from May 28


EPA CHARGES ON WITH WOTUS RULE DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION

     The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers did very little to incorporate changes suggested by NCBA, KLA and other ag groups in the final version of the waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Ambiguous language in the rule will leave regulation up to the subjectivity of individual regulators across the country.
     NCBA President Philip Ellis criticized EPA for ignoring strong concerns expressed during the public comment process. The agency received more than one million comments on the proposal, but took only six months to issue the final rule.
     According to NCBA, the final rule poses a threat to private property owners and usurps state authority over land and water use. The rule will dramatically increase federal jurisdiction over features like ponds, dry stream beds and floodplains. 
     NCBA and KLA support a bill passed in mid-May by the full U.S. House that would require EPA to withdraw the controversial rule. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate would force EPA to re-start the WOTUS rulemaking process and include stakeholders, especially those in agriculture.

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from May 27

KLF PRESENTS YOUTH IN AGRICULTURE SCHOLARSHIPS

     The Kansas Livestock Foundation has awarded nine $1,000 “Youth in Agriculture” (YIA) scholarships to students from across the state for the next school year. Funded by the club calf sale held during the Kansas Junior Livestock Show, these scholarships are presented each year to students entering or returning to a Kansas junior or senior college and pursuing a degree in agriculture or a related field. The following five recipients will be attending Kansas State University in the fall.
     Lindy Bilberry is the daughter of Larry and Ann Bilberry from Garden City. She will be a junior in agribusiness. Kord Curran, son of Joseph and Kim Curran from Farlington, will be a freshman majoring in agribusiness. Chelsey Figge is the daughter of Keith and Beverly Figge from Onaga. She will be a junior majoring in agricultural education. Gabryelle Gilliam, the daughter of Jerry and Cristi Gilliam of Washington, will be a freshman majoring in agricultural communications. Matthew Hamon from Ozawkie will be a freshman majoring in agricultural economics. He is the son of John and Lisa Hamon.   
     The other four recipients of YIA scholarships will be highlighted in next week’s KLA newsletter.


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from May 26


HOUSE AG COMMITTEE MOVES SWIFTLY AND DECISIVELY TO REPEAL MCOOL

     The U.S. House Ag Committee approved a bill last week that would repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL) requirements for beef, pork and chicken. According to Committee Chairman Michael Conaway of Texas, the bill, which passed 38 to 6, is a targeted response to bring the U.S. back in compliance with international trading obligations.
     Passage of the bill followed action by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body to uphold a previous finding that mCOOL unfairly discriminates against meat and livestock from Canada and Mexico. WTO officials have begun the process of authorizing both countries to retaliate in the form of tariffs on U.S. products, including beef and pork. Canada and Mexico are among the largest buyers of U.S. red meat.
     “We must do all we can to avoid retaliation by Canada and Mexico,” said Conaway.
     NCBA President Philip Ellis applauded the committee’s passage of the bill. The Chugwater, WY, rancher asked the full U.S. House to take up the legislation as soon as possible.
     “COOL has been around in one form or another for over a decade without benefit, and now is the time to act to repeal this broken legislation,” said Ellis. 
     New economic research conducted at Kansas State University shows mCOOL has led to net economic losses because overall meat demand has not increased and industry costs to implement the labeling program have risen.

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from May 22

KLA MEMBERS ASKED TO CALL LEGISLATORS ABOUT PROPOSALS SINGLING OUT AG

     State lawmakers are on a four-day break for the Memorial Day holiday and will reconvene May 26 in an attempt to wrap up the 2015 session. Reaching consensus on a $400 million tax hike package continues to stand in the way of final adjournment.
     Senators are expected to debate, offer amendments and vote on a tax plan May 26 or 27. The bill (Senate Substitute for HB 2109) on the Senate floor has nine revenue enhancement components, including a .35% increase in the state sales tax rate; a 5¢ increase in the motor fuel tax; a cigarette and tobacco tax hike; adjustments to the motor vehicle property tax assessment; and would reimpose, for two years, the non-wage business income tax on LLC’s, subchapter-S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships.
     Amendments to establish a new $3 per acre tax on land and repeal of the farm machinery and equipment sales tax exemption likely will be considered during the Senate debate. KLA members are encouraged to call or email their state senators to express opposition to these amendments and other proposals that single out agriculture for tax increases. Members should contact senators and representatives in their district over the holiday weekend or call the legislative hotline starting Tuesday (5/26) at (800) 432-3924.

