By GREG DOERING
Kansas Bureau of Agriculture
The Kansas Farm Bureau’s (KFB) greatest strength is its grassroots policy process which undergoes at least a year of debate before being written into the organization’s policy book. This manual serves as a model for the advocacy work of state staff in the Kansas Legislature. In 2022, this member-driven process was crucial to improving agriculture, livestock and rural life during the legislative session.
The success of the Kansas Farm Bureau during the last legislative session will affect everyone in farming or living in a rural community in one way or another. Some of the wins are unlikely to be undone anytime soon and others may prove more fleeting without continued commitment.
As of July 1, many of these policies are now codified laws in Kansas statutes. It is proof that a group of dedicated people working towards a common goal can exert the ultimate influence on the political process. Turning policy into action is not an easy undertaking, so it’s worth acknowledging it when it happens.
Here are some examples of how members of the Kansas Farm Bureau and other like-minded organizations have made an impact in Topeka:
Fence Tax Exemption: KFB successfully testified in support of legislation exempting fencing supplies and services from sales tax to repair fences damaged or destroyed by natural disasters, including fires of forest. These exemptions are permanent for all farmers and ranchers.
Based on calculations by the Kansas Division of the Budget and the Kansas State University Land Use Survey Center, this elimination of the sales tax will allow farmers and ranchers to save approximately $865 for each mile of fencing, a figure that will increase along with the cost of materials and labor.
Rural Housing Funding: Kansas Farm Bureau was one of nearly two dozen organizations that successfully lobbied for rural housing investment of over $100 million. The money will come from the state’s extraordinary budget surplus and unspent federal COVID-19 relief funding. The spending package includes $40 million to boost moderate-income housing programs. An additional $20 million is earmarked specifically for rural housing.
Rural Veterinarian Program Expansion: KFB supported legislation that will expand the veterinary training program for rural Kansas, addressing a statewide shortage of veterinarians. The legislation will allow greater flexibility in where Kansas State University graduates can establish a practice and receive up to $25,000 a year in student loan forgiveness. The law also adds flexibility to increase the number of beneficiaries beyond the maximum of five if funding is available.
Pasture Tax Fix: KFB successfully supported a policy change in how pastures enrolled in the Federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) are classified for Kansas property tax purposes. Without this solution, land that has always been grazing and then entered into the CRP risked being classified as higher value dryland farmland for property tax purposes.
Water issues: Kansas Farm Bureau staff testified against a proposed law that would have consolidated state water regulatory agencies because it would have increased government bureaucracy and consolidated enormous power under the control of only one politician, in addition to other measures that go against KFB policy. . Although the proposal ultimately fell through, it prompted a review of KFB’s policy on water issues with regional meetings scheduled across the state, including July 6 in Hutchinson, July 7 in Dodge City, the July 12 in Hoxie and July 14 in Burlington. To learn more about meetings or to register, visit www.kfb.org.
As the last issue illustrates, effective policy implementation is a never-ending job. It requires continuous discussion and refinement, as well as the ability to react quickly when there is an opening. The Kansas Farm Bureau will continue to seek input, forge alliances, and push politicians to create rules and regulations that allow farming to thrive in Kansas and beyond.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by the Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agricultural organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.