Been a lot going on…

Amazing Grazing

Mary Howell has just finished up a marathon 17 Amazing Grazing III events through this past year!

State Convention

We had our annual state convention in Topeka that had an all-star cast of speakers who were educational, hilarious and motivating. Our two keynote presentations were truly amazing and are now available for viewing on our website and we will have the rest of the great speakers uploaded soon. At the business session of convention there has been some changes on the KFU board.

Changes on the KFU Board of Directors

Northern district director Chris Schmidt has resigned his position having moved to Colorado. Chris and Sherri became good friends and Chris was a great and responsible board member and we will miss their participation. Chris served as a state director from 2009 to 2015. Thank you Chris.

Lavern Potuzak has stepped down as KFU vice-president but was re-elected as a northern district director. Lavern served as a district director earlier and was then elected as Vice President in 2011 and has been a great representative of KFU. Lavern is a true-blue Kansas Farmers Union loyal member and a friend and I respect him and thank him immensely for his contribution to KFU.

Matt Ubel from Wheaton has been newly elected as a Northern district director. He is an active member of Farmers Union and serves as Pottawatomie County president. Matt, along with his wife Leah, participated last year in the National Beginning Farmers Institute class as did newly elected KFU Vice President Nick Levendofsky who also serves as Republic County FU president.

Gerard Steinlage, Nemaha County Farmers Union president, is stepping down from the board. He has served as a northern district director since 2011. Gerard is truly loyal to Farmers Union and gave willingly of his time and talents for the organization. Thank you so much for your commitment to KFU, Gerard.

KFU State Office Move

One thing I want to share with the membership is the fact that for the first time in decades we have moved our physical location. As of January 1st the Kansas Farmers Union’s state office is now located at 115 E Marlin, Suite 108. Farmer directions; it’s a block north of the Post Office in McPherson which makes it a block east of main street. It’s a good location and I think we will be happy with the move and location. I want to throw out a big thank you to the gang who came and helped move the office, Lavern Potuzak (and his trailer), David Heiens, Herb & Pat Bartel, Matt Ubel and Zach Teske (strong young backs much appreciated!), Mary Howell, and of course, Callie. There were others who had full intentions of helping but had conflicts after we had to change the date due to a winter storm. We’ve been going through gobs of stuff and we have delivered many boxes of our history to the Kansas State Historical Society for preservation for posterity and will have more after we go through them.

Kansas Legislative Session

Now we are in the beginning salvos of the legislative session and it’s challenging to say the least. We have arranged to have a fine young man, Sean Gatewood, a former two-term Ks. legislator and former interim executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition to be our watch-dog during the session. He’s doing a great job. So far we have presented testimony on two proposed bills and are preparing testimony now on a third.

SB314 would extend the Local Food and Farm Task Force implemented last year for another year. KFU testified in support of this bill and it looks to likely be passed.

We also testified on HB2479 which would drastically change the states current noxious weed laws, greatly accelerating enforcement and penalties. KFU testified as neutral but was probably rightly challenged by the committee that my testimony was really in opposition because I stated that although KFU policy supports the current noxious weed laws implemented by the county, KFU would not support the results of this bill as presented.

My main concerns:

It would give tremendous power to one individual, the state Secretary of Agriculture without really any checks and balances.

One permanent position on the advisory committee to the secretary would be the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association. This just isn’t right, and any professional expertise they might supply to the committee I argue could easily be contributed by the two board positions from KSU. (My testimony likened their position on this advisory board to be like having a mortician on a hospital board, one knows that their hearts are probably pure but way down deep inside one just has to wonder a tiny bit……)

As written it appears to threaten that extremely delicate balance between landowner rights and controlling the spread of a noxious weed that the counties have done so well so far.

The state accepts no costs for this increased assault on noxious weeds, in effect mandating it will happen but it will be totally at the landowners expense.

When the bill was worked the large numbers of proposed amendments resulted in Chairman Schwartz referring it back to committee for further work. Hopefully they will come up with a better bill we can support this time.

We are closely watching–and preparing testimony on HB2595 which would take away local rights relating to regulation of consumer incentive items and labeling of food by political subdivisions. If this bill makes it to a hearing, we will testify in opposition to the bill.

Other bushel-basket-full of bills we are watching concern property taxes, water rights, school consolidations, school & state procurement (just imagine how it would affect the local rural economy if all at once rural school districts were mandated to purchase their fuel from a state contract instead of utilizing the local stations in their communities?), etc.

I also fully expect this to be the year when another attempt will be made to eliminate county option rights in regard to corporate hogs…

National Farmers Union Convention: March 5th-8th in warm and balmy Minneapolis, MN

The NFU convention is coming flying at us! NFU voting delegates from Kansas, selected by our delegates at state convention, will be four of 6 elected; Nick Levendofsky, Matt Ubel, Zack Pistora, Mary Fund, Becky Craig, and Tom Giessel. This is an election year so my 2-year term as NFU VP is up for election. Two of us have filed for the position of Vice President: Tammy Basel of South Dakota, and myself. I feel kind of proud of the job I’ve done, at least I don’t think I have too publicly embarrassed this great organization and would be honored to again serve if the voting body so chooses.