Putting Policy Into Action
The biggest strength of Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) is its grassroots policy process that undergoes at least a year of debate before it’s enshrined in the organization’s policy book. This manual serves a blueprint for the advocacy work of state staff in the Kansas Legislature. In 2022, this member-driven process was crucial to improving farming, ranching and rural living during the legislative session.
The success Kansas Farm Bureau had during the last legislative session will affect everyone in agriculture or living in a rural community in some fashion. Some of the wins are unlikely to be undone anytime soon and others could prove to be more fleeting without continued engagement.
As of July 1, several of these polices are now laws codified in Kansas statutes. That’s proof that a group of dedicated people working toward a common goal can make the ultimate influence on the political process. Turning policy into action is not an easy endeavor, so it’s worth acknowledging when it does happen.
Here are a handful of examples of how Farm Bureau members of Kansas and other likeminded organizations had an impact in Topeka:
Fencing Tax Exemption: KFB successfully testified in support of a law the exempts fencing supplies and services from sales tax to repair fencing damaged or destroyed by natural disasters including wildfires. Those exemptions are permanent for all farmers and ranchers.
Based on calculations from the Kansas Division of Budget and the Kansas State University Land Use Survey Center, this sales tax elimination will save farmers and ranchers approximately $865 for each mile of fence, a number that will grow alongside the cost of materials and labor.
Funding for Rural Housing: Kansas Farm Bureau was one of nearly two dozen organizations that successfully lobbied for an investment in rural housing of more than $100 million. The money will come from the state’s extraordinary budget surplus and unspent federal COVID-19 relief funding. Included in the spending package is $40 million to spur moderate-income housing programs. An additional $20 million is dedicated specifically to rural housing.
Expansion of Rural Veterinary Program: KFB supported legislation that will expand the Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas, addressing a shortage of veterinarians across the state. The legislation will allow more flexibility in where Kansas State University graduates can establish a practice and receive up to $25,000 per year in student loan forgiveness. The law also adds flexibility to increase the number of recipients beyond the maximum of five if funding is available.
Pasture Tax Fix: KFB successfully supported a policy change in how pastureland enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands are classified for Kansas property tax purposes. Without this fix, land that has always been in pasture and then enrolled in the CRP was in danger of being classified as higher-value dryland farm ground for property tax purposes.
Water Issues: Kansas Farm Bureau staff testified against proposed legislation that would have consolidated the state’s water regulatory agencies because it would have increased government bureaucracy and consolidated enormous power under the control of a single political appointee, in addition to other measures that go against KFB’s policy. While the proposal was ultimately unsuccessful, it has prompted a review of KFB policy on water issues with regional meetings scheduled around the state, including July 6 in Hutchinson, July 7 in Dodge City, July 12 in Hoxie and July 14 in Burlington. For more on the meetings or to register visit www.kfb.org.As the final issue illustrates, effectively implementing policy is a job that never ends. It requires continued discussion and refinement, and the ability to react quickly when there’s an opening. Kansas Farm Bureau will continue seeking feedback, forging alliances and pushing politicians to create rules and regulations allowing agriculture to flourish in Kansas and beyond.