

KRC will address building a local and regional food and farm system at their 2011 Sustainable Agriculture Conference on Saturday, November 19 in Emporia. As Congress wrestles with long- term deficit reduction, those decisions may have detrimental impacts on the conservation and rural development programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. The Kansas Legislature will need specific legislation or resolutions or budgetary requests to focus the debate on local foods. The medical community supports a better diet and less obesity but they have not made the connection to production of or promoting local foods except in the Kansas City area. The Governor is desperately looking for more employment and promoting the future of the 50 counties in his rural opportunity zones.

A Kansas' local foods strategy working with farmers markets and expanding opportunities for institutions to buy local could provide more employment and circulate more food dollars through the Kansas' economy.

FIELD NOTES

KANSAS HEALTH INSTITUTE
For the best coverage of the medical and social safety net issues in Kansas, regularly checkout the reporting at the Kansas Health Institute website. www.khi.org  As the new federal health care law is implemented and efforts to block grant the Medicaid program are debated, KHI will cover these changes in detail. KHI has also covered the progress with farmers markets and funding for innovative gardening & local food programs.

HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA
This project is based at KCUR-FM in Kansas City, Missouri. They now have 6 full time reporters covering the entire spectrum of food and agricultural issues. Their reports are often broadcast on national and local PBS radio. This website is a contact point for several sources reporting on agriculture.
www.harvestpublicmedia.org

FARMS & FOOD: A Teaching the Hudson Valley Resource Guide
This April 2011 guide of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York was prepared by Debi Duke and Hadley Galbraith. (Hadley is a recent KU graduate and former intern on Dan Nagengast and Lynn Byczynski's farm near Lawrence.) This guide covers: 1) the local food economy, 2) land, water and the environment, and 3) health and wellness. This 24-page guide uses place-based starting points - farms, historic sites and museums - to develop this teaching guide.  To get a pdf copy of the guide, click here. (this is a 7 meg pdf file)

FEDERAL FARM AND FOOD PROGRAMS

From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update
Healthy Farms, Healthy People Summit, May 19th, 2011


A diverse group of over 100 farm, food, and health stakeholders came together in Washington, DC Tuesday and Wednesday for Healthy Farms, Healthy People: A Farm & Food Policy Summit for a Strong America. The summit was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and convened by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Public Health Institute, California Food & Justice Coalition, Public Health Law & Policy, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and American Farmland Trust.

A.G. Kawamura, former California Secretary of Agriculture and co-chair of Solutions From the Land, opened the summit with a discussion about the current state of agriculture and public health, both domestically and abroad. He said that he would add to USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative a "Know Your Century" element, reminding attendees that we are no longer in the twentieth century - we must unite both the best practices in agriculture and public health to develop solutions that match today's challenges.

Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at CDC, then offered a slew of facts about challenges and opportunities for agriculture and public health:

  • one-third of Americans have high blood pressure;
  • two-thirds of water and half of pesticides used in the U.S. are for agriculture;
  • 70 percent of water pollution stems from agriculture;
  • 44 percent of fruits and 16 percent of vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported;
  • 4 percent of Americans live in a "food desert" yet 40 percent lack access to fresh food because they are more than one mile from a supermarket;
  • grass-fed beef contains less saturated fat and more omega-3 fatty acids than its conventional counterpart;
  • sugar-sweetened beverages now account for 250 calories in the average child's daily caloric intake;
  • and feeding programs now touch 1 in 4 Americans.

Dietz encouraged participant consideration of how these facts in agriculture and public health are intricately linked.  Read more here.

The Long and Winding (Budget Deal) Road
May 20th, 2011

Washington continued down the long and winding road toward a budget agreement this week. Depending on one's point of view, nothing happened or lots happened. What did not happen was introduction of a Senate budget resolution, much less mark-up of a resolution in the Senate Budget Committee. But here are some of the things that did happen.  Read more here.

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MAY 13, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The Kansas Legislature finished its work on the budget by working late into the night. In the next issue, we will provide a summary of the session, but for now, read below for details on the budget deal.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

Basic budgetary differences remain the same. Will compensation to state employees for longevity or to equalize their pay to the private market be fully funded? Will the operating budget for the Judicial Branch be increased by higher court fees or state general revenue funds? Will the $1.5 million state grant to Public Broadcasting be zeroed out or cut just 18%? Should the Wichita air fares be subsidized by $5 million? Will state employees have to pay a 5% health insurance surcharge? Will KDHE's Local Environment Protection Program be eliminated completely or reduced 25% to $1 million? Should Base Student Aid Per Pupil be cut an additional $18 to $3,762 as proposed by the House or increased $6 to $3,786 by the Senate? (Note: overall per pupil student aid is reduced over $220 from $4,000 since the final federal stimulus dollars were not replaced.) Will SRS face an additional 5% reduction to their operating budget? Will Washburn's additional operating grant of $5.5 million be eliminated?

There is a total of $70 million in play in these undecided budgetary conference items. There will be efforts in the Kansas House to just cut state budgets by a certain percentage such as 2 or 3 or 5%. Each percent reduction nets about $15 million while excluding certain human service caseloads, debt service, K-12 student aid, corrections and the judicial branch. The $10 million transfer to KAN-ED (computer interconnection system for schools, hospitals & libraries) is under discussion for 2012. There is a debate whether Commerce or the Board of Regents should administer $15 million in grants for aviation, animal health and cancer research? Going forward, will Commerce control the bonding authority of the Kansas Bioscience Authority?

There is uncertainty over the revenue picture in Kansas. April revenues were up a total of $22 million over the projections. However this increase came from two large one-time personal income tax payments while the basic revenue streams of sales and income taxes were actually under the projections. There is now a debate whether these special tax windfalls can be used for developing a reliable ending balance? All of these uncertainties will have to be settled in some fashion. A budget has to be developed and it has to be balanced somehow. The 90th day deadline will force the debate and force a final decision.

FIELD NOTES

USDA -FOOD DESERT LOCATOR TOOL
The Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a partnership between the Treasury Department, Health and Human Services and USDA defines a food desert as a low-income census tract where a substantial number or share of residents has low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. To qualify as a food desert tract, at least 33% of the tracts population or a minimum of 500 people in the tract must have low access to a supermarket. 6,500 census tracts in the continental U.S. meet the definition of a food desert with roughly 75% of the tracts in urban areas impacting 13.5 million people. When the user enters the Locator, he/she will see food deserts distribution in the US highlighted. Once the user identifies a location to explore further, he/she can click and a window with all population characteristics of the location will pop up.
http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/fooddesert.html

NATIONAL FARMERS MARKET DIRECTOR
On April 18, USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service opened the updating process for the USDA National Farmers Market Directory. 2011 will be the first year that the directory will track markets with multiple locations and days of operation. USDA has tracked farmers market numbers since 1994 and the number of operational markets has increased from 1,755 to 6,132. The directory also tracks which markets participate in federal nutrition benefits programs and information about seasonality and location.
http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/ 

GEORGIA DEFINES 'SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE' IN LAW
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has signed legislation that creates a strong working definition for 'sustainable agriculture' and provides that it is the policy of the state to promote sustainable agriculture.

'Sustainable agriculture' or 'sustainable agricultural practices' means science-based agricultural practices, technologies, or biological systems supported by research or otherwise demonstrated to lead to broad outcomes-based improvements, which may include but not be limited to such critical outcomes as increasing agricultural productivity and improving human health through access to safe, nutritious, affordable food and other agricultural products, while enhancing agricultural and surrounding environmental conditions through the stewardship of water, soil, air quality, biodiversity, and wildlife habitat, so as to meet the needs of the present and improve the ability for future generations to meet their own needs while advancing progress toward environmental, social and economic goals and the well-being of agricultural producers and rural communities."

USDA PROJECT TO ENCOURAGE NEXT-GENERATION BIOFUELS

Comprising 39 contiguous counties in northwest Missouri and eastern Kansas, the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program project area proposes the enrollment of up to 50,000 acres for establishing a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and herbaceous plants for energy purposes. Producers in the area will plant mixes of perennial native plants, such as switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. If selected, crop producers will be eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost of establishing a bioenergy perennial crop, and can receive up to five years of annual payments for grassy crops, and up to 15 years of annual payments for woody crops. Producers interested in participating in the project can find more information at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap  Signup period starts May 9, 2011.

FARM AID CONCERT 2011 SCHEDULED FOR AUGUST 13 KANSAS CITY, KANSAS

On May 10, Farm Aid announced that Farm Aid 2011 will be held at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas on Saturday, August 13, 2011! Farm Aid holds its annual benefit concert in a different location each year to shine a spotlight on the work of family farmers and food and farm groups in diverse regions across the country. Farm Aid stated that this year they are thrilled to be coming to Kansas City and the Sunflower State, where family farmers and ranchers are creating innovative models in urban agriculture, pasture-based livestock production, local food systems development and much more.

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MAY 7, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budget deliberations drag on under the dome. The battle is over the size of the ending balance for the 2012 State budget. The Kansas House wants an ending balance of at least $50 million for the $14 Billion State budget while the Kansas Senate will settle for a smaller balance to lessen the budget cuts to schools, social services and public safety. The 90th day of this legislative session comes on May 12. After that - Legislators will not be paid unless they appropriate more money for this session - which is very unlikely. This 90th day deadline will serve as the focus to find a budgetary agreement and pass any future reductions - if necessary - for the 2012 budget on to the Governor.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

Budgetary Differences Remain the Same, But May 12 is Deadline

Basic budgetary differences remain the same. Will compensation to state employees for longevity or to equalize their pay to the private market be fully funded? Will the operating budget for the Judicial Branch be increased by higher court fees or state general revenue funds? Will the $1.5 million state grant to Public Broadcasting be zeroed out or cut just 18%? Should the Wichita air fares be subsidized by $5 million? Will state employees have to pay a 5% health insurance surcharge? Will KDHE's Local Environment Protection Program be eliminated completely or reduced 25% to $1 million? Should Base Student Aid Per Pupil be cut an additional $18 to $3,762 as proposed by the House or increased $6 to $3,786 by the Senate? (Note: overall per pupil student aid is reduced over $220 from $4,000 since the final federal stimulus dollars were not replaced.) Will SRS face an additional 5% reduction to their operating budget? Will Washburn's additional operating grant of $5.5 million be eliminated?

There is a total of $70 million in play in these undecided budgetary conference items. There will be efforts in the Kansas House to just cut state budgets by a certain percentage such as 2 or 3 or 5%. Each percent reduction nets about $15 million while excluding certain human service caseloads, debt service, K-12 student aid, corrections and the judicial branch. The $10 million transfer to KAN-ED (computer interconnection system for schools, hospitals & libraries) is under discussion for 2012. There is a debate whether Commerce or the Board of Regents should administer $15 million in grants for aviation, animal health and cancer research? Going forward, will Commerce control the bonding authority of the Kansas Bioscience Authority?

There is uncertainty over the revenue picture in Kansas. April revenues were up a total of $22 million over the projections. However this increase came from two large one-time personal income tax payments while the basic revenue streams of sales and income taxes were actually under the projections. There is now a debate whether these special tax windfalls can be used for developing a reliable ending balance? All of these uncertainties will have to be settled in some fashion. A budget has to be developed and it has to be balanced somehow. The 90th day deadline will force the debate and force a final decision.

FIELD NOTES

ASSESSMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
USDA - on April 27 - released a pre-publication copy of its 2011 Resource Conservation Act Appraisal. This appraisal, part of USDA's implementation of the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act (RCA) assesses the status of soil, water, and related natural resources on non-Federal land and analyzes the effectiveness of current conservation policies and programs. The RCA also directs USDA to develop a "natural conservation plan" in response to its Appraisal. The plan is due to Congress early next year and might also serve as a vehicle for Administration ideas for the conservation title of the 2012 Farm Bill. Among its key findings, the Appraisal includes new data on land-use, farm size & income, use of genetically modified crops, pesticide use, nutrient applications & loss, tillage, irrigation, soil erosion, wetlands, and changes in wildlife habitat.
Read more here.

NATIONWIDE ANALYSIS OF FOOD HUBS
On April 19, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan released the results of a nationwide analysis of food hubs. "Food hub" is a general term that encompasses a variety of models. Common features of food hubs are aggregation, distribution and marketing services for small and mid-sized farms. USDA's Know your Farmer, Know your Food subcommittee on food hubs has identified over 100 operational food hubs and conducted an analysis of over 70 operational food hubs. USDA expects demand for local food to grow from about $4 Billion in2007 to as much as $7 Billion by 2012. This indicates a great deal of economic potential for more food hubs enabling smaller farms to be connected to larger local and regional markets.
Read more here.

WHY BEING A FOODIE ISN'T 'ELITIST'
By Eric Schlosser, Washington Post April 29, 2011
'This name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies. And it gets the elitism charge precisely backward. America's current system of food production --- overly centralized and industrialized, overly controlled by a handful of companies, overly reliant on monocultures, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical additives, genetically modified organisms, factory farms, government subsidies and fossil fuels --- is profoundly undemocratic. It is one more sign of how the few now rule the many. And it is inflicting tremendous harm on American farmers, workers and consumers.... The wealthy will always eat well. It is the poor and working people who need a new, sustainable food system more than anyone else. They live in the most polluted neighborhoods. They are exposed to the worst toxic chemicals on the job. They are sold the unhealthiest foods and can least afford the medical problems that result. A food system based on poverty and exploitation will never be sustainable.
Read article here.

FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE

From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update May 6, 2011
Congress Returns with Budget Front and Center

At the conclusion of the May 5 meeting at Blair House between Vice President Biden and six congressional leaders, all parties to the talks said progress had been made toward a deal that would lead both to a deficit reduction budget deal and a positive vote in Congress to raise the federal borrowing limit. Beyond general platitudes, however, it was not clear to those outside the room just what exactly constituted progress other than they met and agreed to meet again next Tuesday.

Republicans leaders insisted that discretionary and entitlement spending was on the table and tax expenditures off the table, while Democratic leaders insist that everything must be on the table. Behind the scenes, though, it appears a view is emerging that would take the big three entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) off the table along with tax expenditures.
Read more here.

ACTION ALERTS WEEK OF MAY 2

KRC sent out two action alerts to this list last week - one on ATTRA and SARE funding cuts and the second on conservation funding cuts.
See the alerts here.

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APRIL 30, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budget negotiations continue under the dome. The April tax receipts to Kansas came in $22 million dollars over estimates so this extra revenue will assist with developing a budget. Many hours of negotiation and floor debates will take place before a final budget will garner 63 votes in the Kansas House and 21 votes in the Kansas Senate. While the budget debate drags on, other issues will be considered for better or worse. Funding for this legislative session starts to run out by next Friday (May 6) so it seems logical that this may be the last week.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

Budget debate dominates

The conferees from the House and Senate on the final budget have been meeting often to find a compromise between their two budget versions. The Senate has a budget that finishes the 2012 budget with an $8 million ending balance. The House has a budget with an ending balance of over $50 million by making deeper cuts in many programs. The Governor's original 2012 budget had a small ending balance similar to the Senate but the Governor is now requesting a larger ending balance so he would not have to make budget reductions during the fiscal year.

There are probably 10-12 major items that have to be compromised such as contributions to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), K-12 student aide per pupil, state employee salaries, funding for the Kansas Arts Council and Public Broadcasting, and adequacy of funding for the new Kansas Health Division within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Different combinations of trading one reduction for another will be offered to find an agreement that can be taken to the floor of the House and Senate.

Two or three versions will be defeated on the floor before the necessary votes can be found to finally find that illusive compromise. Given that this budget is being developed in the veto session, the Governor will have the final say through his veto of select budgetary items, such as the Kansas Arts Commission, if he chooses. The Kansas Legislature will have little if any chance to reverse any vetoes.

The debate over defining and funding a 'suitable public education' will not be settled this year. There is a constitutional amendment on general orders in the Kansas House to change the constitutional language to make it clear that the Kansas Legislature has the ultimate authority. It will take 84 votes in the Kansas House to move this constitutional change to the Kansas Senate. It is doubtful there are 84 votes in the House, and there are certainly not 27 votes in the Kansas Senate. A resolution was offered in the Kansas House to constitutionally eliminate the State Board of Education and create a Governor's cabinet position of education. For this change to have a chance, the Governor will have to make this a priority and use his political influence to convince Kansans to accept this change.

Kansas House and Kansas Senate conferees are debating what changes need to be made to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to solve the $7.9 Billion deficit over the next 30 years. The Kansas House has passed legislation to offer new employees only a 401-K retirement plan instead of the existing defined benefit plan. The Kansas House also wants to change existing defined benefit plans by rewriting the formulas for figuring current benefits but there will be a legal challenge since this retirement system is a contract between the State and the beneficiaries. The Kansas Senate wants to increase contributions by the State and employees, while creating a commission to evaluate future changes such as the 401-K proposal. The press has reported that certain Kansas Legislators have developed a very lucrative formula to increase the retirement benefits they themselves can draw from KPERS. Legislators argue they are underpaid as public servants and they cannot publicly vote to increase their salaries so they manipulate the KPERS formula instead.

Other issues being maneuvered in final days

Many other issues will be maneuvered while everyone is waiting for the budget debate. The Kansas House continues to pass the Community Defense Act that will restrict adult sexually oriented businesses by 1) establishing a 1000 foot barrier from churches, schools and child care centers, 2) limiting the hours of operation, and 3) defining a distance between patron and performer. The Kansas Senate voted 20 to 20 last year on this legislation but has not yet acted on it this year.

A new abortion clinic licensing bill has now passed that will impact the 3 clinics performing abortions in Kansas. These new rules for equipment and structural changes to these clinics may economically force them out of business.

The Kansas House has passed legislation to have the Kansas Senate confirm judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals. Presently, a judicial selection committee gives the Governor three names from which to choose and Senate confirmation is not required. It would take a constitutional amendment to create a Senate confirmation process on the selection of Kansas Supreme Court Judges. The future of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC) is still being debated. The Governor wanted to meld KTEC into the Department of Commerce but this must be done by statute - not just a Governor's Reorganization Order. Such legislation has not cleared the Kansas Senate yet.

