(Washington, D.C. August 28, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement regarding the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan.:
“As part of our continued efforts to monitor the impact of the fire at the beef processing facility in Holcomb, Kan., I have directed USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division to launch an investigation into recent beef pricing margins to determine if there is any evidence of price manipulation, collusion, restrictions of competition or other unfair practices. If any unfair practices are detected, we will take quick enforcement action. USDA remains in close communication with plant management and other stakeholders to understand the fire’s impact to industry.
I have spent this summer visiting with cattle ranchers across the country, and I know this is a difficult time for the industry as a whole. USDA is committed to ensuring support is available to ranchers who work hard to the feed the United States and the world.”
HAYSVILLE, Kan. — More than 60 law enforcement officials from across Kansas packed a small room at the John C. Pair Horticultural Center recently to prep themselves for questions they may soon be getting about industrial hemp in the state.
Kansas State University researchers are growing and testing their first crops of industrial hemp at research centers in Haysville, Olathe and Colby. As an industrial product, hemp can be grown for grain, fiber or CBD (cannabidiol) oil.
“We are on the research side, but these people are on the enforcement side,” said Jason Griffin, director of the John C. Pair Horticulture Center. “They’re going to encounter this crop in their daily business, and we want to make sure that they are armed with as much information as possible.”
In April 2018, the Kansas Department of Agriculture approved the production of hemp through the Alternative Crop Research Act, and officials from that agency have been conducting education on hemp since that time.
“We’ve physically reached out to 1,400 individuals already,” said Braden Hoch, an industrial hemp specialist with KDA. “With this being a new crop in Kansas, there is a lot of education and outreach needed from all sides.”
Hoch noted that law enforcement will be tasked with knowing the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana – which is not a legal product in Kansas. The recent workshop also helped to educate law enforcement officials on related products, such as CBD, which Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer essentially legalized in 2018 by exempting it from the definition of marijuana.
New rules and regulations will require those who work with hemp to be licensed in order to transport the product.
“This educational event is going to be a building block for those in law enforcement to understand the legitimacy of this crop in Kansas, once we develop some information about how it grows and making it into an industrial hemp product,” Hoch said.
“It’s helping them to answer the question, ‘what should I be looking for to ensure that someone is conducting activities that they’re legally allowed to conduct?’”
K-State’s Griffin led tours of the university’s Haysville research plots and high tunnels to show law enforcement officials what an industrial hemp farm looks like, including comparing differences between a grain plot and a CBD plot. “We had a lot of great questions back and forth,” he said.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture has established the Industrial Hemp Research Program website to help provide clarity on new rules and regulations in the state.
Benefits of a Secure Beef Supply (SBS) Plan, managing anaplasmosis in cowherds and locust tree/yucca shrub control were among the topics discussed at the final KLA/Kansas State University Ranch Management Field Day. Nearly 100 ranchers attended the August 22 event hosted by the Lyman Nuss family near Dorrance.
Kansas Department of Agriculture Animal health Planner Emily Voris explained how producers implementing a SBS Plan on their operations can help sustain the economic viability of the industry during disease outbreak. A Secure Beef Supply Plan is a comprehensive set of biosecurity protocols that can be an efficient and effective response tool to minimize disease spread in the event of an outbreak, like foot-and-mouth. Plans are operation-specific and should encompass biosecurity measures for all inputs and outputs, she said, including employees, vehicles, feed, incoming/outgoing livestock and manure. For more information, visit www.securebeef.org.
K-State veterinarian Hans Coetzee helped ranchers learn how to identify anaplasmosis in cattle, a disease spread through injection needles, flies and ticks and is estimated to cost the industry $300 million annually. Clinical signs include yellow mucus membranes, fever, anorexia, constipation, anemia, abortion and ataxia. There are multiple control methods, he said, including vaccination use and medicated mineral, but advised ranchers to consult a veterinarian to determine the best management strategy for their operation.
Also during the field day, K-State Range Scientist Keith Harmoney explained how to reduce honey locust trees using an aminopyralid/2,4-D application. In addition, he advised to treat yucca shrubs with a triclopyr/diesel mix for individual control or metsulfuron methyl/2, 4-D for dense populations.
Old World bluestem management strategies and a CattleTrace update rounded out the sessions. More coverage of the CattleTrace pilot project will appear in the November/December Kansas Stockman magazine.