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from May 21

BEEF ATTRACTING ATTENTION FOR ECONOMIC, HEALTH BENEFITS

     The Kansas Beef Council (KBC) continues to engage in Beef Month activities that raise awareness of beef’s contribution to the Kansas economy and human health. KBC Executive Director Kevin Thielen reminds audiences in news releases and media interviews that the number of cattle in Kansas is more than double the state’s human population. That translated to a new record $8.9 billion in cash receipts from Kansas cattle during 2014.
     KBC staff is highlighting beef nutrition during Beef Month as well. Nutrition and health is the focus of the checkoff-funded “30-Day Protein Challenge.” The challenge features a daily diary, including suggestions that help consumers optimize the amount of protein eaten throughout the day. Research shows consuming protein in balanced amounts at each meal is beneficial to improving overall health. Consumers are reminded online resources to help them meet the challenge are available here.
     Promotional efforts are paying off. The Protein Challenge landing page has become the most visited page on the website, with more than 70,000 visits.  

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from May 20

K-STATE STUDENTS SELECTED FOR LINDSTROM SCHOLARSHIPS

     Justin Schmutz and Spencer Yenni each have been selected to receive a $1,000 Glenn & Clyde Lindstrom Scholarship through the Kansas Livestock Foundation (KLF) for the 2015-16 school year. Both will be attending Kansas State University in the fall.
     Schmutz, the son of Jan and the late Ron Schmutz from Salina, will be a sophomore majoring in agriculture technology management. Yenni is the son of David and Kim Yenni of Lindsborg. He will be a junior majoring in agricultural economics.   
     This scholarship is funded through a gift left to KLF by the Lindstrom brothers, who passed away in 2007. Together they operated a farming and cattle business southwest of Falun.
     For more information on KLF or how to donate, contact Ryan Higbie at ryan@kla.org

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from May 19 

WTO RULING INCREASES CALLS FOR mCOOL REPEAL

 

     The World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body announced yesterday it has upheld a previous finding that mandatory U.S. country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL) unfairly discriminates against meat and livestock from Canada and Mexico. WTO officials now will begin the process of authorizing Canada and Mexico to retaliate against U.S. products, including beef and pork. The two countries are among the largest buyers of U.S. red meat.
     “Retaliation will irreparably harm our economy and our relationships with our top trading partners and send a signal to the world that the U.S. doesn’t play by the rules,” said NCBA President Philip Ellis, a rancher from Chugwater, WY. “It is long past time that Congress repeal this broken regulation.”
     Chairs of both the U.S. Senate and House Ag Committees immediately responded by saying they would seek permanent resolution to the issue. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas said he would consider any solution, including a repeal of the meat provisions of mCOOL, to prevent the implementation of billions of dollars in tariffs on U.S. exports. House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conaway of Texas said his colleagues on the committee are being asked to weigh in on resolving the issue during a business meeting Wednesday (5/20).
     New economic research conducted at Kansas State University shows mCOOL has led to net economic losses because overall meat demand has not increased and industry costs to implement the labeling program have risen. Coupling that with prospects for increasing tariffs on U.S. meat exports to Canada and Mexico would put U.S. ranchers and feeders at substantial economic risk. 

