The rush is on to pass Senate Bill 405 that promotes industrial chicken production across the whole state. The fiction on the Kansas Senate floor was that some counties want industrial chicken so what is the problem? The truth is that SB 405 continues to negate all local control by the State and thus counties would have no say or control over the siting of industrial chicken complexes.
The Kansas House is now promoting the rush to pass a bill that few understand and a bill that will impact the quality of life for many rural residents. The Kansas House Agriculture committee has scheduled just one day of hearings on March 6 for such an important policy change. If history is the guide, the House Agriculture committee will give unlimited time to the industrial chicken proponents and the opponents will be crammed into the back of the bus with little testimony time.
Industrial chickens should be treated the same as corporate hogs and corporate dairies. If the county wants corporate hogs or dairies, a resolution is passed by the County Commissioners. If residents have concerns, there is a petition process to bring a vote before county residents. Industrial chickens are corporate chickens. There is no independent or free market for industrial scale chicken operations where Tyson owns the birds, the feed, the veterinary services and the processing. The chicken growers are indentured servants responsible for disposing of the tons of chicken litter and doing something with the dead birds.
Companies like Tyson have all the leverage, and complaints from a grower can get the grower’s contract terminated at any time. Once a grower is bankrupt, Tyson can come in and buy the chicken barns for dimes on the dollar and employ their own subservient grower. The turnover in chicken house ownership has been common in Kentucky (that went from 10 million broilers in 1990’s to 300 million today). No wonder that 70% of chicken growers live in poverty while the counties face the pollution, public safety, road maintenance and public health problems.
Is Kansas ready to handle the potential pollution problems inherent to concentrated chicken operations? Within the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Bureau of Water sits the Livestock Waste Management Section. This Section consists of 10 employees and the Section Chief. The mission of the section is to protect the waters of the State.
Any facility that has an animal unit capacity of 300 or more (300 cows, 800 hogs, 125,000 chickens) or that has been determined to have significant water pollution potential must register with KDH&E. Upon evaluation of the facility, KDH&E will determine if waste controls and a permit are necessary. The applicant does not have to have an engineering analysis done before presenting the application.
The Livestock Waste Management Section has one engineer on staff and two unfilled positions with one of those being an engineer. This Section has close to 2,000 Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) to monitor statewide through six field offices. Is this Section capable of taking on the monitoring – of industrial chicken sites and the incredible tonnage of liter that will be produced – with existing staff?


After waiting three weeks with virtually no meetings, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committee is speeding through key budgets. There was a one day hearing for the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) and the KDH&E’s Division of Environment budgets. There was no announcement of a public hearing or time to discuss the KCC’s challenges with regulating ‘fracking water disposal earthquakes’ or the increasing utility rates causing shutoffs or the proper staffing levels at the Division of Environment. The next day the budget decisions were pushed out the door.
Needless to say, there was no discussion of the Livestock Waste Management Section staffing levels and the workload to monitor CAFO’s statewide. The hope was that since the Kansas Legislature passed a 2018 & 2019 budget last year that budget committees would have the time this session to dig deeper into these budgets and understand what 10 years of budget cuts have done. This same charade of speed budgeting for KDH&E starts next week in the Senate.


The House Agriculture Committee held one day of hearings on HB 2583, which is the noxious weed bill requested by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. This bill is  similar to bills that have been filed since 2014. This bill takes the declaration of new noxious weeds away from the Legislature and gives it to the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture via rule and regulation. The bill sharply increases the fines for ‘non-cooperative’ landowners and gives county/State officials uncontrolled access to all private lands to look for noxious weeds.

This bill does not define ‘drift’ or protect landowners who want to declare their land as a ‘no spray’ zone. It is unclear if counties have special liability protection from ‘drift damage’. Furthermore the bill does not change the existing philosophy in Kansas to ‘spray first and dispute any drift damages later’. The testimony presented by the Kansas Rural Center can be read here:     


The Kansas Rural Center teamed with Zack Pistora of Sierra Club to produce a white paper, “Pesticides, Noxious Weed Control and Chemical Drift Protection In Kansas.”  The 29-page paper is intended as an overview of current pesticide and noxious weed law in Kansas, and provides background on pesticide use, trends and emerging problems.  The paper also includes recommendations for the state’s noxious weed law and calls for improvements in state general pesticide law emphasizing greater emphasis on a more holistic approach to pest management, or integrated pest management, that takes into account cultural, mechanical, biological as well as chemical solutions to pest problems, and adequately addresses drift problems. The Executive Summary can be read HERE and the full paper is available HERE or on KRC’s website.


by Dorothy Barnett, Climate  Energy Project

SB 347, a bill to advance utility scale energy efficiency programs had a hearing on February 6th in Senate Utilities. Dr. Marty Kushler with ACEEE gave an overview of the benefits of energy efficiency along with examples from Michigan, a state that ranks among the highest for providing energy efficiency. Kansas is among the worst. Michigan utilities invest $250 million dollars annually in customer programs that help save consumers $4.35 in utility system costs for every dollar spent on energy efficiency programs.