FIELD NOTES

DEFINING SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
What Does Sustainability Mean?
By Brother Dave Andrews,
National Catholic Reporter, April 27, 2011

"...It has been asserted that sustainable development rests on a three-legged stool: social justice, environmental protection and economic well being. In other words it sees three elements: the planet, profit and people as interrelated in any holistic view of sustainable development. Advocates of sustainable agriculture typically utilize use these elements in their vision of sustainability. In more recent days advocates of sustainability have utilized organic agriculture and local agriculture as close synonyms to sustainable agriculture. At one time it was thought that these definitions would suffice to protect sustainable agriculture as distinct and different from more conventional agriculture with its highly industrialized modes of production. But the popularity and positive public image of sustainable agriculture has been seen as a welcome brand for food and fiber production. Such is the case that new branding efforts by industrialized production, processing and distribution systems have now been claiming their own sustainability brands. The evening news programs on public radio frequently carry Monsanto's claim to represent sustainable agriculture."

Read entire article here.

Have Corporations Hijacked the Word 'Sustainable'?
Why we should not let Monsanto and friends decide the standards for sustainability.

By Jill Richardson
January 26, 2011, Alternet


Sustainability is trendy, but what does "sustainability" mean? Unlike organic, a term that is defined and strictly regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, terms like sustainable, green and eco imply environmental friendliness but are not specifically defined. One might argue that shipping food grown in compliance with U.S. organic standards from China to sell them in supermarkets in New York is not sustainable due to the energy required to transport it, but that food could still be certified organic. And, on the contrary, a T-shirt made with genetically engineered cotton could never be certified organic (as genetically engineered seeds are prohibited in the U.S. organic standards), but could it be considered sustainable? Obviously, this wiggle room leaves plenty of opportunities for greenwashing.

Sustainable is defined as "capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage." But lately, some are trying to redefine the term to their own advantage. Ron Moore, a board member of the American Soybean Association, defines sustainable as "producing more food off of each acre while using less natural resources." Under this definition, he claims, soybean producers -- over 90 percent of whom use genetically engineered seeds and plenty of herbicide -- are sustainable.
Read more here.

FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE

We have the right tools- will we use them?

For many years, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, otherwise known as ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas), has provided information on alternative and organic farming practices, specialty crops, and livestock that is simply NOT available elsewhere. Kansas' small farmers, market gardeners, and anyone interested in pursuing a new farm enterprise, has been well served by consulting ATTRA's website, which is populated with hundreds of well researched articles and bulletins on a wide range of topics and questions. ATTRA has become THE tool and resource for small farmers and specialty crop entrepreneurs.

But Congress- in its budget cutting frenzy- has zeroed out funding to this essential program for small farms and innovators across the country-- not because of out right opposition or the high cost of the program-- but because they simply were not paying attention to the fine print.

In addition, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) has funded research, education and outreach initiatives on cutting-edge innovative technology and management options for a more profitable and environmentally sustainable agriculture for years. Continued funding at current conservative levels is critical to the growth and development of sustainable agriculture. Cutting these two programs is NOT where Congress can make the biggest difference in the agricultural budget.

Please read the following summary and call Senator Jerry Moran and let him know the importance of both ATTRA and SARE. Tell him how essential this information is for Kansas small farmers, market gardeners and producers, and specialty crop growers, and the power it has to change our food future.  Call and let him know that you want to see SARE funded at $30 million and the National Sustainable Agriculture Service (ATTRA) at $3 million.

ATTRA Provides Powerful Economic Assets for the Nation

Sustainable agriculture are innovators whose practices and profits benefit the environment and their community. With strategies ranging from managed grazing for livestock to direct marketing of organic vegetables, reduced-pesticide strategies to value-added processing of fruits and grains, these innovators create new jobs and spur economic growth. For decades farmers have counted on two programs for reliable information and farm-tested research:

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) funds research, education, and extension initiatives on profitable, environmentally and socially sound farm practices. SARE has consistently delivered cutting edge research and technology that is farmer-driven, regionally led, and outcomes-oriented. SARE research has led to new production techniques, higher farm income, and greater environmental stewardship.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (also called ATTRA) offers professional, personalized help to farmers and ranchers across the nation looking for information on a wide variety of crop, livestock, energy, and marketing matters. This national program was re-authorized by Congress in the 2008 Farm Bill. In 2010, more than 5.8 million sustainable agriculture publications were downloaded from its website. And more than 177,000 people from 45 states attended National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service workshops or presentations.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service are powerful economic assets, but only if they're funded. SARE funding has not been increased in years and the program is always hugely oversubscribed. Even worse, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service was completely defunded for the rest of FY 2011 as a result of the recent government budget cuts.

Congress is about to make decisions on their priorities for the 2012 funding bill. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran sits on the subcommittee that decides agricultural funding levels. It's important that you let him know you want to see SARE funded at $30 million and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service funded at $3.0 million.

To learn more about SARE on the NSAC website visit:
http://sustainableagriculture.net/home/sustainable-agriculture-research-and-education-sare/ 

To learn more about ATTRA or the National Sustainable Ag Information Service visit:
http://www.ncat.org/news/#tenacity 

Your call is important. Thank you for taking a minute to help keep SARE and National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service funded.

Think this might be a good time to cut spending on soil conservation?

Think Again.

The New York Times recently reported that higher prices for corn and soy coupled with severe storms fueled by climate change were producing unsustainable levels of soil erosion in Iowa and other Corn Belt states. That same week Congress approved a budget deal that cut $500 million from the 2011 budget from programs that help farmers conserve natural resources.

The 2012 budget outlook for programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Wetlands Reserve Program is looking even more grim.

The President's 2012 budget proposes an immediate $1 billion cut, and sets the stage for permanent cuts of $5 billion to conservation in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Enough! These are false budget savings that endanger the nation's soil and water. These resources form the very foundation of our rural economies. The long-term costs of these cuts far outweigh our modest investment in soil conservation.

Congress is about to make decisions on fiscal year 2012 funding priorities. Kansas Senator Jerry Moran sits on the subcommittee that decides agricultural funding levels. It's important that you let him know what you think.

Call Kansas Senator Jerry Moran today at 202-224-6521
Ask for Sen. Moran's aide Aaron Popelka or leave a message with the receptionist.

These two points need to be communicated to Senator Moran:

  • We can't afford any more cuts to agricultural conservation programs. The long-term costs of unsustainable soil erosion to our economy far outweigh our modest investments in conservation. Do not cut funds authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill for conservation on farms and ranches.
  • Please fund the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) competitive grants program at $30 million and the ATTRA or National Sustainable Agriculture Service at $3 million to increase farm income, increase farming opportunities, and increase jobs.

Please click here to let NSAC know how your call went.

If you have questions or comments please contact Mary Fund at 785-873-3431 or at ksrc@rainbowtel.net

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APRIL 22, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budget battles continue in Topeka. The Kansas House and Kansas Senate conferees have compared their respective budgets and still have many items to resolve. The new consensus revenue estimates were developed on April 15 and the budget deficit for Kansas grew $31.7 million.

In addition, new human service caseloads for medical programs, foster care, mental health services, etc were developed on April 14 and the bottom line is that $11 million more will be needed in FY 2012 to fully fund these programs. The veto session will begin on April 27 and a best guess is it will take at least 10 days to finalize a state budget.

While the new revenue consensus estimate did produce a deficit of $31.7 million, overall revenues to Kansas have started to grow for the first time in three years. This deficit was caused by federal tax law changes that decreased revenues to Kansas a total of $77 million. The present form of a complete state budget was developed in the mid-1960's. Since that time Kansas had experienced just two 1-year declines in revenues to the state and each time revenues bounced back the following year. So it was unprecedented to have three years of decline from 2008 to 2010. Without the extra federal stimulus dollars and the one-cent sales tax increase in 2010, budget cuts would have been much more drastic.

Kansas still faces a 6.8% unemployment rate that is historically high and reduces the amount of personal income tax paid to the state. The rise in gasoline prices means that Kansans are spending more for gas and less for other discretionary purchases thus lowering sales tax revenue to the state. The forecast for personal income taxes is a 5% increase in 2012 over 2011.

The human service consensus caseload estimates were first developed in the early 1990's to track programs that are primarily federally mandated. There are 12 programs tracked with regular medical caseloads ($1.344 Billion), nursing facilities ($445 million), foster care contracts ($139 million) and mental health services ($248 million) being the largest. The total for these 12 programs in 2011 is $2.342 Billion and $2.450 Billion in 2012. The entire Kansas' budget for 2012 will be $14 Billion. The regular medical program (Medicaid services for pregnant women, children, disabled and elderly serving a total of 315,000 Kansans) is the primary driver due largely to estimated increases in the number of persons served. One other factor is that with the federal stimulus funds, the federal government paid a slightly higher percentage of total Medicaid costs but for 2012 this extra assistance from Uncle Sam goes away thus higher costs to Kansas.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

While passing a budget is the primary activity of the veto session, there are many bills in House-Senate conference committees that may or may not pass. There are water bills dealing with the Smoky Hill River water benefit district, restarting a water rights conservation program and monitoring water flows in the Arkansas river that have been packaged together that should pass easily.

The Kansas House has passed legislation changing the selection of Kansas Court of Appeals judges from the existing judicial selection process (three nominees given to the Governor) to a confirmation process before the Kansas Senate. The Kansas Senate has so far not dealt with this issue but the House bill has been amended into another Senate bill dealing with retirements of judges.

Abortion legislation will be debated on licensing maternal health clinics that perform at least 5 abortions a month and forcing standard health insurance policies to separately bill for any abortion services offered.

The Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal has developed legislation to define a 'suitable education' for public schools.

Funding for the Governmental Ethics Commission is uncertain as state general funds are decreased and fees for lobbyists, candidates and political action committees must be increased to cover the shortfall. The future of the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation is still being debated. Budgets have been developed to move parts of KTEC into the Board of Regents and Department of Commerce but legislation must be passed to accomplish this. The House has passed such a bill but the Senate has not worked their KTEC bill yet.overnor.

FIELD NOTES

DROUGHT AND THE KANSAS WATER OFFICE
On April 7, the Governor declared a drought watch or drought warning for 47 counties in western Kansas. http://www.kwo.org/Reports%20&%20Publications/Drought/KWO%20Drought%20Report.htm
Throughout March, drought conditions persisted in many parts of Kansas. Most of western Kansas' counties worsened leading to severe drought in southwest and west central Kansas and moderate drought in the rest of western Kansas according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

NATIONAL SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE INFORMATION SERVICE (ATTRA) Needs Our Support
This service is better known under its original name - ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas). ATTRA staff conducts research and gathers information on all kinds of farming, from organic wheat production to rotational grazing to hoophouse production to goats to vegetables. Their website hosts over 300 instructional publications they've published to help farmers learn how to conserve the soil, combat pests organically and market their products so they make money. They've done this all free of charge, since 1986. In the recent budget bill passed by Congress, overnight the funding went from $2.8 million to $0, as the result of a big mistake (they thought it was a sopecial state earmark and not a widely used national program!)
www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/sustainable-ag-education-losses-funding

KRC will issue a special action alert next week calling for letters, calls and e-mails to Kansas Appropriations Committee member Senator Jerry Moran. Stay tuned.

FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE

On Final Rule for Interstate Shipment of State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Products Announced
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced a final rule today that will broaden the market for smaller state-inspected plants. By participating in this voluntary cooperative interstate shipment program, select establishments will have the option to ship meat and poultry products, bearing an official USDA mark of inspection, across state lines.

In participating states, state-inspected establishments selected to take part in this program will be required to comply with all federal standards under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). These establishments will receive inspection services from state inspection personnel that have been trained in the requirements of the FMIA and PPIA.

To view the final rule, visit www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations_&_policies/Interim_&_Final_Rules/index.asp 
or visit the Federal Register online at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/

From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Weekly Update April 22, 2011
National Farmers Market Directory Open for Updates

April 19th, 2011

On Monday, April 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) opened the updating process for the USDA National Farmers Market Directory, which is the official count of farmers markets in the nation. 2011 will be the first year that the directory will track markets with multiple locations and days of operation.

According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the directory is not merely a listing of the nation's more than 6,100 farmers markets: it is also a resource for anyone interested in local food, small producers, and policy surrounding regional food systems.

The directory relies on self-reporting by farmers market managers, so it is crucial that market managers update their listing in time for the summer market season. Market managers can update their listing at www.usdadirectoryupdate.com

NSAC Submits Comment on Development of Guidelines to Measure GHGs and Carbon Sequestration
April 22nd, 2011

On Tuesday, April 19, NSAC responded to a request for comments by USDA on its intent to develop technical guidelines and methods to quantify greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon sequestration for agricultural and forestry activities.

The 2008 Farm Bill directed USDA to prepare technical guidelines that outline methods to measure the carbon benefits from conservation and land management activities. USDA intends to develop measurement methods and guidelines for various types of producers and conservation and production practices.

The Climate Change Program Office within the USDA Office of the Chief Economist will oversee the development of the guidelines, which will eventually be used by USDA to assess GHG emissions and carbon sequestration resulting from conservation programs and practices and evaluate and improve national and regional GHG inventory efforts.

Among our recommendations, we strongly encourage the Climate Change Program Office to engage stakeholders in an ongoing dialogue aimed at informing each step of the process.

 - Click here to read the full NSAC comment.

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APRIL 16, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budget negotiations will begin in Topeka next week. The Kansas Senate Ways & Means committee and the Kansas House Appropriations committee will convene to start writing the final Omnibus bill for the veto session that starts April 27. At the same, conferees from the Senate Ways & Means and House Appropriations committees will begin reconciling the differences between the Senate and House budget bill. There are over 250 differences between the two budgets that will have to be negotiated and reconciled.

By the time the conferees meet next week, new consensus revenue estimates for the next 18 months will have been developed. Unemployment in Kansas is still at 6.8% - one of the highest Kansas' unemployment rates in the past 50 years. The federal tax compromise from last December changed the calculation on depreciation rates for business equipment that will impact Kansas tax revenue. The estimate for Kansas is $77 million in lower than anticipated revenues. Much higher gasoline prices will lower sales tax revenues to Kansas from avoided discretionary purchases. Whatever final revenue number is developed, that number will have to be used to craft a final budget for Fiscal Year 2012.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

NEW KANSAS LAWS

  • SB 152 permits a person with a concealed carry license to carry a concealed handgun while lawfully hunting, fishing or fur harvesting.
  • SB 186 allows the Secretary of Agriculture discretion in suspending a pesticide business license without a hearing until compliance is reached. Prior law stated the Secretary of Agriculture must suspend the license if the pesticide business was not in compliance with the law.
  • SR 1819 disapproves the Governor's Executive Reorganization Order No. 39 which was to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission. The Kansas Arts Commission remains a state agency.
  • SB 198 designates 50 counties as Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ), effectively providing an income tax exemption for certain out-of-state taxpayers who relocate to these counties. This law also authorizes these counties to participate in a state-matching program to repay student loans of up to $15,000 for certain students who establish domicile in ROZ counties. These ROZ counties must fund half of these student loan repayments if the county elects to participate.
  • Executive Reorganization Order No. 36 transfers the powers, duties and functions of the Division of Travel and Tourism Development within the Kansas Department of Commerce to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and renames the agency as the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
  • Executive Reorganization Order No. 40 transfers the powers, duties and functions of the Agriculture Products Development Division within the Kansas Department of Commerce to the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). In addition, the powers, duties and functions of the Kansas Animal Health Department and the State Conservation Commission are transferred to KDA.
  • SB 122 authorizes the Director of the Kansas Water Office, after consultation with other agriculture and natural resources agencies, to negotiate and grant easements on state property for construction and maintenance of conservation projects with cooperating landowners for the expected life of the project. State property is defined as real property currently owned in full or in part by the state in the Arkansas, Kansas or Missouri rivers in Kansas, in and along the bed of the river to the ordinary high water mark on the banks.
  • SB 227 prevents permanent severance of wind and solar rights from a tract of land and establishes daylight-marking requirements for anemometer towers. Anemometers are instruments for measuring and recording wind speed.
  • SB 119 authorizes cities and counties, in coordination with railroads providing service, to enter into loan agreements with the Secretary of Transportation to obtain Rail Service Improvement Funds by pledging Special City and County Highway Fund receipts as collateral.
  • HB 2192 increases the maximum lawful speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour on any separated multilane highway, as designated by the Secretary of Transportation. A violation of a 75 mile per hour speed limit by not more than 10 miles per hour cannot be construed as a moving violation nor could it be reported to the Division of Vehicles or considered by an insurance company in determining rates for automobile liability insurance.

To see all legislative summaries of bills that passed the Kansas Legislature through April 6, go to www.kslegislature.org/klrd (under Summaries). A final summary will be developed following the veto session. To see the final bills, go to http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/year1/measures/ and view the enrolled bills signed by the Governor.

FIELD NOTES

KANSAS FLINT HILLS SMOKE MANAGEMENT
This website www.ksfire.org has been developed to give land managers in the Flint Hills the informational tools on prescribed burns. These maps show the impact by color code of the smoke in the following 48 hours. http://ksfire.sonomatechdata.com/view/summary/

ENERGY FROM AN ARTIFICAL LEAF
A silicon 'leaf' that mimics photosynthesis could open the possibility of an entirely new source of cheap and abundant electricity. MIT researchers say they've developed an advanced solar cell the size of a playing card; when floated in even muddy water under direct sunlight, it splits H2O into hydrogen and oxygen, which then can be transferred to fuel cells that produce an electric current. Lead researcher Daniel Nocera states that a single leaf and a gallon of water could produce a day's worth of electricity for a household in the developing world. What makes Nocera's version different - and scalable - is that it uses inexpensive materials and can operate for at least 45 hours straight. An Indian company has already signed a development deal and a commercial application may be ready in the next three to five years.
(THE WEEK - April 15, 2011 p. 23)

FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE

SUMMARY OF CONGRESS' CUTS TO AGRICULTURE AND FARM PROGRAMS

On Thursday April 14, Congress passed a final 6-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2011). The cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending will have far reaching impacts to conservation, water and soil quality protection, opportunities for young and beginning farmers and a more sustainable agriculture.

The CR results in cuts of $38 billion. Cuts to discretionary spending in agriculture total $3 billion or 14 percent relative to 2010 levels. This is less than the 22% cut initially proposed by the House version. The final bill reduces Farm Service Agency credit program funding by $433 million (including a 27 percent cut in direct farm ownership loans targeted to beginning farmers), Natural Resources Conservation Service funding by $118 million, rural low income housing funds by $175 million, Agricultural Research Service funding by $64 million, and National Institute for Food and Agriculture funding by $126 million relative to FY 2010. It also cuts the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) feeding program by $504 million, eliminating WIC reserves that guard against swings in the economy and food prices.

