from March 30

SMOKE MODELING AND FIRE WEATHER AVAILABLE AT WWW.KSFIRE.ORG

     As the prescribed burning season gets into full swing, landowners and managers are encouraged to help spread out the timing of burns by using web-based tools on www.ksfire.org. Interactive smoke models on this website are designed to help Flint Hills ranchers voluntarily mitigate air quality problems in downwind communities with larger populations. This and other steps included in the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan are intended to help the ranching community avoid more strict regulation in the future.
     There are two smoke forecast models available. The Cumulative Fire Impact map shows the predicted potential smoke contributions from each county to air quality in urban areas. It is based on the assumption that multiple fires will be occurring simultaneously across the Flint Hills.
     The second model shows the direction and extent of the predicted plume from a single burn. Users select a county where the burn is located, provide the number of acres to be burned and estimate the fuel load. An animated display shows movement of the smoke plume over the next 48 hours.
     A discussion of weather conditions also is available. This allows ranchers to evaluate whether better days for burning lie ahead.

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from March 27

KDA ASSISTANT SECRETARY CRITICAL OF EPA PROPOSAL IN CONGRESSIONAL TESTIMONY

     Applying a blanket definition of tributary in Kansas, as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will result in a nearly 460% increase in the number of stream miles subject to provisions of the Clean Water Act. That was a point of emphasis expressed by Kansas Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Susan Metzger during a hearing last week in the U.S. Senate Ag Committee.
     Metzger told committee members, led by Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, EPA’s one-size-fits-all definition is not appropriate given the scarcity of flow in Kansas and the inherent variability of those streams to impact downstream waters. She noted the proposed waters of the U.S. rule will require additional expenditures at the state level and will provide only marginal environmental benefit.
     The Kansas Department of Agriculture submitted testimony significantly opposing the proposed rule during last year’s formal comment period. The agency characterized the rule as federal government overreach into the state’s jurisdiction over intrastate waters.

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from March 26

WATER PROPOSALS AMONG THOSE LEGISLATORS ARE CONSIDERING

     While taxes are dominating discussion at the state Capitol, there are other issues affecting agriculture that are under consideration. Legislators are working toward the April 3 first adjournment.
     Augmentation to remedy impairments - The House passed SB 52 yesterday (3/25). This bill would allow the chief engineer of the Division of Water Resources to use water augmentation to remedy cases of impairment of senior water rights. SB 52 was amended to incorporate language from SB 36 that would allow water users enrolled in a five-year flex account to roll over a portion of their unused allocation into a subsequent flex account. This bill likely will be reviewed by a House and Senate Conference Committee next week. KLA supports SB 52.
     Mitigation of watershed dams - Earlier this week, the Senate passed HB 2061. Supported by KLA, the bill would authorize the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s State Conservation Commission to acquire and administer conservation easements necessary for the mitigation of new dams sponsored by watershed districts. HB 2061 previously passed the House and now goes to a House and Senate conference committee.
     Veterinary training - The Senate recently passed HB 2364, which would extend the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine scholarship program for students who pledge to practice veterinary medicine in rural areas of Kansas. HB 2364 previously passed the House and now is in a House and Senate conference committee. KLA supports this bill. 

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from March 25

MCNEILL TELLS PANEL EXCLUDING LEAN MEAT ‘IGNORES DECADES OF NUTRITION SCIENCE”

     NCBA Executive Director of Human Nutrition Research Shalene McNeill told a government panel yesterday that excluding lean meat as part of a healthy dietary pattern is a historic move that ignores decades of nutrition science and all previous editions of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. While the advisory committee revising the guidelines defends its scientific report as mentioning lean beef in a footnote, McNeill said the recommendations could have a detrimental impact on human health.
     “Advising people to cut back on their red meat intake has had harmful consequences,” she said during a public meeting on the proposed guidelines. “As red meat intake has declined, we are consuming more empty calories and obesity rates have steadily increased.”
     McNeill’s comments came during a public meeting on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, released in February. USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are accepting public comments until May 8. Secretaries Sylvia Burwell and Tom Vilsack are reviewing scientific evidence assembled by the advisory committee before final guidelines are issued later this year.
     Significant scientific evidence supports including lean red meat, like nutrient-rich beef, as part of a healthy diet. NCBA is encouraging Burwell and Vilsack to reinstate the 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommendation on lean meat.
     Livestock industry stakeholders who would like to submit comments supporting the inclusion of lean meat in the new dietary guidelines can do so by clicking here. Sample comments are available at this site.

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from March 24

LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD TO BE AWARDED IN KANSAS

     The Sand County Foundation, in partnership with Ranchland Trust of Kansas (RTK) and the Kansas Association of Conservation Districts (KACD), is accepting applications for the Leopold Conservation Award in Kansas. This year, for the first time, a $10,000 award will be presented to a Kansas farmer, rancher or private landowner who voluntarily exemplifies responsible natural resource stewardship and management.
     Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the Kansas award is made possible by support from Clean Line Energy Partners, Ducks Unlimited, International Transmission Company, NextEra Energy Resources, Westar Energy, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, DuPont Pioneer, The Mosaic Company and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
     Applications must be postmarked by May 29. For an application or more information, go to www.leopoldconservationaward.org. The award will be presented November 23 during the KACD Convention in Wichita.
     RTK is an affiliate of KLA. The RTK mission is “to preserve Kansas’ ranching heritage and open spaces for future generations through the conservation of working landscapes.” 

