Kansas' Agriculture Secretary speaks of 30 by 30, crumbling dams and meatpacking plants
WICHITA — During a meeting with the State Board of Agriculture, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam spoke about infrastructure issues, President Joe Biden's 30 by 30 executive order and the cattle industry.
Some dams need work
According to Beam, in 2013, legislative changes exempted a number of dams from regulation. By doing this, the state does not collect permit fees or meet many of the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant guidelines for those dams. This decreases revenue. In addition, there are years of neglect of dam maintenance.
"This is manifesting in several dams reaching the end of their useful life with no ability to address their structural deficiencies," Beam reported.
KDA is conducting a study of these issues.
30 by 30 is not a land grab
Biden's 30 by 30 executive order has caused a stir among Kansas farmers and ranchers. Beam said this is due to misinformation. Board president, Thad Geiger, said it is due to poor communication.
The plan calls to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by the year 2030. The USDA and Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said this is not a power grab for land and that no farmland will be taken.
Beam wants to dissipate Kansas farmers' and ranchers' fears as well. He explained that the USDA said they would not take land.
"This (subject) has been ripe for a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of fear," Beam said.
All agreed that this topic has energized the agricultural base across Kansas and the rest of the U.S.
"This has woken up agriculture," Geiger said. "We (farmers) want to have a voice."
Cattle ranchers and meatpacking in Kansas
Many ranchers and national agricultural associations, as well as politicians nationwide, have expressed concern over the disparity between live cattle prices and beef prices at the consumer level. As the price of feed goes up and the amount of cattle swells, the ranchers are left in a no-win situation.
KDA, along with farmers and ranchers, and the institutions they belong to, want to know the status, with regards to anti-competitive behavior, of the meatpacking industry investigation that the USDA started after the fire at Tyson's southwest Kansas facility and during the initial stages of COVID-19.
"What we have in the cattle industry is a case for casing," said Geiger, a rancher from Troy.
Geiger explained his example by comparing the beef industry to a fictional sausage problem, saying the producers have plenty of pork and spices and the consumers want sausages, but there are simply not enough casings available to make the sausage.
"That’s what we have in the beef industry today," he said. "We need more packers, more processing plants."
Beam said $8 million dollars from the CARES money went to local meat processing plants. In addition, one dozen small processing plants are going to open.
"The numbers are not going to make a huge difference," he said.
But this will help some ranchers, especially those who want to sell their product directly to the consumer.
The idea of starting a co-op type facility with possible funding coming from the beef checkoff was brought up. Making the large processing plants into utilities was also floated.
Currently, there are four large meatpacking plants in Kansas. Two in Dodge City, one in Liberal and one close to Garden City.
Other issues discussed during the meeting included ethanol, sorghum and wine.