A particularly disturbing cut was the elimination of all funding for the National Sustainable Information Service, known as ATTRA. This program fell due to a misunderstanding of it being an "earmark" instead of the national, farm bill authorized program it is. NSAC and many others are working to see that it is restored in the 2012 funding.

But in addition to cuts to discretionary programs, cuts to mandatory programs for the remainder of 2011 also have serious repercussions. Farm Bill mandatory conservation programs will take a massive cut of more than $500 million in the final appropriations bill for the remainder of FY 2011. The bill proposes to cut funding for the Conservation Security Program (CSP) by $39 million, the Wetlands Reserve Program by 19%, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $350 million relative to the level provided in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Cuts to these programs are critical because as debate begins on the 2012 farm bill, the current budget levels will be the starting point for program funding and/or programs cuts. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition provides updated information weekly.

See the link to the NSAC April 15 article here.

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APRIL 11, 2011 E-REPORT

by Mary Fund

The Kansas State Legislature will be back in session beginning April 27 for the veto session. The next Weekly Report will come out later this week summarizing what did and didn't happen this session. Budget issues remain to be resolved.

And of course, late last week saw the budget showdown in Washington, D.C. where Congress battled right up to the midnight deadline over federal budget cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year. Below are the excellent comments from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on what it all means for agriculture, food and farming. We will continue to share NSAC's news with you throughout this week and the coming weeks.

FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE

What We Know and Don't Know on the Budget
April 9th, 2011
(From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)

We have delayed publishing an update on the fiscal year 2011 appropriations and fiscal year 2012 budget bills several times in the past week due to a lack of detailed information emanating from Capitol Hill. Now, with the government shutdown averted just after midnight last night, we understand (from the many emails received!) that readers would like to know what happened on sustainable agriculture priorities. Unfortunately there is not yet much to report with any degree of assurance.

Fiscal Year 2011 Bill

We will likely not be able to provide details on the 2011 appropriations bill until late Monday after the bill is (hopefully) made public. Appropriations staff on Capitol Hill are busy this weekend working on the details of the package announced last night.

From press accounts, the basics of the deal are a $42 billion cut below FY 2010 levels for non-defense spending coupled with a $4 billion increase in defense spending, for a net decrease of approximately $38 billion. Of that $38 billion, $10 billion was already enacted via the two preceding short term Continuing Resolutions over the past five weeks and $2 billion more was enacted last night in the form of a new one-week Continuing Resolution.

No USDA programs were included in the new $2 billion in cuts; those cuts were focused on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development.

Agriculture and rural development were already subject to disproportionately high cutbacks in the earlier two short-term Continuing Resolutions.

The new Continuing Resolution passed last night expires next Friday, April 15, at the same time that many people will be racing to the Post Office with their last minute tax return filings. The rest-of-FY 2011 appropriations bill is being drafted now. It will be made public soon, presumably on Monday. The House will vote on the bill first. By House rules, the bill will need to sit for three days before it can be voted on, presumably on Thursday. The Senate will vote later on Thursday or on Friday.

Two issues have been particularly contentious over the last several weeks. First, there has been significant disagreement over the issue of whether the final measure will include cuts to mandatory spending programs in addition to discretionary spending, which is the normal focus of appropriations bills. (Cuts to mandatory programs, such as Social Security, food stamps, or farm subsidies, are known in Hill-speak as "CHIMPS" (changes in mandatory program spending)). Second, it has been uncertain whether the bill would legislate as well as appropriate via provisions known as legislative "riders."

According to press accounts, the final bill does include substantial CHIMPS, as favored by Senate Democrats and the White House. Nearly $18 billion of the $42 billion in non-defense cuts are reported to be from mandatory spending. Or to put it another way, of the $30 billion remaining to be cut beyond the reductions already made in the short-term Continuing Resolutions, 60 percent will come from mandatory programs.

Among the CHIMPS in the bill are $3.5 billion from unspent Children's Health Insurance Program, $2.2 billion from the $6 billion in the health care law for co-op health plans, $2.5 billion in unexpended highway funding, and immediate as well as long term savings to Pell grants. We do not yet know if the CHIMPS include cuts to the conservation, energy, or other Farm Bill titles.

On the legislative rider front, all of the measures past earlier by the House to curtail the authority of the EPA were excluded from the final deal.

A key issue in the final negotiations was whether to include restrictions on family planning and abortion programs in the bill. The anti-Planned Parenthood and related riders were kept out of the final deal on the basis of a promise of a stand-alone vote on the issue later this year.

The District of Columbia was the big loser in the "rider" war. The DC government is now prevented from spending its own tax receipts on abortion services for low-income women. In addition, as championed by House Speaker John Boehner, the District must now provide vouchers to low-income children to attend religious or private schools instead of public schools.

House FY 2012 Budget Resolution

While all the activity on the FY 2011 appropriations bill was going on this week, the House Republicans also introduced and passed out of the Budget Committee their budget resolution for FY 2012. The resolution will be debated on the House floor this week. In the coming weeks, we will be covering that resolution in more detail, as well as the one expected to be released soon by Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), chair of the Senate Budget Committee. President Obama is also expected to release his own budget blueprint on Wednesday.

We can say two things about the House FY 2012 budget resolution with assurance.

First, the House resolution suggests a $30 billion reduction in farm commodity and crop insurance subsidies over the course of the next ten years, but it postpones the reduction until after Congress has time to work on the 2012 Farm Bill.

If the $3 billion a year reduction were to be made with $2 billion from commodity production support and $1 billion from crop insurance, it would likely reduce direct payments to corn, soy, wheat, cotton and rice producers and landowners by 40 percent.

Second, the House resolution calls for a $18 billion reduction, over ten years, in environmental and natural resource spending. These reductions will affect farm bill conservation spending as well as funding for EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other government natural resource agencies.

How much if any of that $18 billion is assumed to come from farm bill conservation spending or discretionary spending for conservation technical assistance at USDA is unknown at this time.

The budget resolution, once it is finalized, controls the spending limits that appropriations bills must abide by. The House resolution assumes increasingly tighter limits on discretionary spending.

With respect to mandatory spending, budget resolutions can mandate a "budget reconciliation" process in which authorizing committees, such as the Agriculture Committee, must come up with legislation to scale back spending to the numbers in the resolution. Strangely, however, the House budget resolution does not call for budget reconciliation, even while calling attention to items such as the suggested $30 billion cut in farm program spending and other large reductions in mandatory spending.

With respect to the nutrition program part of the farm bill, the House resolution assumes a radical change in the SNAP or food stamp program, transforming it from a federal entitlement program to a state block grant program that would reduce overall food stamp spending. Similar proposals were attempted during the 1980s and 1990s, but both times were turned back by an alliance of farm, agribusiness, and anti-hunger groups.

Whatever the outcome of the congressional budget resolution process this year, it is important to remember that the budget resolution can assign a mandatory spending budget reduction number to an authorizing committee such as the Agriculture Committee, but then it is entirely up to the authorizing committee as to where and how to make the required cuts. Assumptions undergirding the budget resolution are just that, assumptions, that do not need to be followed.

We will continue to report on the FY 2012 budget and appropriations process over the course of the coming months.

Read more news from NSAC here

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APRIL 2, 2011 E-REPORT

by Mary Fund

The budget battles continue on under the dome in Topeka and the revenue picture remains unclear. The Kansas House has now passed a $14 Billion Fiscal Year 2012 budget that cuts $80 million from the Governor's recommended budget. The Kansas Senate has passed a budget that is very close to the Governor's budget.

The regular portion of the 2011 Kansas Legislative session closed on April 1. The veto session will begin on April 27 when these two versions of the state budget must be unified with new revenue estimates.

The Kansas House spent seven hours debating their proposed budget. There were key amendments proposed that would have cut the budget another $100 million or frozen the 2012 budget at 2011 levels but they were soundly defeated. Unfortunately, there were severe administrative reductions built into the 2012 House budget. In the Kansas Department of Corrections, Kansas has 160 parole officers supervising 6,000 parolees statewide. 25% of these positions will be eliminated. The Kansas prisons are completely full now so any parolee that returns to prison will cost Kansas $25,000 a year and force Kansas to build more prison space. In the Kansas Department of Aging, salaries and wages will be reduced by $3 million that will result in cutting the number of employees from 214 to 164. Meals on Wheels and congregate feeding programs will be reduced 10%. As these community services decline and staffing tightens, more frail home bases elderly clients will end up in nursing homes costing Kansas even more.

The Kansas Senate passed a $14 Billion state budget that has an ending balance of $8 million for the 2012 budget. The Senate's budget restored the funding - $690,000 - for the Kansas Arts Commission that was eliminated in the Governor's budget. The Senate's budget restored $1.4 million for Public Broadcasting System grants that was eliminated in the Governor's budget. The Senate developed an early childhood block grant program that funds the Early Head Start program that was eliminated by the Governor. Community mental health funds for the uninsured and children with persistent and severe mental illness needs were restored in the Senate's budget. Base student aid for K-12 public school students is reduced $230 to $3,786 per student. $200 million is transferred from the Highway Plan to the State General Fund. Transfers to counties and cities from state funds for property tax relief, city/county highway funds and revenue sharing are completely eliminated for 2011, 2012 & 2013.

The revenue picture remains unsettled. State tax revenues in March were $19 million below the estimates. Hopefully this is due to early tax refunds. On April 15, consensus revenue estimators from Legislative Research, the Governor's office and university professors will meet to develop new 18-month revenue projections that will be used to finalize the 2012 State budget.

Around April 20, conferees from the Kansas House and Kansas Senate will start meeting to settle the differences between the two budgets passed by their respective chamber. The House budget passed 69 to 52 while the Senate budget passed 36 to 3 giving the Senate a stronger hand in these budget deliberations. If the new revenue estimates are reduced and more budgetary reductions must be found, the House will be in a stronger position to exact more cuts.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

NEW KANSAS ELECTION LAW
House Bill 2067 - written by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and sponsored by Rep. Lance Kinzer - is now law with some amendments. This law requires photo identification of all in-person voters at every election and requires inclusion of the number on or a copy of a specified form of photo ID for all voters submitting advance ballots by mail for every election. This law allows for the issuance of a free photo ID to anyone who qualifies and signs an affidavit. This law requires any person registering to vote on or after January 1, 2013 to submit evidence of U.S. citizenship. This law requires the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to provide a free birth certificate for this voter registration purpose. This law requires the Secretary of State to provide notice of the ID requirements in print, broadcast television, radio, cable television and government websites.

The Kansas Senate on Ethics and Elections amended the bill to provide free non-voter identification cards and provide free birth certificates to anyone who swears under oath that he or she plans to register to vote and does not possess any of the documents that constitute evidence of U.S. citizenship under the law. The Committee amended this law to return penalties for violation of election laws to those in current law. The Committee removed a section that would have authorized the Secretary of State to prosecute election crimes. The Committee provided that proof of citizenship requirements would not become effective until January 1, 2013. The total fiscal cost is uncertain at best. The Secretary of State and Department of Revenue assume they can absorb the extra costs with existing resources. Any new costs to the counties cannot be estimated and there is no funding in the Governor's 2012 Budget request for the counties.

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FIELD NOTES

USDA has mapped rural county characteristics and provided the data through an online, interactive Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America. Included are maps of unemployment data, population data, homeownership, and more. Specific data can be accessed by clicking on the map.
To see this Atlas go to http://ers.usda.gov/data/ruralatlas/

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FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE
by Mary Fund

FARM BILL DEBATE STARTS WITH 2011 FUNDING BILL
From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) April 1, 2011

While most commentaries on the 2012 Farm Bill treat it, quite logically, as a coming attraction, in many key respects the battle is already joined. Understanding why that is the case requires some insight into the strange world of congressional budgeting.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill that Congress and the Administration are trying to find common ground on before current funding expires next Friday will almost certainly reach beyond cuts to discretionary spending the normal and proper purview of appropriations bills and dip into mandatory funding too, even though mandatory spending is normally within the purview of authorizing committees.
Read more here.

HOUSE PASSES BILL TO LIMIT EPA AUTHORITY WHILE SENATE CONSIDERS EPA AMENDMENTS
From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) April 1, 2011

On Thursday, March 31, the House of Representatives passed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (H.R. 872), a bill that would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from requiring entities to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System (NPDES) permit for the application of pesticides near navigable waters, so long as they
are already registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The bill, offered by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and 137 cosponsors, was passed 292-130. It was offered in response to a 2009 court case, National Cotton Council v. EPA, in which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements apply to farmers who are applying pesticides in or near waterways.

Before it can become law, the bill would have to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President. It is considered unlikely to become law in its current form.
Continue reading here.

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MARCH 26, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The Kansas Legislature is headed into the final week of the regular session with budgets to be debated and dozens of bills to be passed. The heavy lifting of passing a budget for 2012 and capital improvements will take several hours of floor debate for the respective chambers to finish their fiscal vision. The final combined budget between the Kansas House and Kansas Senate will probably not be finished before the first adjournment on April 1st or 2. Many bills (pertaining to one subject matter) have been combined into single bills that may or may not be acceptable to one of the chambers. By rule, these bills must pass this last week. If not, these bills will be held over for the 2012 Legislative session.

The basics of the 2012 State budget are pretty clear. The Kansas Legislature adopted most of the recommendations of the Governor. The final federal stimulus money will not be replaced for K-12 public schools, so per pupil spending will be reduced from $3,975 to $3,750 per student. Funding for special education will meet federal requirements and there will be increased funding for school employees in the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS). $200 million from the new transportation plan will be transferred to the State General Fund (SGF). Certain executive reorganization orders consolidating certain functions in the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will save a few million dollars. State employees will receive no pay increase, and some state employees making over $40,000/year may see a cut in pay.

The battle between the Kansas House and Kansas Senate will be over additional cuts to build a larger ending balance for the 2012 state budget. It will be these extra reductions that will lengthen the time to find a budget that can pass both the House and the Senate. Administrative costs have been slashed across the board threatening the capacity of SRS or KDHE or the Kansas Department of Aging to perform their basic duties.

It is probable that these budget deliberations will carry over to the veto session that starts April 27. New revenue estimates for the next 18 months will be developed mid-April and must be used to finalize the 2012 state budget. There will be some long and contentious budget debates between the House and Senate conferees to create an acceptable final product.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

IMMIGRATION
The immigration debate is far from settled. The Kansas House is intent on passing some legislation that tightens down on undocumented residents. The good news is that the Kansas version of the 'Arizona' law was not passed out of the Kansas House Judiciary and a special maneuver to bring this bill up for a floor debate in the Kansas House was defeated 80 to 44. The Kansas Senate Federal & State committee voted down the repeal of 'in-state' tuition for certain undocumented Kansas high school graduates. The Kansas House will work to find another bill to attach this repeal of 'in-state' tuition and try to force the full Kansas Senate to vote on this issue. The chamber of commerce and the Kansas Livestock Association have worked to block any legislation that would require employers to use the federal "e-verify" system that checks citizenship status. Having local law enforcement officials check citizenship has proven too expensive for counties and cities. Proving citizenship to register to vote for the first time will be implemented in 2013 in Kansas.

WATER LEGISLATION
The final details are being completed on certain water bills. Establishing the Smoky Hill River water benefit district has been accepted by both the House and the Senate. Providing conservation easements for landholders next to the Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri rivers to stop soil erosion has been passed by the House and Senate. Developing a new conservation provision to protect water rights has been passed by the House and Senate. This conservation program in the Water Rights Division of the Kansas Department of Agriculture will be self- funded through voluntary fees from the water rights holder. These bills have been rolled together and should pass easily this next week.

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FIELD NOTES

KRC SPONSORS LOCAL FOODS SEMINAR AT KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

The Kansas Rural Center organized a local foods seminar for the Kansas Department of Agriculture on Friday March 25. This four- hour seminar featured some of Kansas' most successful local food entrepreneurs. Local Burger and The MERC from Lawrence provided a local foods luncheon of local meat/veggie sandwiches, local mushrooms/greens salad and cookies made with Kansas' flour. Besides the leadership staff from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, attendance included the directors of USDA - Rural Development, USDA - Farm Service Agency, Kansas State University Research & Extension, Kansas Small Business Development Centers, and the Beginning Farmer Loan Program at the Kansas Development Finance Administration.

Dr. Rhonda Janke from Kansas State University (KSU) started the discussion with an overview of local foods consumption data in Kansas. Rhonda detailed a balanced diet and how that compares to existing local food production in certain counties. The bottom line is that consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is too low and Kansas needs to increase production. While Kansans consume $767 million in fruits and vegetables annually, only $32 million (4%) is grown locally. Historically, Kansas had 109,708 farms selling vegetables in 1920 while in 2007 the number was just 473. Some good news is that there has been a slight increase in vegetable and fruit farms from 2002 to 2007. Key challenges are making a "living wage" growing produce in Kansas and scaling up production from direct sales such as farmers markets to supplying supermarkets or institutional accounts such as schools or hospitals.

Rita York - general manager of The Community Mercantile or The MERC in Lawrence - gave an overview of the successes and challenges The MERC has faced since it's beginning in 1974. The MERC is the largest natural foods coop supermarket in Kansas. Sales were over $12 million in 2010 with an average of 10,500 customers weekly. The MERC has over 5,200 member owners. In terms of local foods, 78% of the eggs sold are locally produced at 11 farms. Even though the MERC has 30 local farms providing produce, just 8% of the produce sold is grown locally. The MERC is committed to buying more local food and is exploring the options to scale up local food production.
http://communitymercantile.com/

Diana Endicott is the founder and manager of Good Natured Family Farms - an alliance of 100 farms in Kansas and Missouri that sell at the Hen House supermarkets and the Balls Price Chopper supermarkets in Kansas City as well as The MERC in Lawrence. Sales will top $5 million this year. Their local foods include beef, pork, eggs, cheese, honey, bison, heritage turkeys and produce. By offering a wide variety of local products, they have more leverage in the market and more acceptance by the supermarkets. Diana has a federally inspected meat processing plant at Uniontown, KS that now processes poultry in addition to the red meats.
http://www.goodnatured.net/

Hilary Brown is the founder of the Local Burger restaurant in Lawrence that opened in 2005. Local Burger serves locally raised grass-fed only livestock and pasture raised pork and poultry. Hilary is now expanding her production of 'The World's Best Veggie Burger' made with organic ingredients. Hilary has also developed a 'Spicy Green Chili Adzuki Bean Burger' that is made with organic ingredients. Hilary buys organic Kansas' flour for her sandwich buns.
http://www.localburger.com/

Mercedes Taylor-Puckett from the Kansas Rural Center gave an update on farmers markets in Kansas. Kansas now has over 102 farmers markets. By the end of this year, 19 of these farmers markets will have electronic benefit transfer (EBT) capabilities to accept the Vision Card (electronic food stamps). In 2010, over $29,000 in Vision Card transactions were processed at 13 farmers markets. In 2011, over $500 million in food stamps will be received by Kansas' residents; the EBT program increases access for these folks to farmers markets. Helping gardeners to scale up production is a major challenge for farmers markets and meeting the growing consumer demand for local produce.
http://www.ksfarmersmarkets.org/

Ed Reznicek, General Manager of the Kansas Organic Producers (KOP) shared information about organic marketing in Kansas. Started in 1974 as an information sharing group, today KOP is a marketing/bargaining cooperative that markets organic grains and other products for about 60 active members from Kansas and bordering states. The grains include wheat, corn, soybeans, milo, millet, barley, oats as well as alfalfa, clover and other forages. KOP is in the process of purchasing a soybean processing facility in Dubois, NE. KOP is also a partner in the ownership of Central Soy Foods in Lawrence, KS, which produces tofu, tempeh and soymilk from organic soybeans.
http://www.kansasruralcenter.org/kop.htm

Erik Wisner - Food Safety director at the Kansas Department of Agriculture - gave a presentation on the state inspected meat slaughter and processing facilities. Kansas has 58 state inspected meat processing plants and 32 custom slaughter plants. In the 2008 federal Farm Bill, provisions were made to allow state inspected meat processing plants to sell across state lines but USDA is still drafting rules and regulations to make this change possible.

