Kansas is deservedly recognized as a powerhouse in production agriculture. From the first settlers like notable Kansan C.B. Schmidt, who led the immigration of Russian Mennonites to Kansas in the late 1800s, to today’s farmers Kansans have always recognized the challenge and reward of agriculture.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to travel throughout south-central Kansas talking with and hearing from leaders in agriculture, including Jim Schmidt, a descendant of those original Russian Mennonite immigrants, who still farms in Kansas. The challenges he and others face today are different than those faced by their ancestors. Today, concerns about preserving water resources, increasing global competition and changing consumer demands must be addressed for agribusinesses to succeed. Weather conditions from drought to flood or excessive heat to extreme cold always present a risk to crop yields and agriculture.
These challenges affect more than just farmers, ranchers and other agricultural businesses in our state. Today, the agriculture industry in Kansas represents 43 percent of the state’s economy and is valued at more than $62 billion. That makes agribusiness in Kansas important to all of us.
One of the most important issues facing agribusiness today is water conservation and preservation. Water was over-allocated for decades and it is important for us to address this issue now to ensure an adequate water supply for the state and future generations. These efforts are succeeding because of men and women who are willing to manage risk and adopt new technologies and practices.
Kansas farmers are pushing through hard times, with commodity and other prices being low. Growing the Kansas economy is a key priority for me, and that means helping our agribusinesses to succeed.
There are substantial things we can do long-term: We must be focused on ensuring our agricultural producers have access to reliable, efficient and modern transportation networks to move their products to market. We must recruit and retain the employees these businesses – big and small – need to be successful. We must partner with industry to address regulatory and statutory roadblocks at the local, state and federal levels.
We know Kansas has been blessed with tremendous natural resources — from water to fertile land — and that we must be good stewards of those resources so they are available for our children and grandchildren.
This is a key time for Kansas to focus on moving into the future as we develop strategic plans for agricultural growth.
Governor Sam Brownback