Bayer Animal Health and the Farm Credit Associations of Kansas sponsored the field day.
In late July, the Kansas Department of Agriculture participated in a trade mission to Argentina, where the team attended the La Exposición Rural 2019, the most prominent livestock show in the country. In addition, the Kansas delegation had the opportunity to visit six of the top ranches in central Argentina, two genetic centers, and the Liniers Market, which is the largest cattle market in the world. The group also attended a U.S. Livestock Genetics Export, Inc. (USLGE) reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador Edward C. Prado.
Representing Kansas on the trade mission were: Dr. Michael Dikeman, Dikeman Simmentals, Manhattan; Shad Marston, Wal-Mar Charolais, Canton; Brent Overmiller, Overmiller Gelbvieh and Red Angus, Smith Center; and Shirley Acedo, KDA agribusiness development coordinator.
“The KDA sponsored trip to Argentina to promote Kansas cattle genetics was very educational and interesting,” said Dikeman. “It was an opportunity to emphasize the efficiency of U.S. beef production, carcass grading, and meat marketing.”
Overmiller agreed. “The trade mission was a great experience as we had the opportunity to meet with the top ranches and bull studs in Argentina and promote our beef cattle genetics.” In the past five years, Kansas has exported roughly $1.6 million in agricultural goods to Argentina with milling products being the top export category.
The trade mission was organized by KDA and the USLGE. KDA strives to encourage and enhance economic growth of the agriculture industry and the Kansas economy by exploring and expanding both domestic and international marketing opportunities. The Kansas Ag Growth Project identified beef as a key component for state growth.
KDA is offering two upcoming opportunities to Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses to participate in State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant trade missions planned for 2020: VICTAM Asia/Petfood Forum Asia, Bangkok, Thailand, March 24-26; and NAMPO Harvest Day, Bothaville, South Africa, May 12-15. Interested persons should contact Suzanne Ryan-Numrich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 785-564-6704.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the exemption of 31 refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) biofuel-blending requirements. Yesterday, Congressman Roger Marshall, M.D., sent a bipartisan letter to the Government Accountability Office formally calling for an investigation into the granting of the Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) and issued the following statement:
“As Co-Chair of the House Biofuels Caucus, I have a firm commitment to the Kansas farmers, renewable fuel producers, and rural communities which rely on the biofuels industry. I’ve heard from many constituents and local communities about these exemptions, and I share their concerns about the negative impact they will have on our state,” Dr. Marshall said. “Eight of Kansas’ ten ethanol plants are in the Big First District, and combined produce more than 500 million gallons of renewable fuel using corn and sorghum. This move also hurts biogas production facilities, which qualify as a cellulosic renewable fuel. Exempting these 31 small refineries from their RFS obligations – especially if they do not reallocate the renewable fuel gallons to other obligated parties – will be devastating to communities across Kansas.”
“In defense of these farmers and rural communities, yesterday, I joined a number of my Congressional colleagues in writing to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, requesting they examine and review the EPA’s approval of exemption waivers for these 31 refineries. We’re also requesting a review of the Department of Energy’s viability scores, a determination of the economic hardship on a small refinery’s compliance with the RFS, which are considered by the EPA when making exemption determinations,” Dr. Marshall said. “We need a comprehensive review of the EPA’s process for determining refinery exemptions in order to provide transparency. The biofuels industry is vital to the economic health of rural communities in Kansas. We must, at the very least, understand how these exemption determinations were reached.”
A recent fire at a large Kansas beef processor has boosted margins for other processors. The Tyson Foods facility in Holcomb, Kansas, represents about five percent of the U.S. daily slaughter, or roughly 6,000 head of cattle.
The fire has closed the facility indefinitely as Tyson makes repairs. Reuters says the fire spiked margins for packers, such as Tyson, Cargill and JBS USA to $344 per head of cattle slaughtered, up from $153 the week before the fire. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association responded last week sending letters to federal watchdogs and agencies urging them to assist the market and closely monitor sales.
In order to compensate for the loss of capacity at Holcomb, NCBA says major packing plants in Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, would need to slaughter 8.2 percent more cattle per week, or run 3.3 more hours per week. Department of Agriculture undersecretary Greg Ibach says that “as the cattle industry adjusts, USDA stands ready to assist our customers however we can.”