In conclusion, the Kansas Rural Center requested that the Kansas Department of Agriculture designate one of their rural development division staff as a "local foods coordinator". KRC also recommended that a local foods council should be established to identify the resources and opportunities for Kansas to increase local food production and consumption. This council should consist of representatives from K-State, Kansas Small Business Development Centers, Beginning Farmer Loan Program, USDA - Rural Development & FSA, SRS, WIC program, advocates and entrepreneurs.

Time will tell whether KDA and others will be able to respond to the growing interest in local foods and the opportunities local and regional food production and its related businesses present for economic development in Kansas.

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FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE
by Mary Fund

LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST USDA FOR GE ALFALFA APPROVAL
 - March 18, 2011
From the Center for Food Safety

Today, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), arguing that the agency's recent unrestricted approval of genetically engineered (GE), "Roundup Ready" Alfalfa was unlawful. The GE crop is engineered to be immune to the herbicide glyphosate, which Monsanto markets as Roundup. USDA data show that 93% of all the alfalfa planted by farmers in the U.S. is grown without the use of any herbicides. With the full deregulation of GE alfalfa, USDA estimates that up to 23 million more pounds of toxic herbicides will be released into the environment each year. "USDA has once again failed to provide adequate oversight of a biotech crop," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "This reckless approval flies in the face of overwhelming evidence that GE alfalfa threatens the rights of farmers and consumers, as well as significant harm to the environment. APHIS has refused to apply and enforce the law and instead has chosen to bow to the wishes of the biotech industry."
Read more here.

UN EXPERT MAKES CASE FOR ECOLOGICAL FARMING PRACTICES TO BOOST FOOD PRODUCTION

March 8, 2011 - Small-scale farmers can double food production in a decade by using simple ecological methods, according to the findings of a new United Nations study released today, which calls for a fundamental shift towards agroecology as a poverty alleviation measure.

"To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available, says Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, entitled "Agro-ecology and the right to food." "Today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live - especially in unfavourable environments," he added.

Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty. It enhances soils productivity and protects the crops against pests by relying on the natural environment such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects, according to the study.

"To date, agroecological projects have shown an average crop yield increase of 80 per cent in 57 developing countries, with an average increase of 116 per cent for all African projects," Mr. De Schutter says. "Recent projects conducted in 20 African countries demonstrated a doubling of crop yields over a period of 3 to 10 years." Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks, notes the study, which is based on extensive review of existing scientific data.
Continue reading here.

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MARCH 18, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

As March Madness starts in the basketball world so the game is on at the Kansas Legislature. How can the Kansas House or Kansas Senate leverage the other body to get their priorities passed? First adjournment is just two weeks away so the intensity of the political maneuvering is escalating. It is sausage making time under the dome.

What priorities will be traded off to get a bill passed? Every issue is fair game to be traded for any other issue. The budgetary process is down to speculative amendments that are not fully understood or vetted. A final budget bill for the remainder of this fiscal year and 2012 may or may not be passed before first adjournment on April 2.

Now is the time when legislative committees start combining bills to pressure the other body. For example, the Kansas House passed a bill (HB 2067) mandating that voters must have a photo ID and new registrants to vote must provide proof of citizenship. The Kansas Senate is in the process of changing and weakening this bill. So the Kansas House Elections Committee has taken SB 129 - a simple bill fixing the process to replace Senators who retire - and now has amended HB 2067 (with a few minor changes) into this senate bill. The Kansas House will pass this new SB 129. The Kansas Senate will not accept these changes and a conference committee of 3 House members and 3 Senators will discuss the opportunities for a compromise. There may be room for some compromise or a decision will be made by the Senate or the House to let this legislation die at least for this year.

More troubling is the maneuver to add a bill that has not had any hearings. SB 127 passed the Senate and is being worked in the Kansas House Elections committee. SB 127 changes the dates for local races such as city councils and school boards to the fall with state/national elections. HB 2308 allows certain election report filings to be done electronically. HB 2308 was never given a hearing and truly discussed to see if there are any 'unintended' consequences. However, the Elections Committee amended HB 2308 into SB 127 and this new amended bill will end up in a House/Senate conference committee.

The rules on these maneuvers are vague. It used to be a rule that a bill had to have passed the House or the Senate to be considered for inclusion in a combined bill but no more. How badly does one chamber want a particular piece of legislation and what amendments will they tolerate to get the basic bill passed? What bills are considered so important that they must pass and thus those bills are subject to some manipulation.

One saving grace in Kansas is that constitutionally the title of the bill must track the subject matter of the bill so this places limitations on what can get amended into 'must pass' bills. Such is not the case in the U.S. Congress where there is no title and subject matter limitation.

LEGISLATIVE DEADLINES AND THE BUDGET

March 23 is the final deadline to pass legislation that originated in the other chamber unless the bill has passed through a special committee such as Ways & Means or Federal State & Affairs thus negating the timelines. April 2 is the final day to consider any legislation except vetoes by the Governor or the final Omnibus bill that will be considered during the veto session. The veto session will begin April 27 and will go several days to finish the final budget.

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee is working hard to finish the mega-appropriations bill that includes budgets for 2011, 2012 and capitol improvements. The plan is to debate this mega-bill on the floor of the Kansas House March 22 and 23. Kansas' House leadership is determined to build a $35 million ending balance for the 2011 budget headed into developing the 2012 budget. The Governor has used his allotment power to reduce budgets by $56 million with public education taking the largest cut of $51 million. This reduction by the Governor simply gives Kansas an ending balance of zero for the 2011 budget that ends June 30. By law, Kansas cannot have a budget end in deficit.

Now the games begin to exact cuts wherever possible to build that $35 million ending balance. In the Kansas House Appropriations Committee, a 15% reduction was made to the state funding for the Kansas Department of Health & Environment saving $2.7 million. There were no details given on the specific programs that might be cut. The state funding for safety net clinics for the poor and the public health departments will be impacted. Many more of these arbitrary amendments will be proposed and many enacted.

The Kansas Senate Ways & Means Committee has finally finished their work on the mega-appropriations bill but there is a question if the Kansas Senate will pass this bill before the adjournment on April 2? If a Senate budget bill were passed and sent to the House, the House might just gut the Senate budget, replace it with the more frugal House version and send it back to the Senate for a vote on the Senate floor to concur. There is some debate how such a vote would go.

The Kansas House has changed their rules so that the maneuver mentioned above in regards to a Senate budget coming to the Kansas House - inserted into an already passed House budget bill - could not be concurred to on the floor of the Kansas House. This changed budget bill from the Senate would have to be sent to the House Appropriations Committee before any floor action. The Kansas House changed the rule for floor amendments on budget bills so if a member wants to add funding to a given program there must be an identified reduction in another program before such an amendment can be proposed. However, this rule does not apply to proposed tax cuts so tax cuts do not have to be paid for. There is no mandate for House members to identify what programs would be reduced or eliminated if revenues to Kansas were lowered via tax policy. The Kansas House did vote down a bill to rescind the 1-cent increase in the sales tax from last year. And the Kansas House did not support a bill to make the 1-cent sales tax permanent and start eliminating corporate and personal income taxes. 

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FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE
by Mary Fund

CONGRESS PASSES 3-WEEK BUDGET EXTENSION
March 18th, 2011 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

On Thursday, March 17, the Senate passed a three-week continuing resolution, which extends fiscal year (FY) 2010 federal funding levels until April 8. The House passed companion legislation on Tuesday, March 15, so the bill will now go to the President's desk for his signature.

As we reported earlier, the three-week extension will cut $6 billion dollars in spending, including $3.5 billion from authorized programs and $2.6 billion in earmarks. Click here for a description of the major cuts to agriculture research, extension, education, and conservation accounts contained in the short-term CR.
Read more here.

ATTRA LOSES ITS FUNDING, AT LEAST TEMPORARILY
March 18th, 2011 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

One very distressing casualty of the continuing series of Continuing Resolutions that are keeping the government open but cutting funding week by week is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, known as ATTRA. ATTRA's $2.8 million was cut entirely in H.R. 1, the House-passed full-year Continuing Resolution from mid-February and that proposed program termination was unfortunately included among the $6 billion in cuts adopted by Congress this week in the new short-term Continuing Resolution keeping the government operating through April 8.
Read more here.

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MARCH 11, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budget battles continue as the conferees from the Kansas House and Kansas Senate cannot agree on a rescission bill for this fiscal year that ends on June 30. Special education funding remains the primary challenge along with agreement on an adequate ending balance. The Governor and the Kansas House want a $35 million ending balance headed into the FY 2012 budget but the Kansas Senate has offered a $21 million balance. At the same time, the respective budget committees in the House and Senate are looking for every penny and dollar saving to build the FY 2012 budget.

After three years of budget reductions and still a $300+ million deficit, there are no easy choices left. March and April state tax revenue collections will have an impact on the final budget. Around April 15, state revenue consensus estimators will meet to develop revenue estimates for the next 18 months and these figures will have to be used to finish the budgets for this fiscal year and the FY 2012 state budget.

As this legislative session winds down to the first adjournment on April 3, different and controversial proposals are testing the political waters. Sub SB 95 would phase out all corporate income taxes in five years by increasing sales taxes on certain services and eliminating certain sales tax exemptions. The Kansas House will vote on HB 2091 that would repeal the one-cent sales tax increase from last year and create a much deeper deficit. HCR 5018 is a constitutional amendment to abolish the state board of education and create a secretary of education in the Governor's cabinet. This abolishment of the State Board of Education has been turned down by voters a few times in the last 40 years. The Kansas Senate Judiciary committee will hold hearings - Thursday March 17 at 9:30 am in 548-S - on two Senate bills (SB 146, SB 165) and two House bills (HB 2035, HB 2218) on changes to abortion regulation in Kansas.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

IMMIGRATION POLICY

Immigration policy will be on the front burner in the next week. The Kansas House has passed HB 2006 that would eliminate in-state tuition for 416 undocumented students at community colleges and universities. The Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs committee on Wednesday - March 16 at 10:30 am in Room 144-S will hold hearings. Governor Brownback co-sponsored the DREAM Act that would have established this policy for undocumented students at the federal level. The Governor has stated he opposes changing current law. The Kansas House has passed HB 2067 that mandates photo identification to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote. Spirited hearings were held before the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections committee on the fiscal cost and practicality of implementing these electoral changes. HB 2067 will be substantially changed before it leaves the Kansas Senate. HB 2372 is Kansas' version of the Arizona law that mandates businesses to verify the citizenship of employees and directs law enforcement officers to verify citizenship if they have probable cause to question citizenship. This bill has been heard before the Kansas House Judiciary committee and may well be endorsed by the entire Kansas House. This bill will be challenged on its constitutionality and enforcement cost to local government.

WATER RIGHTS CONSERVATION PROGRAM - SB 191

Senate Bill 191 authorizes the Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP) by statute with a fee to fund this program. The Kansas Water Appropriation Act provides the framework for a system of water rights and permits to allow the beneficial use of water in Kansas. One part of this act provides for forfeiture of a water right through abandonment, thus allowing water to become available for someone else to put to use. KSA 82a-718 states that water rights are forfeited by abandonment when water is not used for 5 consecutive years without due and sufficient cause for non use. Kansas Department of Agriculture Water Resources Division regulations contain 11 items to determine sufficient cause for non use. The WRCP is one of those due and sufficient causes.

WRCP was initiated through rule and regulations in 1992 without many restrictions and without fees. Western Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 1 wanted a program to protect water rights from abandonment because of proposed dairies moving into their region. They wanted 7-10 years to secure water for these dairies but state law restricted the time to five years. WRCP was created for this purpose and the program is widely used today. There are 962 WRCP-enrolled water rights involving municipals (11), industrial (9), irrigation (932), stockwater (3) and recreation (3). These contracts are 2.84% of the State's overall total and 1.95% of authorized acre-feet statewide. Kansas has 33,849 water rights and 13,110,570 acre-feet authorized in total.

WRCP was phased out in 2009 as the agency faced a 20% reduction in state general funds and because WRCP was not a program required by statute. Thus no new contracts were accepted but the 962 existing WRCP contracts remained in effect. WRCP is really intended for the closed areas in Kansas to new water rights. This closed area is primarily in southwestern Kansas and a small area around Pittsburg in southeastern Kansas. While there is still a debate on whether WRCP should apply statewide, SB 191 has strong support and should pass.

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FIELD NOTES

10% CAMPAIGN - BUILDING NORTH CAROLINA'S LOCAL FOOD ECONOMY - FARM TO FORK

This website and associated programs are challenging North Carolinians to spend 10% of their existing food dollars locally to support producers, businesses and communities in North Carolina. $35 Billion is spent annually in North Carolina on food and just $1.05 per day per person would result in $3.5 Billion spent locally on food in North Carolina. The Center for Environmental Farm Systems (CEFS) operates this website and has a comprehensive directory of local food activities throughout North Carolina. CEFS works with North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Charlotte-based Compass Group, the world's largest foodservice company, to develop the components of this 10% campaign. This website is updated weekly listing the number of people and businesses that have signed onto the campaign and the food dollars they are spending locally.
http://www.ncsu.edu/project/nc10percent/index.php  

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FEDERAL FOOD AND FARM UPDATE
by Mary Fund

USDA Officials Testify on FY12 Budget at Two Congressional Hearings
March 11th, 2011 NSAC

On Thursday, March 10, top officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) testified at two Congressional hearings, the first held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and the second held by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. Both hearings focused on the Obama Administration's fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget proposal.

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee received testimony from the Undersecretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs (MRP), Edward Avalos, regarding their proposed FY12 budget today.

The proposed agency budget requests $2.6 billion for MRP agencies, which includes $1.4 billion for the Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS), $837 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - a decrease of $112 million from 2010 spending levels, and $94 million for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA).
Read more here.

Agricultural Research Community Responds to Proposed Budget Cuts
March 10th, 2011 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

Earlier this week the food and agricultural research community issued appeals to Congress urging that already low funding for USDA-sponsored research, education and extension not be cut. The letters came in response to the House passed continuing resolution to fund all government functions for the remainder of the current fiscal year.

The House bill, H.R. 1, would cut agricultural research funding by $415 million. The Senate counter-offer makes substantially smaller cuts, and actually modestly increases funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The Senate bill also continues funding for the Organic Farming Transitions research program, which the House bill proposed to terminate.
Continue reading here.

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MARCH 4, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The budgetary stalemate continues on under the dome in Topeka. The Kansas House and Kansas Senate have been unable to reach an agreement on the Governor's budgetary reductions for this fiscal year that ends June 30. The Kansas House has stated that their proposal - that adopts the Governor's reductions and cuts more - has to be the starting point. The Kansas Senate has declined this approach. The key debate is over the funding of special education and potential federal sanctions if Kansas does not fully fund 'maintenance of effort'. It is unclear what a failure to pass this budget will do to the 2012 budget.

The revenue picture continues to be unstable. While the revenues to Kansas were up a bit during January, the revenues were down a bit in February. With a State budget that is so tight and struggling to overcome a $300 to $500 million deficit, every dip in revenues puts more pressure to cut programs even further. The scenario to find compromise on the final budget is unclear. Most of the 33 Democrats in the Kansas House will not support a more austere budget than the one proposed by the Governor. There are many conservative House Republicans who want even deeper cuts and they voted to repeal the one-cent sales tax passed last year. It is uncertain how the Kansas Senate will vote on a more drastic budget of deeper cuts. It may well take several extra days in May in the veto session to find an acceptable compromise that can garner enough votes to pass.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE UPDATE
The Governor's reorganization order to move the State Conservation Commission, the Animal Health Department and the Agriculture Marketing Division from Commerce into the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) is sailing thru. There are no planned committee hearings in the Kansas Senate or the Kansas House on this reorganization order. The budgetary implications are far less certain. There are employee and administrative reductions with this reorganization order. While KDA should have over 300 employees - to inspect restaurants, regulate weights & measures, operate water programs, oversee 90 small meat processors, regulate pesticides, etc., etc. - the 2012 budget will only fund 200 employees. A department-wide reorganization and efficiency audit is under way and a new reorganization chart for KDA is expected by April 1.

STATE WATER PLAN
The State Water Plan continues to decline in these troubled budgetary times. Expenditures topped out at $24.2 million in 2008 and the Governor's recommendation for 2012 is $14.5 million. The primary reason has been the decrease in the transfer from the State General Fund. The amount should be $6 million annually but after 2008 the transfer has fallen to $2 million in 2009, nothing in 2010, $1.3 million in 2011 and nothing recommended for 2012. The Local Environmental Protection Program goes from $980,000 in 2011 to nothing in 2012. The water resources cost-share program declines from $3.3 million in 2011 to $2.1 million in 2012. The non-point source pollution program declines from $2.9 million to $2.2 million. The conservation reserve enhancement program is de-funded in 2011 and 2012. By the end of FY 2012 the state water plan fund balance is down to $14,150. Now these reductions are proposals by the Governor and the Kansas Legislature may make other recommendations.

