Kansas Farm Bureau had a good 2022 as evidenced by the Pinnacle and New Horizon awards it received at the American Farm Bureau’s 104th convention recently. The Pinnacle award is the highest honor a state Farm Bureau can earn for program and membership achievement. KFB received the New Horizon award, which highlights innovative new programs, for the Casten Fellows Program, developed to honor the life of staffer Jill Casten-Downing through leadership development and international travel. 

The honors are well deserved, and it’s nice to take a few minutes to appreciate the amount of work required to go from the initial idea to implementation and execution. The destination is important, but so is the journey.

There’s no shortage of challenges today in agriculture, as evidenced by just some of the ongoing work from last year, like KFB’s End Hunger campaign to ensure all our state’s residents have access to the food they need. From Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, individuals and businesses contributed more than $50,000 toward the campaign. That money will go to innovative programs run by county Farm Bureaus to address the needs they’ve identified locally. By no way is this problem solved, but progress is being made. Next year’s goal is to raise $75,000.

Another ongoing project includes KFB’s purchase of Shop Kansas Farms (SKF) which allows our farm and ranch members to reach consumers in a new way. SKF founder Rick McNary is also helping communities develop local food systems to capture the full economic value from farm gates to dinner plates. 

Announced late last year, the Rural Kansas Apprenticeship Program will really get rolling in 2023 as the state’s first ever initiative to match agriculturists and rural business owners with a structured plan to train and retain employees. It’s not a silver bullet for the lack of help available in rural areas, but it’s the beginning of addressing a skills gap to meet our current and future workforce needs.

As always, KFB will continue to ensure the voices of farmers and ranchers are heard in Topeka with a special focus on three topics: water, taxes and broadband.

KFB will continue to support the basic tenets of Kansas water law, which have provided our members the ability to plan, invest and defend their private property rights for decades. KFB policy also supports the development of a Kansas Water Plan, either through the state general fund or dedicated statewide revenue sources.

Any redesign of tax structures comes with the potential to shift taxes from one source to another with significant consequences. KFB will continue to steadfastly advocate for the constitutionally required use-value system that accurately and appropriately values agricultural lands and provides stable tax revenues to local units of government. Agricultural operations are businesses, and they should receive fair and equal tax treatment as it pertains to sales tax exemptions.

Access to a vibrant, high-speed broadband network is essential to the future of both rural and urban Kansas. Statewide broadband deployment will provide new opportunities for the delivery of healthcare, education, entertainment, business development and enhance the capabilities of precision agriculture. Efforts by the state to facilitate telecommunications connectivity throughout Kansas should consider the technology-dependent nature of the agriculture industry, and its significant impact on the Kansas economy.

For those paying attention, this isn’t a new list, and there’s a good chance it will be similar in 2024. There will be advancements on some fronts and setbacks on others. The key is stick to your priorities and have the patience to withstand the mundane and incremental nature of progress.