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from May 18

YSA CLASS LEARNS MORE ABOUT BEEF MARKETING, AGRIBUSINESS


     The 2015 KLA Young Stockmen’s Academy (YSA) gathered last week for its second educational tour of the year. Twenty-one KLA members from across the state, representing all segments of the beef and dairy industries, spent three days in the Kansas City area touring agribusinesses and beef retailers.
     YSA sponsor Merck Animal Health hosted the class at its office in De Soto. Merck staff gave the class an inside look at the animal health industry, led a discussion on consumer perceptions of livestock production and provided a tour of the research farm and vaccine manufacturing facility.  
     To gain a better understanding of the link between the processing plant and the consumer’s plate, the group toured Kansas City Steak Company and SYSCO Food Services. Both companies distribute high-end beef cuts to restaurants across the U.S. Kansas City Steak Company also has a mail-order business and sells beef products on QVC, a home shopping channel. For a firsthand look at the various ways beef is marketed in the meatcase, the class visited Bichelmeyer Meats and Whole Foods Market.
     The class also had the chance to visit with consumers while distributing beef samples at two HyVee grocery stores. Young ranchers and feeders answered questions about animal health, beef nutrition and proper cooking methods.
     YSA members heard from staff at Bartlett and Company about how they use strict risk management practices when buying and selling cattle and grain. In addition, they participated in a cooking demonstration at the Culinary Center of Kansas City to learn more about grilling and smoking beef. The group also attended an Ag Business Council of Kansas City luncheon, where they heard from Marty Vanier, director of operations at the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center on the Kansas State University campus.
     The third installment of the YSA class will be held in September. Members will tour Kansas beef and dairy operations. 

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from May 15

LEGISLATIVE SESSION GOES OVERTIME

 

     Disagreement on how to fill a budget shortfall of more than $400 million resulted in the Legislature exceeding its planned 90-day adjournment deadline. Many lawmakers have agreed most of the spending cuts possible this fiscal year already have been made in the still pending budget plan, but they were unable to decide which tax policies should be approved to fill the gap.
     The KLA governmental affairs team, working with other agricultural interests, was able to defeat two amendments in the Senate Tax Committee that would have directly affected the  bottom lines of farmers and ranchers. One would have imposed a $3 property tax on every acre of land in Kansas. The amendment, offered by Sen. Jeff Melcher of Leawood, failed on a 7 to 4 vote. Melcher then offered an amendment to repeal the farm machinery and equipment sales tax exemption. That amendment failed on a voice vote.
     Following the votes, KLA President Jaret Moyer thanked members for contacting their senators to oppose these amendments.
     “However,” said Moyer, “The fight is far from over and KLA members should continue to visit with their elected officials about these unfair tax policies.”
     As the Legislature looks for ways to fill the budget shortfall, KLA staff will continue to oppose property tax increases and sales tax policy changes that single out the agriculture industry.

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from May 14

CONTACT YOUR STATE SENATOR TO VOICE OPPOSITION
TO PROPERTY TAX BILL

     Farmers and ranchers are being encouraged to express their opposition to a bill in the Kansas Legislature that would impose a $3 per acre excise tax on all land in the state. The effect of SB 302, according to KLA projections, would increase by 64% the current average property tax of $4.67 per acre on Kansas agricultural land. It would be especially burdensome for livestock producers, as it would increase the average property tax on grassland from $1.38 per acre to $4.38, a 217% jump.      A vote in the Kansas Senate is expected today (5/14). KLA members and others in agriculture should weigh in on the bill by calling the legislative hotline at (800) 432-3924 or sending an email to their state senator through this link. A short suggested message is available to send through the link.
     Although supporters claim SB 302 is an excise tax, KLA legal analysis shows it is a property tax that violates Article 11, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution. The state constitution requires all agricultural land be valued and assessed on its agricultural income or agricultural productivity.
     “This is a punitive tax that will take money out of the pockets of farm families and hurt the Main Street businesses in rural Kansas,” said KLA President Jaret Moyer, a rancher from Emporia. “We must deliver this message to our state senators.

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from May 13

NEW COOL RESEARCH SHOWS PROGRAM HAS LED TO NET ECONOMIC LOSSES

 

     Results of new research released last week showed no evidence of increased demand for meat products covered by mandatory country-of-origin labeling (mCOOL). Kansas State University ag economists Glynn Tonsor and Ted Schroeder, along with University of Missouri ag economist Joe Parcell, found mCOOL has led to net economic losses because overall meat demand has not increased and industry costs to implement the labeling procedures have risen.
     USDA commissioned the research based on a requirement in the 2014 Farm Bill to evaluate the program as it was implemented in 2009 and the version revised by USDA in 2013.
     Tonsor said the 2009 impact on the beef industry projects a loss of $8.07 billion over 10 years, with the pork industry expected to lose $1.31 billion for the same period. Analysis also showed consumers will experience net losses of $5.98 billion for beef and $1.79 billion for pork over 10 years due to lower available quantities at retail and higher prices. The additional impact of the 2013 rule was another $494 million loss to the beef industry and $403 million loss to the pork industry over 10 years.
     The World Trade Organization is expected to make an announcement later this month on whether mCOOL violates U.S. trade obligations. NCBA, KLA and a host of other groups support repealing the mandatory program.  