Upcoming Hearings:
Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee
- Room 783 Docking Building :

  • Monday, March 7 - SB 122 Authorizing the director of the Kansas Water Office to grant easements on state property on the Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri rivers.
  • Wednesday, March 9 - SB 124 Concerning the Kansas Water Office; relating to water supply storage access and creating the lower Smoky Hill water supply access program

BEGINNING FARMER LOAN PROGRAM
The Kansas Development Finance Authority (KDFA) offers this tax-exempt bond program authorized by the federal tax code. This program assists farmers - who do not own substantial interest in farmland - to start or keep them in farming. Loans are made available at below-market interest rates through private lenders. This program can be used by beginning farmers to purchase agricultural land, farm buildings, farm equipment and breeding livestock. Beginning farmers may borrow up to $450,000 under the program limits, subject to lender approval. A beginning farmer cannot own more land than 30% of the median farm size in a given county. A chart is available on the website. There were $2.4 million beginning farmer loans in 2006, $1.9 million in 2007, $4.4 million in 2008 and $3.8 million in 2009. The vast majority of these loans went for purchasing land. An informational hearing on this program will be held before the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committee on Thursday March 10 at 1:30 pm in Room 142-S in the State Capitol.
http://www.kdfa.org/BeginningFarmer

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FIELD NOTES

CULTIVATING RESILIENCE: A Food System Blueprint that Advances the Health of Iowans, Farms and Communities
This W.K. Kellogg Foundation funded report was authored by Angela Tagtow and Susan Roberts. The objective of this blueprint is to measure the health of Iowa's food system through a report card leading to recommendations for research, programs, and policies to ensure a food system that supports healthier Iowans, communities, economies, and the environment. Hundreds of organizations and thousands of stakeholders were involved. Fourteen indicators were identified. The resilience and health of Iowa's food system from an overall, composite rating of the sum of the indicators is 'Poor'. With reversals of unhealthy indicator trends through the implementation of recommendations, this grade will improve.
www.IowaFoodSystemsCouncil.org/cultivating-resilience/

2011 KANSAS HOUSING CONFERENCE
The 2011 Kansas Housing Conference will be held August 9-11 at the Wichita Hyatt Regency. Tuesday, August 9, is scheduled for pre-conference trainings for architects on LEED training, weatherization contractor training, Section 8 Property Manager training and HOME Program Certification. There may be some other all day trainings. The regular conference starts on Wednesday August 10 with 3 keynote addresses over the two days and breakout sessions covering housing development, operations & management, policy/leadership, and best practices. 2010 U.S. Census data on 'housing affordability' in Kansas will be discussed. Special emphasis will be given to housing options for rural counties in the Governor's 'rural opportunity zones'. The expected attendance should be over 500 persons.
To sign up for more information and early registration go to:  www.kshousingconference.org 

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FOOD AND FARM BILL
by Mary Fund

154 Grassroots Groups Call Budget Cuts Reckless and Unjust
- March 1st, 2011 National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

154 grassroots organizations (including the Kansas Rural Center) sent a letter to the United States Senate on Monday in opposition to a government funding bill that would slash more than $60 billion from the federal budget for the last half of fiscal year 2011. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) circulated the letter, and the Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural circulated it as well.

The groups argue that the bill (H.R.1) unfairly singles out programs that serve sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers, and that the disproportionate cuts to agriculture and rural America are reckless and unjust. The letter particularly highlights the threat these cuts make to rural communities, struggling to create jobs, find new markets, and renew economic life.

H.R.1 slashes a disproportional amount from the agriculture budget (22 %) relative to other budget functions, and the House is also proposing deep cuts to conservation and renewable energy funding provided by the 2008 Farm Bil.... No cuts were proposed for two of biggest line items in the agriculture budget - commodity payments or crop insurance.
Read more here.

House Holds Two Hearings on Agriculture Appropriations
- March 2, 1011 NSAC

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies held two hearings with top officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

On Tuesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, along with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Chief Economist Joe Glauber, and USDA Budget Director Michael Young, answered questions related to both the President's fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget request and the FY 2011 appropriations process. Then, on Wednesday, USDA's Inspector General testified before the Subcommittee on a variety of issues relating to incidences of fraud within USDA programs.

With the Continuing Resolution (CR) set to expire March 18th, the committee is exploring the state of USDA's spending and how to proceed throughout the remainder of the 2011 Fiscal Year and into FY 2012.
Continue reading here.

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FEBRUARY 26, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

The 2011 Kansas Legislative session is at the halfway point. The Kansas House and Kansas Senate have been on the floor fulltime on Thursday and Friday to finish bills that must move to the next chamber. The budgetary process is proceeding forward slowly to settle the current year's budget and develop the 2012 state budget. The legislation on water issues and rural opportunity zones were refined as the full Senate debated them. The plan is for the Kansas Legislature to finish the regular session by April 3 and reconvene late April for the final veto session.

The debate over the budget for the current fiscal year (FY 2011) that ends June 30 has bogged down in a difference of opinion over the funding of special education. The concern is that Kansas will lose federal funding for special education if Kansas does not fully match federal special education funding. There are several other items of difference between the Kansas House and Kansas Senate to be discussed but the stalemate over special education has prevented further deliberations. At the same time, both the House and Senate are developing FY 2012 state budgets that will eventually be joined into a 'mega-appropriations' bill that must be passed by 63 House members, 21 Senators and signed by the Governor by early April. The final budgetary bill known as the 'Omnibus' budget bill is developed and debated during the veto session. This is the final clean-up bill to fix any prior budgetary or program errors. New consensus state revenue estimates will be developed around April 15. These new estimates are used for the Omnibus bill. If these revenue estimates for the next 18 months are lowered, more budgetary reductions will be necessary.

The $500 million budgetary deficit for the FY 2012 state budget hangs over every budgetary deliberation. The Governor has proposed several drastic administrative (staffing) cuts rather than downsizing or eliminating certain programs. For the Department of Aging, staffing cuts will affect the delivery of key services such as home and community based services for the frail elderly. An arbitrary 10% cut in nutrition services will result in the closing of some rural congregate feeding sites and fewer meals-on-wheels services. Staffing cuts in the Department of Corrections will result in fewer community correction and parole services for released prisoners - with more of these prisoners returning to jail thus costing Kansas even more. The Kansas Department of Agriculture cannot find the funds for a 'feeder cattle' report from Pratt and Salina or the funds for adequate, timely inspection of grain warehouses. Some of these budget cuts will be reconsidered in the Omnibus Bill if more revenues become available.

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

RURAL OPPORTUNITY ZONES:
Senate Bill 198 was amended on the floor of the Kansas Senate by Senator Jeff King from Independence to add 10 more counties (Cloud, Comanche, Elk, Mitchell, Stafford, Wilson, Pratt, Hamilton, Kearny and Hodgeman) for a total of 50 counties. The criterion now is a population decline of 8% from 2000 to 2009 and a total county population under 12,000. The income tax credit for individuals moving to these counties will reduce the State General Fund an estimated $1.374 million in 2013 and $3.978 million in 2014. These 50 counties may elect to participate in the student loan repayment provisions up to a maximum of $15,000 over five years. Counties will have to match dollar for dollar these student loan repayment costs with the State. In-state students and out-of-state students are now both eligible. The Kansas House has its own version - HB 2331 - so the exact provisions of the final bill still has to be determined.

EASEMENTS ON STATE RIVERBED PROPERTY
Senate Bill 122 would authorize the Director of the Kansas Water Office to negotiate and grant easements on state property for construction and maintenance of conservation projects with cooperating landowners. Conservation projects have been limited and defined as any project or activity that the director of the Kansas Water Office determines would assist in restoring, protecting, rehabilitating, improving, sustaining, or maintaining the banks or bed of the Arkansas, Kansas or Missouri rivers from the effects of erosion. Notice of the easement would be given to the county or counties involved and any municipality or other governmental entity that holds a riparian interest in the river. 30 days would be allotted for a comment period to the Kansas Water Office. SB 122 has passed the Senate and will be debated in the Kansas House.

PROPERTY RIGHTS FOR SOLAR AND WIND RESOURCES
House Bill 2141
would amend current law concerning conveyance of real estate. This bill would allow only the surface owner of a tract of land to use the land to produce wind or solar generated energy, unless the owner has entered into a lease or easement for those rights for a definite period. This bill would take effect affect July1, 2011. This law would not prohibit conservation easements. The intent of this bill is to ensure that, unlike mineral rights, wind and solar rights could not be permanently severed from a tract of land. This bill has passed the Kansas House and will be heard before the Senate Utilities committee.

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FIELD NOTES

NON-FARMERS AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
According to USDA data, 38% of the farms in the United States in 2007 were rented or leased. In looking at the attached map, you will see that most counties in central and western Kansas have more than 50% of their farms rented or leased. The concentration in northern Iowa and all of Illinois is even greater. A 'responsible renter' will not pursue the most sustainable form of farming because of the economics. As farmland becomes more of an investment or an 'economic return' speculation, maximizing production will be the normal short-term strategy without regard to long-term sustainability.
http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/Ag_Atlas_Maps/Operators/Tenure/07-M117-RGBChor-largetext.pdf

BEANS & GREENS MOBILE FARMERS MARKET
In Kansas City, this farmers market on wheels will shuttle between three metro-areas. Beans & Greens is a foundation-funded effort in Kansas City to supplement the use of food stamps at farmers markets by matching dollar for dollar up to $30 per recipient per week. Last year, seven farmers markets were involved and the plan is to expand to 15 farmers markets in addition to the three mobile sites. This colorful box truck has refrigerated compartments for fresh meats, cheeses and veggies as well as the display equipment to set up a farmers markets wherever the truck parks.
http://www.khi.org/news/2011/feb/21/mobile-market-brings-fresh-produce-kcs-food-desert/

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FOOD AND FARM BILL
by Mary Fund

NEW MOVEMENT ON GOVERNMENT FUNDING NEGOTIATIONS
From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) February 25, 2011

There were several important new developments on Thursday in the continuing saga of arriving at a government funding bill for the rest of fiscal year 2011.

House Republican leaders are getting ready to file a short-term extension of the existing short-term "continuing resolution" (CR) that is keeping the government running at fiscal year 2010 levels. In contrast to Senate Democrats' opening offer from last week of a straight 30-day extension, the House GOP is now proffering a 2-week extension with approximately $4 billion in immediate budget cuts included. While the bill has not yet been released, it is rumored to include primarily items not likely to be opposed by Senate Democrats or the White House.

The current CR expires next Friday, March 4, so movement toward an agreement on a short-term fix is encouraging, reducing the chance for a government shutdown. However, there is not likely to be an agreement on the short-term fix without significant movement on negotiations over the long-term solution.
Read more here.

HOUSE APPROVES $60 BILLION IN BUDGET CUTS
From NSAC, February 21, 2011

In the early hours of Saturday, February 19, the House of Representatives approved on a near party-line 235-189 vote the government funding bill for the last half of fiscal year 2011. The bill, H.R. 1, would slash roughly $60 billion from the federal budget relative to fiscal year 2010 spending. Three Republicans voted against the bill, two because it did not go far enough in their view, while no Democrats voted for it.

The bill primarily deals with the one-third of total federal government spending that is controlled by the annual appropriations process (so-called discretionary spending). Not included, with only limited exceptions, is mandatory or direct spending that is not subject to appropriations. Also not included is the funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beyond the unprecedented discretionary budget cuts, the bill also attempts to constrain the Obama Administration's policy priorities on multiple fronts by adding legislative "riders" on an appropriations bill.

Since the start of the fiscal year on October 1, the government has been funded through a series of short-term "continuing resolutions," with the current one set to expire March 4. With both houses of Congress out of town this week in observance of President's Day, the Senate will return on February 28 with just four legislative days remaining before the expiration of the current short-term funding bill.

It has long been obvious that a short-term extension of the current short-term appropriation will be necessary for the Senate to take up its version of the bill and then reach a consensus agreement with the House, a process that may prove difficult given how far apart the two bills are expected to be on funding and on policy.
Read more on the Ag cuts here.

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FEBRUARY 18, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

Action in the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committees of the Kansas State Legislature has been somewhat limited, as most attention is given to front burner issues such as the state budget for the remainder of this fiscal year (ending June 30, 2011) as well as the budget for the next fiscal year.

This week set the scene for the coming budget collision between the House and Senate versions, but we did see reason prevail in the resolution of the Special Education funding differences to save federal funds. We also saw the Senate pass a bill to revise jobless benefits and raise the amount businesses must pay into the state's unemployment trust fund, it having been depleted by high numbers of unemployed workers.

At the federal level, high drama continues with the Republican led budget cut proposals -- also for the remainder of this fiscal year (September 30, 2011) and for the next fiscal year. President Obama released his budget proposals early in the week, and it was met with criticism that it contained no where near enough cuts as well as criticism from many quarters for the cuts he did propose. (See Federal Food and Farm Bill Update below).

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

Senate Bill 124: This bill would create an "Access District" to allow the Kansas Water Office to provide access to water storage owned by the state in Kanopolis Reservoir to downstream users. Membership in the Access District is voluntary and may include municipal, industrial, recreation and irrigation users in the reach of the Smoky Hill River below to the confluence of the Smoky Hill and Solomon Rivers. This legislation also creates a special irrigation district in the area for purposes of membership in the Access District. There are over 90 irrigation water rights and 8,000 acres that are surface irrigated.

Kanopolis Reservoir is one of 13 reservoirs in Kansas developed by the Corps of Engineers in which the state owns water storage supply. Access to water from water supply storage is currently obtained through Water Marketing Program contracts or storage ownership through the Water Assurance Program and is limited to municipal and industrial users only. There are water rights totaling 37,267 acre-feet from surface and alluvial groundwater sources in the 101 miles of river from Kanopolis Dam to the confluence of the Smoky Hill and Saline rivers. The majority of these water appropriations are for irrigation and municipal use, including the City of Salina. Currently, no water is released from state owned water supply storage in Kanopolis Reservoir to meet these downstream needs. The Corps makes releases from federally owned storage for in-stream water quality purposes.

Senate Bill 122: This legislation allows the Kansas Water Office the authority to provide easements on state property for conservation projects. State property is defined as real property currently owned in full or in part by the state in the Arkansas, Kansas or Missouri rivers in Kansas. The state owns the property in these navigable rivers in and along the bed of the river to the ordinary high water mark on the banks of such rivers. This bill will clear up the confusion over the ownership of this river land and facilitate landowner's access to federal dollars for conservation projects for streambank restoration. All easements in this law will be filed with the Secretary of State and the county register of deeds. SB 122 has passed out of the Senate Natural Resources committee.

Senate Bill 191: This bill reestablishes the Water Rights Conservation program within the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources by funding the program with a non-refundable application fee not to exceed $300. An eligible water right enrolled in and continually in compliance with the water rights conservation program shall be deemed to have due and sufficient cause for nonuse and shall not be deemed abandoned.

SB 191 has not had a hearing so far this year. The timeline for a hearing and committee action is next Tuesday. This bill would need to be blessed by an exempt committee such as Senate Ways and Means for it to be worked this year. If not this bill will be held over till next year. This water rights conservation program only applies to closed water rights areas in Kansas, not statewide.

RURAL OPPORTUNITY ZONES
Senate Bill 198: This bill's purpose is to provide targeted rural economic development to 40 counties in Kansas that have lost at least 10% of their population in the last 10 years. The economic tools include forgiving income tax for residents who move to these counties after having been out of Kansas for the last five years. The counties can also share with the State repayment of student loans for students from 'out-of-state higher learning institutions' up to a maximum of $15,000. Governor Brownback described this program in his State of the State address. The cost of this bill is still uncertain and it will be subject to an appropriation limit set by the Kansas Legislature.

"Rural opportunity zone" means Barber, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Clark, Decatur, Edwards, Gove, Graham, Greeley, Greenwood, Harper, Jewell, Kingman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Logan, Marion, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Rawlins, Republic, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stanton, Trego, Thomas, Wallace, Washington, Wichita or Woodson counties .

KANSAS TECHNOLOGY ENTERPRISE CORPORATION (KTEC)

KTEC was founded in 1986 to spur innovation-based entrepreneurism. KTEC is an independent agency that is funded by economic development funds that come from the lottery. High-growth firms (less than 1% of all companies) generate 40% of new jobs nationwide. From 207 to 2010, 10 KTEC companies generated $1.15 billion in sales revenue. USC, LLC in Sabetha is a seed cleaning enterprise that improved its handling of seeds with KTEC's engineering assistance. Seed Research Corporation in South Hutchinson received KTEC assistance to improve their sales of specialty planters. HG Engineering in McPherson has developed a tooling system for the plastic extrusion industry. KTEC has a total of 271 clients in 44 counties accounting for 1,035 jobs. www.ktec.com

KTEC provides technical resources to move raw technology toward marketable products, access to risk capital, matches entrepreneurs and their technologies to market needs, a national network of mentors & professionals, and provides exposure to national, global markets. In 2010, 109 out-of state investors brought $4.1 million in venture capital to KTEC companies. KTEC generated $3.36 in state tax revenues in 2010 to the State General Fund for each dollar appropriated ($25 million total). KTEC now has 9 employees. The Governor has proposed melding KTEC into the Kansas Department of Commerce but only 1 employee will be added at Commerce. The Kansas House has voted for this change but the Kansas Senate may well block this change.

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FIELD NOTES

2010 Kansas Cropland and CRP: Kansas has 29,374,391 cropland acres with 9,793,315 cropland acres within Conservation Priority Areas. These priority areas are targeted to water quality issues such as watershed areas for Tuttle Creek or Perry Reservoir as well as habitats for the prairie chicken in southwestern Kansas or pheasants in northwest and north central Kansas. Kansas has a total of 2,759,298 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) - roughly 9% of all cropland in Kansas. There are 55,000 contracts statewide. Kansas has 528,549 CRP acres expiring in 2011. There will be a general CRP sign-up from March 14 to April 15. If the proposed land is in one of the Conservation Priority Areas, extra points are given for that land.

Questions remain what Congress and deficit reduction may do to the CRP program. The 2002 Farm Bill had a 39.4 million acre CRP while the 2008 Farm Bill reduced that to 32 million acres. Kansas has 2,674,556 general CRP acres and 110,439 acres in continuous CRP (buffer strips, partial field enrollments, etc.). Kansas had 610,311 CRP acres that expired in 2010 but 580,000 acres were enrolled in CRP so the net loss was just 29,000 acres.