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from March 23

STATE LEGISLATORS CONTINUE TO LOOK FOR FUNDING SOURCES

     Several bills were the subject of hearings last week in tax committees. This was in anticipation of the Kansas Legislature being forced to increase taxes to balance the 2016 state budget. As with all pending tax bills, lawmakers are not expected to vote on any tax measures until the veto session starts April 29.
Thus far, tax committees have not scheduled hearings on SB 178 or SB 264. SB 178 is the bill estimated to increase property taxes on agricultural land by more than 500%. SB 264 proposes to impose a sales tax on farm machinery and equipment, repair and replacement parts, and labor costs for repairing farm machinery and equipment. KLA opposes these bills.
     Other bills of interest to the livestock industry were discussed last week by legislators.
     Sales tax on utilities - The Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation held a hearing last week on a bill (SB 261) to impose a sales tax on gas, electricity and other fuel sources for residential and agricultural use. SB 261 would raise an additional $139 million in state general funds. KLA submitted testimony in opposition to the bill.
     Excise tax on renewable energy - The House Tax Committee held a hearing last week on a bill that would impose a 4.33% excise tax on ethanol, wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy production. To date, the bill (HB 2401) has not been scheduled for a vote. 

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from March 20

VIRTUAL KANSAS DAIRY TOUR LAUNCHED ON NATIONAL AGRICULTURE DAY

     The Kansas ag community released a new virtual dairy farm tour on National Agriculture Day. Posted on the Kansas State Research and Extension YouTube channel, the video features Steve Strickler’s dairy farm near Iola.
     Grade school classes from Norton, Williamsburg and Leon watched a tour of the farm March 18 when ag groups nationwide worked to promote a better understanding and appreciation for food producers. In conjunction with the video, Strickler and his herdsman, Harry Clubine, visited online with students about life at the dairy.
     Use of the virtual farm tour is encouraged by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Questions about the video should be directed to megan.macy@kda.ks.gov.

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from March 19

FREE BQA CERTIFICATION AVAILABLE ONLINE

     Ranchers, feeders and dairymen can earn free Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification through April 15. The offer is available as the result of a partnership between Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica (BI) and the checkoff-funded BQA program. Certification can be accomplished here.
     Online modules are customized to meet the needs of producers in different industry segments, including cow-calf, stocker, feedyard and dairy. Beyond reinforcing best practices for cattle production, cattle producers becoming BQA-certified helps reassure consumers they are buying a safe, wholesome product.
     This is the third year BI has sponsored this promotion. The partnership has led to more than 16,000 producers earning BQA certification. 

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from March 18

KANSAS AG COMMUNITY RECOGNIZES WORK OF FARMERS AND RANCHERS

     A group of ag businesses and organizations led by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) is bringing attention to the contributions of farmers and ranchers on National Agriculture Day. Activities started this morning with representatives of the group visiting the office of each state legislator at the Capitol to deliver treats and answer questions. 
     Later today, the focus will be on National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson, who will speak in Manhattan about hunger around the world and the importance of feeding a growing population. Following Richardson’s lecture, a panel of Kansas agriculture experts will take the stage to address the state’s role in growing food for a hungry planet. 
     The groups have dedicated most of the month of March to the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Drive. Food donations collected during the statewide promotion will help feed the hungry and highlight agriculture in Kansas.
     Kansas Agriculture Month sponsors include KDA, the Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Association of Ethanol Processors, Farm Credit Associations of Kansas, Heritage Tractor, Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Cotton Commission, Kansas Grain and Feed Association, Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Wheat Commission, Livestock Marketing Association, Kansas Dairy Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Seaboard, Kansas Soybean, Ardent Mills, Kansas Bankers Association and Kansas Sorghum.

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from March 17


SENATORS CALL FOR EXTENSION OF COMMENT PERIOD ON DIETARY GUIDELINES REPORT

     A bipartisan group of four U.S. senators, led by Pat Roberts of Kansas, have requested a 30-day extension of the public comment period on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s Scientific Report. Joining Roberts in the request are Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Patty Murray (D-WA). In a letter to U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Burwell, the senators suggested the advisory committee’s notably different recommendations from previous guidelines will require additional time for analysis. An extension, according to the senators, would be extremely beneficial to help continue the transparent process and ensure the final report is of the utmost scientific integrity.
     Sen. Roberts is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, with Sen. Stabenow serving as ranking member. Sen. Alexander serves as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has jurisdiction over HHS. Sen. Murray is ranking member of the committee.  
     NCBA has been critical of the scientific report due to inconsistencies that will lead to conflicting dietary advice. On one hand, the advisory committee has endorsed the Mediterranean style diet, which has higher red meat levels than currently consumed by the average American. On the other hand, committee members removed lean meats from the list of foods associated with a healthy diet; instead including only a footnote indicating lean meats can be part of a healthy diet.

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