A federal employees union charged Tuesday that recent comments by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirm the Trump administration’s “grand strategy” to cut the federal workforce by relocating agency offices out of Washington.
Mulvaney said last week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan to relocate several hundred of jobs from Washington to the Kansas City area is “a wonderful way to streamline government.” Speaking to a group of fellow Republicans in his home state of South Carolina, he said it’s “nearly impossible” to fire federal workers but added that many will not move to “the real part of the country.”
Within days of taking office, President Donald Trump declared a hiring freeze, and within months, Mulvaney, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, outlined a plan for reducing the civilian workforce. But he said in his South Carolina remarks that he’s tried to fire workers and “you can’t do it.”
The USDA said in June it would move most of the employees of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture partly to bring the two agencies closer to farmers and agribusinesses. The Interior Department has offered a similar rationale for breaking up the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters and putting employees in 11 western states.
Mulvaney said “the quiet parts out loud,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, a Denver-based nonprofit critical of the Trump administration’s Interior Department. Weiss sees an “intentional brain drain” to “get rid of expertise across the government.”
“This is part of their grand strategy,” said Dave Verardo, president of the American Federation of Government Employees local that represents the USDA workers. “Reduce government so that people can come into power and do whatever they want without any checks and balances.”
Spokesman John Czwartacki defended Mulvaney’s comments Tuesday as “commentary through a political lens at a political event.” He noted that U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said relocating the two agencies’ employees will save money on rent and employee costs, freeing up more money for research.
“If some career bureaucrats would rather quit or retire than move closer to the people they serve, despite knowing that the relocation will allow USDA to spend less money on rent and more on research, then that is indeed a wonderful way to streamline government,” Czwartacki said.
U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt described the Bureau of Land Management move as a “realignment” to “better respond to the needs of the American people.”
“Under our proposal, every Western state will gain additional staff resources,” Bernhardt said in a statement Tuesday. “This approach will play an invaluable role in serving the American people more efficiently.”
Officials in Kansas and Missouri and their congressional delegations were delighted with the USDA’s plans, believing the research agencies to be a good fit for the region. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said she understands that USDA employees are hesitant to uproot their families but they will find advantages in the Kansas City area such as “a reasonable cost of living and strong public schools.”
The Economic Research Service examines issues including the rural economy, international trade, food safety and programs that provide food assistance to poor Americans. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides grants for agricultural research. The USDA said nearly 550 of the agencies’ roughly 640 jobs would move by the end of September.
The USDA says it is not cutting research. Deputy Undersecretary Scott Hutchins said the department has an aggressive hiring plan to fill vacancies.
“Universities have contacted us and asked us, ‘We can help support you and so forth,'” he said. “A lot of groups at this point are starting to rally together to see how we can make sure we do this.”
The agency’s own inspector general’s office concluded this week that the USDA may have violated federal law by moving forward on the relocation without advancing funding approval from Congress. The agency disputed that, contending that the department’s internal watchdog was misinterpreting federal law.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat who has criticized the relocation plans, said Tuesday in a statement that Perdue “must halt” them. He also said Mulvaney’s comments signal the Trump administration’s “true intentions.”
“This administration’s continued assault on federal employees is part of a broader pattern to undermine the government agencies that serve the American people every day,” Hoyer said in a statement.
Verardo said at least 55% of the affected USDA workers — some 330 of them — won’t move. And Laura Dodson, an Economic Research Service employee and union steward, said the USDA’s plans force people who spent years studying agricultural economics to decide between pursuing their careers or uprooting their lives to move to a location that may not be final.
“Morale has never been lower,” she said.
Chad Hart, an economics professor and crop-markets specialist at Iowa State University, said he worries about the loss of institutional knowledge. He said the agencies being moved don’t tend to interact with individual farmers so, “it doesn’t matter if they are 10 miles or 1,000 miles from farmers.”
“You’re losing that expertise you can’t just buy back,” he said.
Jim Myers, a professor at Oregon State University who studies vegetable breeding and genetics, said research grants from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture have done “amazing things” to support his research into new varieties of organic vegetables.
“This is a move to cripple an institution that’s vital to the researchers in the U.S. and ultimately U.S. agriculture,” he said. “It just hollows it out and weakens it.”