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from May 12

MCDONALD’S EXECUTIVES SEE KANSAS BEEF INDUSTRY

 

     A number of KLA members and staff were involved in a tour for key McDonald’s executives hosted last week by the Beef Cattle Institute (BCI) at Kansas State University. BCI Director Dan Thomson guided the tour for Bruce Feinberg, the global lead for McDonald’s Animal Health & Welfare Team, and Michele Banik-Rake, the director of sustainability for McDonald’s worldwide supply chain. The group visited seedstock operations, ranches, auction markets and feedyards in Kansas.
     While in Topeka, KLA staff took time to explain and answer questions about the industry’s continually improving animal health, animal care and sustainability practices. Kansas Beef Council staff later joined the BCI group for a tour of the Flint Hills stocker operation owned by Duane and Diane Hund from Paxico. There, the discussion centered on the judicious use of antibiotics and management practices, including burning, that help Hund Ranch remain sustainable.
     Part of the BCI mission is to provide outreach opportunities that support a welfare-centered, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible beef industry.

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from May 11

EXCISE TAX ON LAND REPRESENTS A TARGETED ASSAULT ON KANSAS AG

     KLA is urging farmers and ranchers to contact their state senators and express opposition to SB 302. If the bill is approved by the Kansas Legislature, it would impose a $3 per acre excise tax on all land in Kansas. The effect, according to KLA projections, would increase the current average property tax of $4.67 per acre on Kansas agricultural land by 64%.
     “This bill represents a direct and targeted assault on Kansas farmers and ranchers, who, unlike homeowners, depend on the land for their livelihood,” said KLA President Jaret Moyer, a rancher from Emporia. “We must deliver this message to our state senators.”
     SB 302 is expected to come to a vote this week in the Kansas Senate as an amendment to a tax package. Farmers and ranchers can weigh in on the bill by calling the legislative hotline number at (800) 432-3924. Constituents can either ask the person answering how to contact their legislator or leave a message for their legislator.
     Although supporters claim SB 302 is an excise tax, KLA legal analysis shows it is a property tax that violates Article 11, Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution. The state constitution requires all agricultural land be valued and assessed based on its agricultural income or agricultural productivity.
     The impact of SB 302 would be especially burdensome for livestock producers, as it would increase the average property tax on grassland from $1.38 per acre to $4.38 per acre, a 217% jump. In addition, landowners in western Kansas with less productive ground would be penalized more severely than those in the eastern part of the state.
     Kansas agriculture is one of the key economic drivers in the state. According to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, it accounts for 37% of the state’s overall economy. Farmland comprises 89% of the total land area in Kansas, which means farmers and ranchers would bear that percentage of the additional tax burden if the bill passed. Moyer said adding a tax of this nature would have a broad negative effect on the Kansas economy.
     “This is a punitive tax that will take money out of the pockets of farm families and hurt the Main Street businesses in rural Kansas,” said Moyer. 

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from May 8

ANIMAL AGRICULTURE “LATE TO THE TABLE” IN SUSTAINABILITY DISCUSSION

     Agriculture has a long history of being sustainable, but is late to the game of defining and measuring the factors involved. That was reflected in comments from a panel addressing the topic earlier this week at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City.
     Elanco Animal Health Sustainability Lead Roger Cady, one of the panelists, said the wake-up call for animal agriculture was in 2006 when the United Nations published “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” The report gave an inaccurate impression of the impact livestock production has on global warming. That set the livestock industry in motion to verify key performance indicators influencing sustainability.
     “Agriculture is late to the table,” said Cady.
     Scoring systems are used to rank various industries on sustainability, which Cady said is where socially responsible, environmentally sound and economically viable intersect. While scoring shows the food and beverage industry ranks as very sustainable, agriculture falls at the low end of the scale.
     The beef industry examined sustainability of the entire supply chain from pasture to plate through the first-of-its-kind lifecycle assessment. After two years of data collection and research, the project verified a 7% improvement in sustainability from 2005 to 2011. 

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