Study to Examine Best Organic Growing Practices

Iowa State University researcher Kathleen Delate is examining which organic vegetable growing practices are best for the soil, water, yields and even nutrition. The professor of horticulture and agronomy is undertaking perhaps the most comprehensive study of organic vegetable-growing practices by looking at the use of cover crops, manure, tillage and mulch. Using 36 farm plots that each employ different combinations of variables, Delate hopes to discover which practices work best. The vegetables in the research include tomatoes, broccoli, onions, beans, squash and lettuce. The research is conducted in partnership with the University of Florida, Gainesville, and funded by the Department of Agriculture through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
From ATTRA Weekly Update Feb. 16, 2011

World Food Price Increases Increase Poverty

Sharp increases in the price of staple foods over the past six months have pushed as many as 44 million people into poverty, according to a new Food Price Watch report from the World Bank.

The World Bank's food price index rose by 15 percent between October 2010 and January 2011, according to the report, and now is 29 percent higher than one year earlier. The current index is just 3 below the peak in June 2008. The report notes that the increase over the last quarter is largely due to increases in the price of sugar, fats and oils, wheat and corn. The report also notes, however, that higher prices for these staple foods carry over to affect other foods, including animal-based proteins, in some developing countries.

Wheat prices have led the trend in recent months as adverse weather in key production areas such as Australia and China have raised supply concerns.

Corn prices meanwhile, have increased by about 73 percent since June 2010 due to lower crop forecasts, low stocks-to-use estimates, and demand for corn used in ethanol production. Sugar-based ethanol has become less competitive at current sugar prices, and the USDA estimates show the share of ethanol used for fuel in the United States rising from 31 percent 2008-2009 to a projected 40 percent in 2010-2011.

Rice production has remained relatively stable, and global rice prices are about 70 percent below the peak during the 2008 food crisis. The report notes that more favorable rice supplies and prices have helped limit the impact of the current round of food inflation in many developing countries where rice is a key staple food. Another positive factor has been a good local harvest of domestic crops including corn, sorghum, millet and cassava in many African countries, reducing the impact of higher prices for imported foods.
Read the Food Price Watch report online.

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FOOD AND FARM BILL
by Mary Fund

Obama Budget Proposal a Mixed Bag
February 15th, 2011, NSAC

On Monday, February 14, President Obama submitted his budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. For sustainable agriculture interests, the budget proposal is a mixed bag, with big cuts to farm bill conservation programs, though mostly good news on discretionary spending accounts.
Read more at NSAC here.

C.R. Budget Bill Being Used to Attack Environment

The U.S. House is voting this week on a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government operating for the remainder of the fiscal year. In its proposed form this Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution (CR) bill slashes critical funding for water and other environmental protections. According to a House Appropriations Committee summary sheet the proposed CR cuts $3 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget, which is 29% below fiscal year 2010. It also cuts 1.4 billion from the Department of Interior, including $532 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and $5.2 billion from the Department of Agriculture, including $190 million from the Farm Services Agency and $173 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Today will be the fourth day of the House debating the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government through September. Once passed, the measure will be sent to the Senate for consideration the week of Feb. 28. The current CR expires on March 4. House lawmakers have been debating and considering nearly 600 amendments to the 359-page measure.

In addition to these dramatic budget cuts to critical environmental programs, the House CR includes numerous amendments that have nothing to do with budget reductions but are attacks on environmental protection and regulation. These include amendments on coal-ash rules, dredge and fill operations, stopping EPA re-evaluation of the health effects of atrazine, stopping EPA from implementing or enforcing water pollution guidelines on coal mining, and one from Kansas' own Rep. Lynn Jenkins to prevent funding the cleanup of pesticides and PCBs from the Great Plains Industrial Park (formerly the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant).
Read more at the Clean Water Network website.

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FEBRUARY 11, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

GOVERNOR ISSUES EXECUTIVE REORGANIZATION ORDER

On Feb. 8 Governor Brownback issued Executive Reorganization Order No. 40. which will transfer the Agriculture Products Development Division from the Department of Commerce to the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). The order also moves the Kansas Animal Health Department and the Livestock Commissioner to KDA as well as the State Conservation Commission (SCC). If the Kansas House or the Kansas Senate do not vote to disapprove this order within 60 days, these changes will take effect July 1.

The Agriculture Products Development Division from Commerce will be renamed at KDA as the Agriculture Marketing and Promotions Program. There were 5 full-time staff at Commerce in this division but only three positions will be transferred to KDA. The anticipated savings is $300,000.

The Kansas Animal Health Department and the Livestock Commissioner will be consolidated within KDA as the Animal Health Division headed by the Animal Health Commissioner. The Animal Health Board will continue in existence and with members appointed by the Governor. The current Livestock Commissioner will be retained as the new Animal Health Commissioner. Thereafter, a vacancy in the position of Animal Health Commissioner will be filled by appointment by KDA's Secretary from three nominations provided by the Animal Health Board. The anticipated savings from this change is $497,972.

The State Conservation Commission (SCC) will be consolidated within KDA as the Conservation Division. The Conservation Commission will continue its existence. The current Executive Director will be retained as the Executive Director of the new Conservation Division. Thereafter, a vacancy in the position of executive director will be filled by a joint selection from KDA's Secretary and the Conservation Commission. The anticipated savings are $154,908.

Read the Reorganization Order here..

MORE BUDGET CUTS

UPPER ARKANSAS RIVER CREP PROGRAM SLATED FOR TERMINATION


The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint USDA and State program where state scan provide an enhanced payment to farmers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. The Upper Arkansas River CREP focused on water conservation along the Upper Arkansas River corridor from Hamilton County to western Rice County. This CREP has been in place for three years and has retired 22,162 acre-feet of water (as much water as Dodge City uses) and retired 93 irrigation wells. The Upper Ark CREP is a voluntary incentive based program for producers to enroll irrigated acres in the eligible area for 14-15 years, permanently retire the water rights on the enrolled area, and put the acres into a conservation cover (typically a native grass). In return, the producer receives an upfront, per acre payment from the State and an annual payment from USDA - Farm Service Agency, plus cost share on the specific conservation efforts. As of September 2010, a total of 65 contracts on 10,766 acres have been approved by the State of Kansas at a cost of $650,000. These one time upfront State payments are matched by annual producer payments from FSA of $1.3 million, based on rates of $110 to $140 per irrigated acre.

The plan was to expand this program from 10,766 acres to a maximum of 28,950 acres. The funding for the State's share comes from the State Water Plan. This CREP program has given these area producers a viable option for starting grass stands on these highly erodible soils while irrigation water is still available and with the financial opportunity and incentive to do it. The Governor has proposed terminating this program immediately.

GOVERNOR PROPOSES ELIMINATING LEPP

THE Local Environmental Protection Program (LEPP) was started in 1990 to enable local authorities to develop water protection plans that are customized for their areas and complement other water quality efforts being waged by state and federal agencies. Plans developed with LEPP funds describe actions that communities will take to manage private septic system waste -water treatment, solid waste, hazardous waste, non-point source pollution, and private water wells. Over the 20 years of operation, $32.5 million in grants have been made to counties.

Last year 104 counties participated in the $980,000 of grants. Kansas Department of Health and Environment requested $1.4 million for 2012 all from the State Water Plan. The program helps provide inspections, siting, and monitoring of private wastewater systems, often a source of pollution. The Governor has proposed to completely eliminate this program. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will still provide the technical assistance for this program but no grant funding. That cost will now fall to the counties if they can afford to continue these activities.

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FIELD NOTES

CHINA AND GRAIN PRICES:
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization issued an alert last Tuesday that a severe drought was threatening the wheat crop in China...Shandong Province, a cornerstone of Chinese grain production was bracing for its worst drought in 200 years unless substantial precipitation came by the end of the month...China's wheat industry exists in almost total isolation from the rest of the world with virtually no exports or imports until last year...China produced almost twice as much wheat as the United States or Russia and more than five times as much as Australia...Little known outside of China, the country's corn industry actually grows one-fifth of the world's corn, according to F.A.O. statistics. China's corn crop is mostly in the country's northern provinces, where the drought is worst now...With $2.85 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, China can buy what they need and outbid anyone.
By Keith Bradsher - published February 8, 2011.

CONVENTIONAL VERSUS ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES:
Side-by-side comparisons of organic and conventional strawberry farms and their fruit found the organic farms produced more flavorful and nutritious berries while leaving the soil healthier and more genetically diverse...The study is among the most comprehensive of its kind, analyzing 31 chemical and biological soil properties, soil DNA, and the taste, nutrition, and quality of three strawberry varieties on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields... All the farms in this study were in California, home to 90% of the nation's strawberries...The organic strawberries had 1) significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds, 2) longer shelf life, and 3) more dry matter, or, "more strawberry in the strawberry"...The researchers also found the organic soils excelled in a variety of key chemical and biological properties, including carbon sequestration, nitrogen, microbial biomass, enzyme activities and micronutrients.
Read more here.

FARMLAND PRICES IN KANSAS:
A recent survey by Farmers National Co., a national brokerage for farm and ranch land, showed that non-irrigated crop land in central Kansas averaged $3,000 an acre, up 50% since last June. Irrigated farmland in central Kansas was up 15-20% since June, for an average of $3,500 an acre...As the land generates more income from higher grain prices, it puts more cash in the pockets of the most likely buyers, nearby farmers. It also provides an attractive return for investors who rent it out to farmers...The fear is that another bubble is inflating, that buyers are borrowing to buy that land, bid up prices and increase leverage in a replay of the housing crisis. The Kansas City Federal Reserve will release a study of the fourth quarter soon that looks more closely at how much farmers have borrowed.
By Dan Voorhis - The Wichita Eagle - February 6, 2011

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FOOD AND FARM BILL
by Mary Fund

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION COST-SHARE DATA PUBLISHED

Updated financial information on USDA's organic certification cost-share programs shows that allocations to these programs ranged from $5000 to $1,050,000 per state/territory in fiscal year 2010. The programs experienced a 10 percent increase in participation and in the funds disbursed between fiscal years 2009 and 2010. NOP anticipates continued robust growth of the programs during fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2010, over five thousand organic producers from 48 states participated for a total funding amount of over $5 million. The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, administered through the State Departments of Agriculture, reimburses eligible producers and handlers for a portion of the costs of organic certification. Each state receives an allocation based on the number of certified organic operations in the state and spending history. Recipients receive up to 75 percent of their annual certification costs to a maximum payment of $750 per year, and must be certified by a USDA accredited certifying agent (ACA). In Kansas, 46 organic producers received $30,211 in FY10, and $50 producer s received $31,347 in FY09 to help pay certification fees.
Read more.

GMO ALFALFA APPROVED WITH NO RESTRICTIONS?

The Obama Administration's recent decision to allow unlimited, non-restricted commercial planting of genetically-engineered (GE) alfalfa resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup was a huge disappointment to the sustainable and organic agriculture community.

With the sudden decision and resulting outcry from organic and consumer groups, it may be hard to keep up with all developments. Here is an overview of key events and ways to find out more and take action.

USDA had signaled in recent months that it would forge a first ever compromise approval, with requirements to prevent the contamination of non-GE alfalfa seeds and plantings, but in an abrupt about face, they switched to full, unconditional deregulation.

Just shortly before the decision, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack restated his position on the partial deregulation of GE alfalfa for commercial planting under a plan of "co-existence." The Secretary's view on co-existence is laid out in an open letter to opponents and proponents of GE crops.

What happened in the week between Secretary Vilsack's testimony before the House Agriculture Committee, indicating the agency was very likely going to approve the much discussed "co-existence" plan, and the agency's sudden decision to deregulate GE Alfalfa with no restrictions is a question many are asking.
Read more from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition .

GE ALFALFA: TO STAY INFORMED AND TAKE ACTION

To take action and find updated information on GE alfalfa and the recent legal challenge visit these sites:

  • The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is leading the legal challenge, and will have updated information on the litigation, and steps to get involved.
  • The Ecological Farming Association (ECOFarm) has information available here.
  • Food and Water Watch has an action alert for both writing and calling the White House.
  • The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) has a response and links.
  • The National Organic Coalition (NOC) has an action alert on writing and calling the White House.
  • The Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) has an action alert to call or email the White House and USDA.
  • The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has a response and links for more information.
  • The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has an action alert on writing to the White House.

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FARM BILL BACKGROUND- BUDGET AND SPENDING ISSUES:

David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, "Faced with a revolt on the right, House Republicans scrambled Wednesday to adjust their budget strategy and come up with tens of billions of dollars in additional savings - including a possible across-the-board cut - to appease tea party supporters.

"The day began with the once-proud House Appropriations Committee previewing what it saw as unprecedented cuts of more than $40 billion in reductions from current domestic and foreign aid funding. But even as the numbers were released, conservatives at a morning caucus demanded twice the reductions. And by late in the day, the committee's cardinals were closeted away in the Capitol, fending off talk of across-the-board cuts but also admitting they will most likely need days more to come up with an alternative."

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee released a partial list of 70 spending cuts that included the following reductions in spending levels: EPA (-$1.6B), Food Safety and Inspection Services (-$53M), Farm Service Agency (-$201M), Agriculture Research (-$246M), Natural Resource Conservation Service (-$46M), Rural Development Programs (-$237M), WIC (-$758M), and International Food Aid grants (-$544M).

Today's Wall Street Journal reported that, "Even as Congress debates budget cuts for the fiscal year now under way, the White House is preparing a menu of spending cuts of its own for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, to be unveiled when its budget is released Monday. 'When you see the budget come out, you'll see very little that was spared,' press secretary Robert Gibbs said."

The Journal article added that, "Mr. Obama's budget for next year is expected to be particularly hard on programs that presidents have traditionally targeted with an understanding that their proposed cuts would be reversed by Congress. The Army Corps of Engineers, agricultural subsidies and the EPA's clean-water fund for the states are all in for significant cuts under Mr. Obama's plan for 2012, according to congressional aides who have heard from agencies they monitor about the administration's plans."
See more from Farm Policy News.

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FEBRUARY 4, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

LEGISLATIVE NOTES

With the two snow days this week at the Kansas Legislature, the schedule has been pushed back so the Kansas House floor battle over the rescission and reduction budget bill for FY 2011 should start next Tuesday. (Rescission referring to cuts in the current budget year ending June 30, 2011). The Kansas Senate will wait for House action before proceeding with their version.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
There have still been few agriculture or natural resources bills filed. The Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources has requested the reinstatement of the water rights conservation program. This proposed legislation would be dependent on fees from participating water right holders to fund the program. There will also be efforts to reinstate the significant-hazard dam inspection program.

KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY BUDGET HEARINGS.
The budget deliberations on K-State Research & Extension will begin the week of February 14 before the Kansas House Education Budget committee. The Kansas Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee on Education will take up this budget the following week.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT BUDGET HEARINGS.
Budget hearings for the Environment Division of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment will begin before the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committee on Wednesday February 9 in Rm. 142-S.

FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly food stamps) has continued to dramatically increase in this economic recession (depression?). For FY 2010, Kansas had an average monthly participation of 259,609 persons receiving a total of $383 million in benefits. For FY 2011, the participation has grown to 305,800 monthly (or about an 18% increase) with total benefits expected to be $462 million. The projection for FY 2012 is 352,000 persons monthly and total benefits of $540 million. Because food stamps are never deposited in the State budget, these figures of benefits - totaling hundreds of millions of dollars - are not reflected in the total $13.9 billion Kansas' Budget.

LAST WEEK'S ACTION

TESTIMONY BEFORE KANSAS SENATE PUBLIC HEALTH & WELFARE COMMITTEE

KRC's Legislative Watch Coordinator Paul Johnson testified before the Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on February 3, "The Kansas Rural Center is interested in better nutrition with locally grown fruits and vegetables. USDA estimates that a Kansan will spend just under $200 a year on produce so the total for Kansas is right at $525 million. Today 97% of that $525 million ($509 million) is imported while just $16 million is locally grown. (Dr. Rhonda Janke from Kansas State University compiled this data.) Comparable data for local, natural meats and small dairies could be assembled."

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FIELD NOTES

HEALTHY FOOD in HEALTH CARE:
More than 350 hospitals have signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge demonstrating their commitment to supporting a food system that promotes the health of the environment and the individuals that are part of it. More than 10 hospitals in Oregon and Washington host farmers markets, farm stands, or community-supported agriculture (CSA) drop-offs.
Read more here.

"CLIMATE-READY" CROPS:
According to a report released by ETC Group, the world's largest seed and agrochemical corporations are filing hundreds of sweeping, multi-genome patents in a bid to control the world's plant biomass under the guise of developing "climate-ready" crops.ETC Group www.etcgroup.org identifies over 262 patent families, subsuming 1,663 patent documents published worldwide that makes specific claims on environmental stress tolerance in plants (such as drought, heat, flood, cold, salt tolerance.) Just three companies - DuPont, BASF, Monsanto - account for over two-thirds of the total.
ACRES, USA - February 2011 - page 9

LOCAL ROOTS MARKET & CAFE:
 An innovative new co-op in Northeast Ohio provides a model for how to expand local food offerings in winter months. Thanks to the new Local Roots Market & Café in downtown Wooster, Ohio (population 26,000), even in the heart of winter, shoppers can now purchase locally and sustainably grown salad greens, squash, honey, meat, dairy products, baked goods, and much more.... Local Roots grew rapidly in its first year, racking up sales of more than $250,000 from February to November 2010. Ninety percent of all sales are returned to the producers, who make up a quarter of the co-op's 541 members. www.localrootswooster.com
Mother Earth News - February/March 2011 - page 19

STATE OF THE 'RURAL' UNION-
Comments on Obama's State of the Union Address:
"It was interesting to note that President Obama mentioned broadband and compared it to when we electrified rural America. The rural electrification act spent $50 million a year starting in 1936, which would be $782.4 million dollars today (assuming 3.8% average inflation). Can you imagine how great rural broadband would be if we spent that much on infrastructure today?" Steph Larson, Center for Rural Affairs.
Read more here.

EFFICIENCY KANSAS:
The Kansas Energy Office created this program with $38 million in federal stimulus dollars to establish a revolving loan fund to provide low-cost financing for energy-efficiency improvements to homes and small businesses. This loan can be processed through 100 lender branches across Kansas or 22 partner utilities. An energy audit is required and this program funds $300 of the average $400 cost with the customer paying the first $100.
For complete information on this program: click here.

