Hi, lot to visit about this time…

Nick Levendofsky: Nick, a great KFU staffer for the past couple of years, has moved on. He has taken a marketing position with NFO. I miss the kid. I pushed a lot of stuff off on him that I no longer had the passion to give it my best shot at, but it will be a good experience for him and Pete will be a great mentor.

GIPSA: Farmers Union was an important player in the effort to reauthorize the Grain Standards Act. Long story short, there was a strong attempt to privatize the grain inspection program in the U.S.. NFU’s Hill staff did good.

COOL: We are getting hammered on Country of Origin Labeling in this Congress. Yes, the WTO ruled against the U.S. (the WTO ALWAYS rules against the U.S. on everything), but Congress is already moving forward attempting a full repeal of the COOL law before the WTO arbitration has run its course. My opinion is that there is just too much influence on our governing body by those who profit from a public unaware of where their meat comes from to allow the arbitration process to run its course. There is good evidence that the harm done to Canada and Mexico by U.S. beef labeled by COOL has been negligible, but if Congress completely repeals COOL now before the arbitration is even finished, then we will likely never know…

Organic Check-off: Farmers Union is deeply involved in the proposed Organic Check-off by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). We have been asked to support the proposed check-off but feel it is unacceptable as it sits now. It would need to be rewritten before NFU would even consider supporting it. I feel it is too highly focused on the organic processing industry and larger operations and doesn’t focus enough on the production side of organic farming research and education. Additionally, the proposed check-off board has limited representation from family-farm production agriculture.

Kansas Legislature: Wow, what can I say? At least the budget circus kept them so focused on our financial woes they didn’t even attempt to kill off what little remains of our County rights in regard to corporate agriculture. Ag came through the budget war pretty solid. I worry that this limp budget fix to get us by for another year and the already inadequate funding of education in Kansas will kick off yet another round of rural school consolidations. That won’t be good for our rural farmers or our rural communities… The repeal of the Kansas Renewable Energy Standards mandate was wrong and showed once again how powerful entities can successfully manipulate legislative decisions that go against the well being of the citizens they represent…

Kansas Farmer Veteran Coalition: I’m proud to say that there is now a Kansas chapter of the Farmers Veterans Coalition (FVC)! The FVC is dedicated to helping veterans interested in pursuing their agriculture dreams once completing their service to our country. Part of this is the “Homegrown by Heroes” label that helps veterans’ products stand out in the marketplace, but FVC does much more than that. FVC provides legal assistance to veterans, connects veterans with the USDA and the agricultural community, etc. I have had the honor of serving on the national FVC executive board the past couple of years and was eager to see it move forward in Kansas. Janet Barrows with Farm Credit and I collaborated to put together an exploratory meeting earlier this year hosted by Ks. Farmers Union, Ks. Farm Bureau, and Farm Credit. We had great attendance and participation by veterans and those interested in supporting them. We hosted a follow-up meeting where an internal board of officers was elected. The board is now up and running with it. Last month there was a Farmer Veteran Risk Management Education conference held in Kansas City hosted by the national FVC. It went well and there were five Kansas FVC members in attendance. Kansas members were even represented at a reception honoring FVC’s on Capitol Hill in June! I am proud of them.

In June, 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers met with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women travelled to Washington D.C. to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture.

Many participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.

Veterans discussed how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life and how agriculture gives them purpose.