Four organizations presented testimony in support of SB 347, including Climate + Energy Project, Kansas Interfaith Action, and Sierra Club along with written support from Building Performance Institute, E4TheFuture, Home Performance Coalition, US Green Building Council, USGBC Central Plains, Nest, KS Assoc. of Community Action Programs, KC Chapter NAACP and Metropolitan Energy Center.

The Citizen Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) presented neutral testimony, agreeing that energy efficiency could be good for Kansans but they don’t want the utility to be able to profit from those investments.

The hearing was continued on Wednesday with opponents, which included the investor owned utilities, natural gas utilities, the KCC, AFP, the Kansas Industrial Consumers and KEPCO – all who said energy efficiency was good but that the utilities should not be forced to meet certain targets and ultimately the KCC is the appropriate place to determine if programs are cost effective.

Proponents of the bill are working on language to meet some of the opponents concerns in order to find common ground and move energy efficiency forward in Kansas.

A hearing for SB 322, a bill to protect distributed generation (rooftop solar and small wind) started on 2/7 in Senate Utilities, and will continue on Monday, February 12th.  Westar filed a request last week with the KCC to add demand charges to residential solar customers. From October-May, DG customers would pay an extra $3.15 per kW and June-September $9.45 per kW. Average customer demand in Kansas is between 5-8kW per household. This kind of charge would be the end of residential solar in Kansas.


by Zack Pistora, Kansas Chapter Sierra Club

On a unanimous vote on January 30th, the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee passed a bill to launch agricultural research and pilot economic development project for industrial hemp in Kansas.  Senate Bill 263, named the “Alternative Crop Research Act” (Act), allows the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to license individuals, companies, and others, to grow and cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes.  Growers cannot be convicted of drug felonies, and must get fingerprinted, let the Kansas Bureau of Investigation do a background check, and pay a licensing fee, should they be permitted by the KDA.  

State colleges and universities can study the crop and analyze the research in coordination with willing growers.  Should Senate bill 263 pass, the Kansas Department of Agriculture will be required to develop rules and regulations for the bill by the end of 2018, as well as submit a report to the legislature by the beginning of next year.  Finally, as the bill is currently written, Russell County would be solely permitted to undergo a pilot program focusing on the commercialization and marketing of industrial hemp.  Senate bill 263 proceeds to the full Senate for debate should Senate President, Susan Wagle, choose to allow it.  The Kansas House passed their version of an industrial hemp bill last year, 103-18.


What the Federal Budget Deal Means for Agriculture

     From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition  Feb. 9, 2018

After months of negotiations, the House and Senate have finally reached a two-year budget deal to keep the government running, increase annual discretionary spending caps for defense and non-defense programs ($300 billion), and provide disaster relief ($89 billion). The Senate passed the bill 71-28 around 2am this morning, and the House followed shortly thereafter with a vote of 240-186. The agreement paves the way for the next critical step in the government funding process, appropriations.

The budget deal sets the parameters within which Congress can fund particular programs, but it does not dictate how much money each discretionary program will receive – the allocation of funds is left to the congressional appropriators. In a normal budgetary cycle, new appropriations bills would be passed annually before September 30, which is the end of the federal fiscal year. However, when appropriations are delayed, Congress typically passes a “Continuing Resolution” (CR), which keeps federal programs running at the previous fiscal year’s funding levels. Because there has been no overall budget deal until this week, the government has been operating under a series of CRs for the past four months, since the beginning of FY 2018. By raising the discretionary funding caps for two years, Congress has dramatically improved the odds that congressional appropriators will be able to finalize appropriations legislation for FY 2018, as well as for FY 2019 later this year.

In addition to raising spending limits, the deal includes yet another CR, the fifth since last October, extending FY 2017 funding levels through March 23. This timeline should give the Appropriations Committees time to hammer out the details of an omnibus appropriations bill that adjusts spending upward to the new budget caps.

In the sections below, we lay out some of the main takeaways from the nearly 700-page budget bill, including potential implications for the next farm bill.  Click http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/budget-analysis-2-2018/?utm_source=roundup&utm_medium=email