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FOOD AND FARM BILL
by Mary Fund

AGRICULTURE TARGETED FOR 14% CUTS

On Thursday, February 3, Congressional House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that next week he will set a budget ceiling for all discretionary federal government spending for the current fiscal year (FY 11) of $1.055 trillion, a figure $32 billion lower than the current short term continuing resolution (CR) the government is operating on. The short-term CR expires March 4, and the House plans to debate and vote on a long-term CR the week of February 14. The long-term CR would fund the government for the remainder of FY 11.

Agriculture is targeted for the third highest percentage cut - 14 percent or $3.2 billion. Only Commerce/Justice/Science at 16 percent and Transportation/HUD at 17 percent do worse than Agriculture under the new House GOP allocations. Defense receives the only increase (2 percent, or a $9.6 billion increase) while Homeland Security remains level at its FY 10 funding amount.

Details on how the GOP budget and appropriations leaders intend to slice $3.2 billion from the combined USDA and FDA discretionary budget of $23.3 billion (the FY 10 level) will not be known until sometime late the week of February 7 when their bill is released. The game plan appears to be to reduce individual funding accounts to FFY 08 levels. This means some programs taking very large hits would include WIC feeding program, food safety funding at USDA and FDA, direct Farm Service Agency farm operating and ownership loans (a majority of which are targeted for beginning and minority farmers), Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, National Organic Program, and Conservation Technical Assistance, among others.
Read full article here.

WORLD FOOD PRICES HIT RECORD LEVELS AS OIL HITS $100/BARREL

World food prices are on the rise, and the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Food Price Index reached an all-time high in January. The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI), which measures the cost of a basket of basic food supplies - sugar, cereals, dairy, oils and fats and meat - across the globe, rose by 3.4 percent last month. It was the seventh consecutive monthly increase, and put the FFPI at its highest level since records began in 1990. Crude oil prices are also on the rise, climbing above $100 this week as the civil unrest in Egypt and the Middle East raises concern over supply disruptions.

The FAO Food Price Index was 231 for January, and prices of all the commodity groups monitored registered strong gains last month, except for meat, which remained unchanged. FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian said high prices were likely to persist in the month to come. He says rising commodity prices are one of the major factors behind a growing wave of civil unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. "High food prices are of major concern especially for low-income food deficit countries that may face problems financing food imports, and for poor households which spend a large share of their income on food," Abbassian says.
Read more here.

UCS RELEASES REPORT ON PASTURE FED BEEF & GLOBAL WARMING

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has released Raising the Steaks: Global Warming and Pasture-Raised Beef Production in the U.S., a report on reducing the climate impact of the U.S. beef industry. The UCS report focuses on pastured beef and makes recommendations for reducing the overall climate impact of pastured animals, first by reducing emissions of methane and nitrous oxide and then through more efficient use of pastureland for carbon sequestration.
Read more here.
For the report click here.

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WHAT'S NEW

KSU TO OFFER NEW URBAN FOOD SYSTEMS MASTERS' PROGRAM


Urban Food Systems is a new specialization under the Master of Science in Horticulture program at KSU. The program has been in the development phase for a couple of years, but will officially start in the fall of 2011. The program is the result of partnerships among KSU, the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, and others. Overseeing the program at K-State are Dr. Candice Shoemaker, Professor of Horticulture and Human Health, and Dr. Rhonda Janke, Associate Professor of Sustainable Cropping Systems. Read more here. For more information on the program go to the KSU website at

http://www.hfrr.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=1010

If you have additional questions, please contact Rhonda Janke at rrjanke@ksu.edu or 785-456-7314.

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JANUARY 28, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

KANSAS BUDGET BATTLES

To date, there have been far fewer bills filed for this legislative session, especially in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, than in previous years. The deadline for individual bill introduction is February 9 and committee bill introduction is February 11.

The battles have begun over crafting a budget bill for FY 2011 that ends June 30. The Governor's request is to freeze some spending and reduce some spending (base K-12 student aid by $75 and special education by $16 million) to build an ending balance of $35 million to start the FY 2012 budget. The primary reason given is that funds are needed to cover the increasing human service caseloads (Medicaid, Nursing Homes, Mental Health).

By the first week in February, the Kansas Legislative Research Department staff will have analyzed the Governor's proposed budget, and Kansas Legislative budget committees will start their work to craft a budget for FY 2012 beginning July 1, 2011.

The details of budgetary changes and eliminations are starting to surface. Among these: the Early Head Start program that serves 1,177 pre-school children in 56 (primarily rural) counties will be terminated. The state grant to community mental health centers to serve the 'uninsured mentally ill' - as required by state law - will be eliminated. Some of the recent budget reductions for the Kansas Department of Agriculture are listed below along with the proposed changes to the State Water Plan.

The budget -making process will go on for the rest of the legislative session that ends in early May. Any further decline in revenue via taxes to the State will complicate the process and force even greater reductions since new taxes are off the table.

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE BUDGETARY CHALLENGES

The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) is primarily a regulatory agency responsible for food safety, consumer protection, environmental protection and water resource management. The work is funded by a blend of fees, federal funds and state general funds (that have declined from 55% of the 2001 KDA budget to 37% last year). The vast majority of the state general funds are used for salaries. KDA is authorized to have 388 employees but 102 are kept vacant because of inadequate funding.

Here are a few of the cutbacks that have already be made:

  • Lodging inspections have been reduced to a complaint basis (bed bugs) and most of 2010, no lodging inspections for 800 sites were performed.
  • Kansas Agriculture Statistics will no longer publish any reports using state dollars such as the Kansas Farm Facts Bulletin, the Blue Stem Pasture Survey and the Custom (Work) Rates data series.
  • KDA staff dedicated to conducting high-and significant-hazard dam inspections was eliminated. The owner of these dams will now be responsible to hire a professional engineer.
  • KDA's Division of Water Resources popular water rights conservation program has now been eliminated.
  • KDA is responsible for food safety at 17,000 establishments across Kansas and inspections at best will be done annually.

(Note: KDA's 2010 Annual Report has a beautiful homegrown produce picture on the cover thanks to KRC's Mercedes Taylor-Puckett.)

STATE WATER PLAN- FY 2012

The state water plan will see a reduction from $18.6 million in FY 2011 to $14 million in FY 2012. This is primarily the result of the Governor's decision to eliminate a $6 million transfer from the State General Fund to the water plan. This will result in the elimination of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment's Local Environmental Protection Program. There are also significant reductions in the State Conservation Commission's water resources cost share, non-point source pollution assistance, and water quality buffer initiative, which means less funding for conservation and water quality protection measures .

This is the Governor's recommendation, and the Kansas Legislature will spend several weeks debating these changes. To see the full Kansas Water Authority 2011 Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature visit the KWO website. The Kansas Water Authority, which makes its own recommendations to the Governor, is concerned about the elimination of KDA's Dam Safety Inspection Program. The Kansas Water Authority supports the introduction of legislation that would allow the Kansas Water Office to grant easements on behalf of the state for water related projects on the Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas Rivers.

LAST WEEK'S ACTION

MORE FARMERS MARKETS ARE ACCEPTING FOOD STAMPS; But Still a Small Fraction of the Total
About $370 million in food stamps were used last year in Kansas, but only $25,000 of that was spent at farmers' markets, members of the House Agriculture Committee were told Tuesday.

That's up from zero five years ago, but raising the number more would benefit Kansans' health and the economy, said Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, coordinator of the Farmers Market Project for the Kansas Rural Center.

Read the Kansas Health Institute's coverage here.

Read KRC testimony.

FARMERS MARKETS: On February 3, KRC's Mercedes Taylor-Puckett testified on farmers markets before the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee at 1:30 p.m. in Room 546-S. in the State Capitol.

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FIELD NOTES

FOOD STAMPS/SODAS/FARMERS MARKETS:
Nationally, food stamp recipients are spending $4 billion per year on soda; in 2009, only $4 million of food stamps were redeemed at farmers markets. This difference is shaped by the fact that USDA has not equipped farmers markets with free debit card terminals (necessary to process electronic food stamps - 19 of Kansas' 101 farmers markets will be equipped this year) and prohibited federal nutrition education programs to promote farmers markets.... Mayor Bloomberg (New York City) has proposed only half the solution (a USDA waiver request to prohibit food stamp purchases of sodas). USDA should grant him the waiver he requests if and only if New York City agrees to redirect the $75-$135 million that would otherwise been spent on soda to programs that encourage food stamp recipients to purchase locally grown foods at farmers markets, community supported agriculture farms, and other community oriented venues.
 - Andy Fisher - Executive Director - Community Food Security Coalition. www.foodsecurity.org
January/February 2011 - In Good Tilth - p. 11 - www.tilth.org

PUBLIC/PRIVATE AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT (R&D)
The transition to private-sector dominance of agricultural R&D began in the 1970's, accelerated in the 1980's as the profit potential of genetic engineering came into focus, and was essentially complete by the turn of the century. In 1986, total public plus private-sector research investments in production agriculture were about $3.33 billion in the United States, with 54% from the public and 46% private.... By 2009, total private sector investment was $9 billion while total public agricultural R&D spending was $3.5 billion. (72% private/ 28% public.)
 - 2011 State of the World (p. 170) - The Worldwatch Institute

IOWA FARM AND FOOD PLAN:
The Iowa Legislature passed an amendment in 2010 mandating that the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture develop a Local Food and Farm Plan for the state of Iowa. This developed plan contains 34 unique recommendations grouped in three main sections: 1) Recommendations for state appropriations, 2) Recommendations to create a Local Food and Farm Advisory Board and a Local Food and Farm Program Fund, 3) Recommendations related to operation of the Plan Business development models.
http://www.leopold.iastate.edu/foodandfarm/ilffp.pdf

KANSAS ACTING SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE DALE RODMAN:
Rural America is at risk, and the population and economic trends in Kansas are stark. Rural counties face long-term out-migration, underemployment, and brain drain. Twelve of our counties peaked in population in the 1890 Census. Thirty-one of Kansas' 105 counties are considered "frontier" counties with fewer than six persons per mile. Per capita income of the state is nearly 30% below that of Johnson County. From 2000 to 2009, the nine metropolitan counties added population in an amount equivalent to another Overland Park, while the population of the 96 non-metro counties lost the equivalent of another Salina. We have opportunities to change this trend through expanding rural opportunities in Kansas and growing the agricultural sector.
 - (January 26, 2011 testimony to the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.)

K-STATE RESEARCH & EXTENSION BUDGET DATA - FISCAL YEAR 2011:

Budget Fund Source:

State Appropriation - $49.4 million
Federal Appropriation - $9.4 million
Grants and Services - $48.9 million
County Funds - $21 million
Main Campus Allocation - $2.9 million

Budget Responsibilities:

Agricultural Experiment Station - $74.8 million
Cooperative Extension Service - $57 million

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FARM BILL UPDATE
by Mary Fund

Kansas Connections

Senator Pat Roberts will be the Ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee this year. Newly elected to the Senate, Senator Jerry Moran will serve on the Appropriations committee.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Republican freshman (taking former Rep. Jerry Moran's place) has been appointed to the House Agriculture Committee and will serve on sub-committees for Conservation, Energy and Forestry, the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, Livestock Dairy and Poultry. They will all be making decision about budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year, the next fiscal year, and the direction of the next Food and Farm bill.

Farmers Get Go-Ahead to Plant Genetically Modified Alfalfa

A fault line between the organic community and the USDA erupted Thursday (January 28) when USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the USDA has given the agricultural community carte blanche to plant genetically modified alfalfa anywhere, any time. This includes within striking distance of neighboring organic farms. This is a departure from his previous stance, which favored limiting where the modified crop could be planted. Spun as "co-existence" rather than as a restriction, Vilsack's earlier attempt to please both organic and conventional farmers garnered grudging support.

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JANUARY 21, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

PUBLIC POLICY STRATEGY FOR KANSAS

The Governor has now assigned the major budgetary challenges. The Governor's office under the leadership of Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer will tackle the increasing costs of Medicaid in Kansas. The Kansas Senate will take on the unfunded liabilities found with the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS).

The Kansas House will define a 'suitable education' for Kansas and may well write this into the Kansas Constitution so it cannot be changed by future legislation. While these fundamental budgetary challenges are being worked, a state budget for FY 2012, which begins July 1, 2011, still has to be developed in light of the $300-500 million budget deficit.

Lurking in the shadows is a much broader discussion on tax policy in Kansas that probably starts in the second year of this Governor's term.

PROGRAM DETAILS

  • MEDICAID: This program is second only to K-12 public education in cost to the state. There are 320,000 Kansan's now receiving Medicaid services. Women and children are the greatest number of clients while the most expensive recipients are the disabled and the elderly. Medicaid and the children's health insurance program (HealthWave) is the largest children's health program in the state. Medicaid funds 40% of the 42,000 live births in Kansas while funding half of the nursing home beds in the state. Kansas' Medicaid program does not cover adults under 65 who are not disabled. If the federal health care law does go into full effect by 2014, adults up to 133% of the federal poverty line will become eligible. The estimate is that Medicaid will cover an additional 131,000 Kansans. While health care providers complain of inadequate rates paid by Medicaid, most rural hospitals and especially rural nursing homes would be closed without these payments. Controlling health care costs is a major dilemma for Kansas and the entire country. Managed care plans as opposed to existing 'fee-for-service' plans are the one solution touted by many policy makers. This has worked for the easiest to serve (children/young mothers) but not for the disabled and elderly.
  • KPERS: This retirement fund has $12.7 Billion in assets but future liabilities of over $20 Billion. KPERS' covers state employees, local government employees, judges and school employees. There are now around 80,000 recipients and 159,000 participants paying into the fund. School employees are the largest group and have the greatest unfunded liability. The judges are in the best economic shape while state and local government employees are in the middle. The present retirees and existing employees paying into KPERS are under a defined benefit plan that the State of Kansas is obligated. There is no cost of living increase built into this plan and the last increase to retirees came in 1998. Likely that legislation will pass this year to establish a separate '401K' plan for new employees. By law Kansas cannot force this option on existing employees.
  • K-12 SCHOOL FINANCE: This subject alone could take several pages. The Governor's budget did not replace most of the final federal funds built into school finance for this year. This means a loss of $75 per student in this FY 2011 that ends June 30, 2011 and an additional reduction of $157 per student (totaling $232) for FY 2012. There is nothing simple about school finance. There are several different funding mechanisms for different needs - at-risk students, capital costs, transportation, retirement funds, etc. The Governor wants credit for all dollars the state will spend on K-12 State Aid. His numbers show that actual 'total' spending per pupil will increase from $4,549 in FY 2011 to $4,743 in FY 2012. This includes state payments for school employee pension benefits (KPERS), special education maintenance of effort and debt payments on capital projects "that are ignored in the traditional calculation of state aid per student".

The State must increase funding as the number of at-risk (free/reduced lunch) students increase. When property values decrease (as they have for two years in Johnson County!!), the statewide 20-mill levy for schools does not generate as many dollars so the state must compensate. This is all to say that certain school costs are increasing for the State but these increased dollars are not available to the school districts to fully fund operating costs. Kansas has over 300 school districts and some have a reserve balance to cover the shortages but many do not. Over half of the school districts in Kansas have fewer than 500 students. The last statewide consolidation of school districts came in the 1960's and the painful memory of those battles linger. The reality for school budgets is that the only meaningful budgetary savings come from larger classes (firing school employees) and closing buildings. With schools being a large employer in rural areas, these reductions are very painful. Politically - only one in four Kansas' households have school children, so the clout of the school lobby is declining. K-12 is one-half of the State General Fund so serious budget cuts must hit schools.

SENATE BILL 3: An Act concerning water: establishing the Kansas natural resources subcabinet. The Kansas natural resources subcabinet shall coordinate the water natural resource goals of executive agencies within the state. The Legislative Post Audit Committee developed this legislation. I am still researching the import of this proposed legislation.

To this point, SB 3 is the only legislation covering agriculture or natural resources. There have been far fewer bills filed this year so far. The 125-member Kansas House has 33 new Republican members and 2 new Democrats so the turnover was 30%. While the 40-member Kansas Senate was not up for election in 2010, there were two members elected to higher offices, two selected for positions in the executive branch and one retirement.

FARMERS MARKETS: On Tuesday January 25 at 8:30 am in Docking Office Building Room 783, KRC's Mercedes Taylor-Puckett will give a presentation on farmers markets to the Kansas House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. plan.

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FIELD NOTES

KANSAS NATURAL RESOURCES PLANNER: This website started in 2008 as a statewide wind development map to identify areas of Kansas most conducive to avoiding sensitive areas and locating the power line grid. It has now expanded to a much broader service of environmental indicators such as the nesting of prairie chickens, the flight path of whopping cranes and the primary bat cave in southern Kansas. This is a marvelous tool to track land use in Kansas. Close to 13 different agencies have contributed different maps and modeling to this site. This is particularly valuable to foreign companies that have been the primary developers of the large wind farms in Kansas. This website is maintained by the Kansas Biological Survey and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
http://www.kars.ku.edu/maps/naturalresourceplanner/

HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA: This media project has five public radio network partners and one public television network. There are 7 reporters for this site with Kansas Public Radio from Lawrence hiring Eric Durban in Southwest Kansas to cover agricultural issues. The stories now running on this site include the expansion of hoop houses, the Iowa local food plan and concerns over a potential bubble in the cost of farmland. They ran an in-depth series on the pros and cons of ethanol. The supporters of the ethanol industry complained that the data on the energy intensity of producing ethanol was outdated and no significant credit was given to the ethanol by- product <distiller's grain> that is used prominently for cattle feed thus getting two uses from that one bushel of corn. 5 billion of the 13 billion bushel corn crop will be used for ethanol this year.
http://www.harvestpublicmedia.org/

KANSAS HEALTH INSTITUTE (KHI): KHI is a research and information organization developed to cover health care issues across Kansas. They have four full-time reporters who have covered in-depth social service issues for decades. No other media outlet has this level of expertise to fully cover the complexity of the health care debate. KHI is giving presentations on the full impact of the new federal health law. As Kansas struggles to control the cost and quality of Medicaid services, KHI will report on proposed changes to a Medicaid system that is the largest health insurer of children, funds 40% of the births in Kansas and covers one-half of all nursing home clients. http://www.khi.org/

PUBLIC HEALTH and MEDICAL SPENDING: Kansas spends $11 Billion on health care for chronic diseases annually with costs rising. (Nationally, 75% of health care dollars are spent on treating chronic illness while only 4% on prevention.) The estimated cost to Kansas for obesity-related diseases is $567 million. A modest reduction (5%) in rates of diabetes and hypertension could substantially reduce medical spending ($120 million in 2 years - $277 million in 5 years) in Kansas. These savings can be achieved through diet, exercise and reduced smoking. (KHI's Suzanne Cleveland, J.D. presentation January 19, 2011.)
   - Editorial Note: Given these potential savings from a more nutritious diet, should these savings factor into a fair price for local food production in Kansas and/or state promotion and support for increasing local food production?

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FARM BILL UPDATE
by Mary Fund

The EQIP ORGANIC PROGRAM DEADLINE: The deadline to apply for the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative March 4 , 2011. USDA has allocated $50 million for the Organic Initiative in 2011, which is available for all three of the following: certified organic growers, those transitioning to organic farming systems, and farmers exempt from formal certification (i.e. those making less than $5000 annually from farm sales).

The Organic Initiative offers financial and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to implement new conservation practices, like cover cropping, pest management, crop rotation, stream buffers, hedgerow planting, and various other practices.

Contact your local County Conservation District office.
Information is also available at KRC's website.

From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) WEEKLY UPDATE January 21, 2011:

STATUS OF BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS FOR CURRENT FEDERAL FISCAL YEAR

Very little is clear yet about how House Republican leadership will proceed on government-wide appropriations for the fiscal year that started last October and is currently under a stop-gap continuing resolution. Coming out of the elections, the new majority declared its support for returning immediately to discretionary funding levels that existing in 2008, the last year of the Bush presidency. That would entail making about $84 billion worth of cuts from programs that are currently spending based on the continuing resolution.

Reality has now begun to set in. Given the House Republican leadership's announced intention to allow defense, homeland security, and veterans affairs to continue to grow, and given the fact that only half a fiscal year will remain by the time a final FY 11 appropriations measure is passed, the new assumption is the House-passed bill will make a down payment on the cuts required to return to FY 08 spending levels at perhaps half or less of the $84 billion clip. Read more at NSAC Appropriations update.

HOUSE AG COMMITTEE QUESTIONS REGULATION OF GE CROPS

On Thursday, January 20, the House Agriculture Committee held a Public Forum on USDA's Biotechnology Product Regulatory Approval Process. The Forum focused primarily on USDA's regulation of Monsanto's Roundup Ready (glyphosate herbicide resistant) genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa under the Plant Protection Act, which has been challenged by organic and consumer organizations and farmers in federal court.

USDA Secretary Vilsack, appearing before the Committee in the 112th Congress for the first time, was the primary witness at the forum. Last December, USDA released a Final Environmental Impact Statement for commercial GE alfalfa. USDA has indicated that the agency is ready to approve the partial deregulation of GE alfalfa for commercial planting under a plan of "co-existence," a position restated by Sec. Vilsack at the hearing. The Secretary's view on co-existence is laid out in an open letter to opponents and proponents of GE crops. USDA is scheduled to announce its final decision for the regulation of GE alfalfa soon after January 24. Read more at NSAC Regulation of GE Crops

TAXPAYERS BELIEVE MORE SHOULD BE SPENT ON FOOD SAFETY, CONSERVATION, RESEARCH AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT

A study to be presented at the Southern Agricultural Economics Association 2011 Annual Meeting in February, finds that taxpayers believe that less money should be spent on direct payments, price supports, and crop insurance, while more should be directed toward food safety, natural resource conservation, research and education, and rural development. The paper was authored by Brenna Ellison and Jayson Lusk of Oklahoma State University and Brian Biggeman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Read more at NSAC New Study Findings.

Read more on the farm bill at the website for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

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JANUARY 16, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

GOVERNOR SAM BROWNBACK'S FY 2012 BUDGET

The Governor's budget was released on January 13. This budget proposes changes to:
1) the present FY2011 budget that ends June 30
2) the FY 2012 that starts July 1; and
3) offers several administrative reorganization changes by eliminating 8 separate state agencies.

The greatest challenges going forward is the funding of K-12 public education, increasing Medicaid costs, and shoring up the under-funded Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund (KPERS). By declining to make certain transfers from the State General Fund (SGF), like $200 million to the highway fund, the FY 2012 budget is very lean but not catastrophic. It will take some time to understand these budgetary changes.

In regards to reorganization and specific to agriculture, the Governor is proposing to move the Animal Health Department and the State Conservation Commission (SCC) into the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). In addition the Agriculture Marketing Program will be moved from the Kansas Department of Commerce to KDA where it was until the mid- 1990's. According to a Legislative Post Audit study, Kansas is one of only six states that does not place its animal health oversight or conservation program functions within its Department of Agriculture. It will take the Kansas Legislature several weeks to debate this re-organization order. The Kansas House or Kansas Senate will have to vote by a simple majority to block this plan.

o view the entire FY 2012 budget: go to http://budget.ks.gov/

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Given the length of debate, this reorganization plan could not be enacted in FY 2011 so the paragraphs below spell out the existing divisions and funding at KDA. Further study will be necessary to understand any SGF reductions to the respective KDA divisions.

Kansas Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University budget notes:

KANSAS DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (KDA): For the Fiscal Year that ends June 30, 2011, KDA's total budget is $30.7 million. This budget is divided between State General Funds (SGF - $9.3 million) and other funds ($21.4 million) consisting of fees and federal funds. The programs are Administration & Support Services ($5.2 million), Food Safety & Consumer Protection ($8.9 million), Water Resources ($12.1 million), Agricultural Laboratories ($1.6 million) and Environmental Protection ($2.7 million). Given the fiscal deficit, the SGF funding is the most vulnerable to reductions. This will especially impact Administration, Meat & Poultry Inspection, Water Management Service and Water Appropriation. The future of the state meat processors inspection program will be detailed in future e-reports given the uncertainty of funding and the 2008 Farm Bill that changed law to allow state inspected processors to sell to interstate markets.

K-STATE RESEARCH & EXTENSION (KSRE): KSU filed a 2011 Combined Research and Extension Plan of Work to the United States Department of Agriculture on April 29, 2010. This plan spells out their specific programs: 1) Global Food Security and Hunger, 2) Food Safety, 3) Natural Resources and Environmental Management, 4) Childhood Obesity, Healthy Eating and Physical Activity through the Lifespan and 5) Healthy Communities: Youth, Adults and Families. Statewide there are a total of 400 extension agents and 255 research personnel in this federal work plan (within the total KSRE employee count of 1,202). In this combined federal plan, the 5 program areas are given specific extension and research employee positions along with detailed outcome targets.

  click the icon to download the FY 2011-15 KSRE Combined Plan

FIELD NOTES

ORGANIC FOOD SALES: Sales of organic foods rose 5.1% in 2009 and now make up almost 4% of total U.S. food sales, according to the Organic Trade Association. Sales of organic fruits and vegetables are projected to grow by 13% yearly next year and the year after, and sales of organic food overall by 7%, says Barbara Haumann of the association. (USA Today - p. 1D Dec. 21, 2010)

DIRECT TO CONSUMER SALES: A 2010 USDA report states that direct to consumer sales (farmers markets, CSA's, etc.) accounted for only 0.4% of total agricultural sales in 2007 up from 0.3% in 1997.
(NC SARE newsletter Fall 2010)

FACTORY FARM DESPERATION: Greeley County (population 1,456) has voted on a referendum (190 to 171) to allow Seaboard Foods - based in Merriam, KS - to build a farm of 120,000 hogs at a cost of $30 million. This farm will employ 18 persons. Seaboard is the second largest hog producer in the country. In 1998, Greeley County was one of several Kansas counties that voted to ban mega-hog operations. This vote reverses that ban.

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND OUR FOOD: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a nano-tech food coloring 'titanium dioxide' in 1966. The FDA includes titanium dioxide in its 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) regulation. GRAS designation allows companies to bypass safety testing. According to the Feb 3 General Accounting Office (GAO) report, "Because GRAS notification is voluntary and companies are not required to identify nanomaterials in their GRAS substances, FDA has no way of knowing the full extent to which engineered nanomaterials have entered the U.S. food supply." All food containing nanotech must be fully reported in and regulated in Canada and the European Union.
Over 100 popular U.S. food products now have nanotech substances unlabeled.
(Fall 2010 DEFENDER p. 14 article by John Peck. Family Farm Defenders - one can direct order family farm cheese/food items from www.familyfarmers.org)

CONSOLIDATION IN THE BEEF INDUSTRY: The beef-packing industry is more powerful and consolidated now than it was a century ago when Congress enacted the Packers & Stockyards Act in 1921 to break up the beef monopolies. Beef packing is the most concentrated industry in the meat and poultry sector. Today, just four firms (Tyson, JB Swift, Cargill, National Beef) slaughter four out of five beef cattle. This concentration gives large packers tremendous leverage over independent cattle producers. The beef-packing industry has also expanded beyond slaughter and processing and now large packers own their own cattle and operate feedlots. These practices enable the meatpackers to drive down cattle process while keeping consumer beef prices high.
(Food and Water Watch - Fact Sheet - July 2010)

KANSAS LIVESTOCK FACTS: "Agriculture plays a very significant role in the Kansas economy. Of the total cash receipts from agriculture in recent years, approximately two-thirds of those receipts were derived from livestock and their associated products. The state ranks third in number of cattle on feed, number of cattle processed, and total beef production; ninth in hogs on farms, 10th in market sheep and lambs, 18th in milk produced and in sheep and lambs on farms, and 19th in meat and other goats. Kansas has one of the fastest growing dairy industries in the nation (60% production increase since 1998) with new annual product sales that exceed $80 million. Producing 450,000,000 pounds of pork (1.65 million head), Kansas ranks 9th in state swine production with 310 operations producing 95% of the state's pork."
(2011 KSU Combined Research and Extension Plan of Work - page 7)

For more information, contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@wildflower.net or Mary Fund at the email or phone number below.

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FARM BILL UPDATE
by Mary Fund

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) met last week in Washington, D.C. for its regular winter meeting, which this year focused on beginning to develop NSAC's 2012 federal farm bill platform, which will be launched in the summer of 2011. The two-day meeting was followed by a Farm Bill Summit, hosted by NSAC, for over 120 organizations to discuss farm bill issues and goals.

The message at both meetings was all about fighting off cuts to programs in what is shaping up to be a three-pronged attack on federal farm bill programs. The immediate issues are Appropriations and Budget Reconciliation measures, followed by the development of the 2012 Farm Bill.

Since the federal government is operating on a Continuing Resolution, Congress will be taking up the Appropriations battle in the near future. Budget reconciliation is all about making adjustments to current operating budgets and the coming federal fiscal year's budget appropriations. With the incoming Congress all about the economy, creating jobs, and reducing the national deficit, ALL of the farm programs favored by the sustainable agriculture community are vulnerable to cuts.

Therefore, "Protect Our Base" was the key message at the NSAC winter meeting. Programs which are near and dear to the heart of NSAC and its sustainable agriculture member groups (which includes the Kansas Rural Center) include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, the Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program, Value Added Producer Grants Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, organic transition, organic research programs, and rural development programs, to mention a few. All are in the crosshairs of a Congress hell-bent on reducing the size of government and cutting spending.

Commodity program payments, which have long been second only to the nutrition programs in size of the allocation, have been surpassed by crop insurance program payments to producers. (This includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.)

But like the commodity program payments which largely benefited a small group of mega-producers, the crop insurance program does not help sustainable ag's smaller constituents much. Conservation program payments (such as Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program etc.) are also now nearly equal to the commodity program payments, largely due to high crop prices keeping direct subsidy payments down. But that also means that gains in conservation programs and environmental protection are vulnerable to cuts.

The federal farm bill goes through an update and revision every four years, give or take a year, and involves a multitude of food and farming related programs, including nutrition or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, commodity payments, conservation, rural development, research, and energy etc. Decisions made in the farm bill dictate where a lot of federal dollars will go-or not go. And thus determine the direction of American food and agriculture.

In the 2008 Farm Bill, programs helping to advance local and regional food systems, organic and specialty crop production, conservation on working lands, rural development and micro-enterprises, and encouraging beginning farmer and ranchers, made advances. (Some were not necessarily funded but they were included, so maintain the possibility of being funded.) But it will all be on the table in the coming debate as the next farm bill takes shape.

NSAC and its member groups will continue to develop their 2012 Farm Bill Platform and agenda and hope to launch it by late summer. NSAC will advocate for federal farm policy reforms that advance a broad set of values and objectives that promote:

  • natural resource conservation and incentives to farmers for providing environmental and climate change mitigation benefits;
  • farming opportunity, fair competition, widespread ownership of land, and support for small and mid-sized farms, and beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
  • local and regional food system development, production diversification, specialty crop production, public health and long- term food security.

You can visit the NSAC website at http://sustainableagriculture.net for more on their priorities .
KRC will be reporting on budget and appropriations as well as farm bill developments here.

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JANUARY 7, 2011 E-REPORT

by Paul Johnson

Frankly, there is very little debate on farm and food policy before the Kansas Legislature. The major farm organizations lobby on related issues such as the elimination of the estate tax in Kansas, softening state environmental regulations, limiting water restrictions for agriculture and protecting the special sales and property tax breaks that benefit the farming community. It will take an educational effort and proactive agenda to increase the production/consumption of local foods in Kansas, increase the role of the remaining 58 small meat processors to meet the consumer's increasing demand for local, natural meats, and promote conservation and environmental protection of our resources.

The political environment has substantively changed in Kansas given the results of the November elections. The Kansas House of Representatives now has 92 Republicans to 33 Democrats while the Kansas Senate has 32 Republicans and 8 Democrats. These are the highest number of Republicans in the State Legislature since the landslide election of President Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

Last year, a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats in both the Kansas House and Senate were able to pass an increase in the sales tax to hold off more draconian budget cuts. Kansas Governor-elect Sam Brownback will not accept any tax increase and there are only about 45 moderates left in the Kansas House. The Kansas Senate will play the key role in tempering this new political climate.

2011 Kansas Legislative Session Preview

BUDGETARY CHALLENGES: The new Governor will have a difficult challenge to develop a budget for the 2012 Fiscal Year (FY) that begins July 1, 2011. Kansas has a state budget of $13 Billion. This budget is divided between the State General Fund (SGF) of $6 Billion - that is primarily funded by personal income and sales tax - and the remaining $7 Billion that is federal funds, highway funds, property taxes and dedicated fee funds. The Kansas Legislature primarily works on the SGF portion of this entire budget.

Over the last three years, over $1 Billion has been removed from the SGF. In the present FY 2011 State Budget that ends June 30, 2011, there are $490 million of 'final' federal stimulus funds of which $200 million has been used for public education. The Governor-elect has stated that the $200 million for public schools will not be replaced for 2012 so schools will have to cut expenses with less personnel and larger classes or increase local property taxes.

Beyond the reduction to public education, the promise is that budgets for 'core functions' can be held level to their present levels. The fiscal debate will be to define 'core functions' and what other state duties can be curtailed or eliminated.

GOVERNOR'S REORGANIZATION ORDER: Rumor has it that the new Governor will propose some extensive re-organizational changes to state government. The Governor has 30 days after inauguration to propose such an order. The Kansas House and Senate have 45 days to review this reorganization order.
By a simple majority, either chamber can vote down this reorganization order but cannot amend it. This reorganization order can change existing statues and duties of departments in the executive branch. It is possible we will see certain environmental programs moved from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The Kansas Health Policy Authority - that controls $2.5 Billion in medical programs - is presently not under direct control by the Governor and so that may be changed.

DEFINING SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: Last year, the Kansas Grain and Feed Dealers proposed legislation to define 'sustainable agriculture' in state statue. In essence, they wanted to call all existing farming practices sustainable. I believe 7 other states have defined sustainable agriculture in law. The bill was introduced in the Kansas Senate Agriculture committee but the proponents changed their minds over calling for a hearing on the bill. This bill will have to be re-introduced to be considered.

FEDERAL FUNDING IMPACT: Congress was unable to pass a complete year budget for 2011. The federal budget Continuing Resolution passed in December expires March 4 so budgetary challenges for conservation, organics, value-added grants, beginning farmer programs, etc. will be formidable. The commodity groups will fight hard to protect their direct farm payments while many hunger advocates will fight to protect the expanded food stamp program so other farm programs will be under attack. Senator Pat Roberts will now be the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture committee while the new chair will be Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan who has a broader view of specialty crops and conservation programs. Reductions in direct support and federal research grants for Land Grant colleges will impact K-State Research ">

FIELD NOTES

CONSOLIDATION IN KANSAS AGRICULTURE: In 2007 Kansas had 65,531 farms with sales of $14.4 Billion. 3,268 of these farms accounted for 75% of total sales. Since 1978, the number of Kansas' dairies has declined from 5,691 to 776 in 2007 with 21 now accounting for 65% of milk sales. Kansas had 13,749 hog farms in 1978 while today Kansas has 1,542 with 219 accounting for 75% of pork sales. From 1995 to 2009, 85% of the $13.5 Billion in farm bill payments went to the top 20% of all Kansas' farmers. View a state map of these large factory farms by county at www.foodandwaterwatch.org - click on food at the top of the website and click on factory farms.

COWS EAT GRASS? : The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Ricardo Salvador - a former professor at Iowa State University and finalist for director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture - lost out on this position when he mentioned in his interview that the natural way to produce meat is on land suitable for grasses and perennial crops. When asked whether cows evolved to eat grass, Wendy Wintersteen - dean of ISU's agriculture school - replied she did not have an opinion on Salvador's statement.
 - MOTHER EARTH NEWS December 2010/January 2011 - page 20

RURAL GROCERY STORES: According to Kansas State University, 82 grocery stores in communities of fewer than 2,500 people in Kansas have closed since 2007. In total, 38 % of the grocery stores in Kansas' towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.
 - CENTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS December 2010 Newsletter - page 3

YOUR FOOD ENVIRONMENT ATLAS: This is a remarkable database on food and farms in your county. This was developed in conjunction with Michelle Obama's 'Let' Move' campaign to confront childhood obesity. This data basis documents the availability of local foods, food assistance, eating patterns, proximity to supermarkets, food taxes, obesity levels and many other related issues. http://maps.ers.usda.gov/FoodAtlas/foodenv5.aspx

RBGH FREE LABELING: In October 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District overturned the Ohio law restricting rBGH-free labels. Two years ago the State Of Ohio issued a regulation that restricted a company's ability to state that the milk it markets is rBGH-free and produced without antibiotics, added growth hormones or pesticides. A lower court upheld the law, but in October the Sixth District Court reversed that decision, agreeing that consumers have a right to know how their dairy products are produced. The court also found that there is a significant compositional difference between milk produced from untreated cows and milk from cows injected with rBGH.
 - The Organic and Non-GMO Report, November 2010

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