Mar 26, 2011

KRC Sponsors Local Foods Seminar at Kansas Department of Agriculture

The Kansas Rural Center organized a local foods seminar for the Kansas Department of Agriculture on Friday March 25. This four- hour seminar featured some of Kansas’ most successful local food entrepreneurs. Local Burger and The MERC from Lawrence provided a local foods luncheon of local meat/veggie sandwiches, local mushrooms/greens salad and cookies made with Kansas’ flour. Besides the leadership staff from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, attendance included the directors of USDA - Rural Development, USDA – Farm Service Agency, Kansas State University Research & Extension, Kansas Small Business Development Centers, and the Beginning Farmer Loan Program at the Kansas Development Finance Administration.
Dr. Rhonda Janke from Kansas State University started the discussion with an overview of local foods consumption data in Kansas. Rhonda detailed a balanced diet and how that compares to existing local food production in certain counties. The bottom line is that consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is too low and Kansas needs to increase production. While Kansans consume $767 million in fruits and vegetables annually, only $32 million (4%) is grown locally. Historically, Kansas had 109,708 farms selling vegetables in 1920 while in 2007 the number was just 473. Some good news is that there has been a slight increase in vegetable and fruit farms from 2002 to 2007. Key challenges are making a “living wage” growing produce in Kansas and scaling up production from direct sales such as farmers markets to supplying supermarkets or institutional accounts such as schools or hospitals.
Rita York – general manager of The Community Mercantile or The MERC in Lawrence – gave an overview of the successes and challenges The MERC has faced since it’s beginning in 1974. The MERC is the largest natural foods coop supermarket in Kansas. Sales were over $12 million in 2010 with an average of 10,500 customers weekly. The MERC has over 5,200 member owners. In terms of local foods, 78% of the eggs sold are locally produced at 11 farms. Even though the MERC has 30 local farms providing produce, just 8% of the produce sold is grown locally. The MERC is committed to buying more local food and is exploring the options to scale up local food production.
Diana Endicott is the founder and manager of Good Natured Family Farms – an alliance of 100 farms in Kansas and Missouri that sell at the Hen House supermarkets and the Balls Price Chopper supermarkets in Kansas City as well as The MERC in Lawrence. Sales will top $5 million this year. Their local foods include beef, pork, eggs, cheese, honey, bison, heritage turkeys and produce. By offering a wide variety of local products, they have more leverage in the market and more acceptance by the supermarkets. Diana has a federally inspected meat processing plant at Uniontown, KS that now processes poultry in addition to the red meats.
Hilary Brown is the founder of the Local Burger restaurant in Lawrence that opened in 2005. Local Burger serves locally raised grass-fed only livestock and pasture raised pork and poultry. Hilary is now expanding her production of ‘The World’s Best Veggie Burger’ made with organic ingredients. Hilary has also developed a ‘Spicy Green Chili Adzuki Bean Burger’ that is made with organic ingredients. Hilary buys organic Kansas’ flour for her sandwich buns.
Mercedes Taylor-Puckett from the Kansas Rural Center gave an update on farmers markets in Kansas. Kansas now has over 102 farmers markets. By the end of this year, 19 of these farmers markets will have electronic benefit transfer (EBT) capabilities to accept the Vision Card (electronic food stamps). In 2010, over $29,000 in Vision Card transactions were processed at 13 farmers markets. In 2011, over $500 million in food stamps will be received by Kansas’ residents; the EBT program increases access for these folks to farmers markets. Helping gardeners to scale up production is a major challenge for farmers markets and meeting the growing consumer demand for local produce.
Ed Reznicek, General Manager of the Kansas Organic Producers (KOP) provided information on organic farming and markets in Kansas. Started in 1974 as an information sharing group, today KOP is a marketing/bargaining cooperative that markets organic grains and other products for about 60 active members from Kansas and bordering states. The grains include wheat, corn, soybeans, milo, millet, barley, oats as well as alfalfa, clover and other forages. KOP is in the process of purchasing a soybean processing facility in Dubois, NE. KOP is also a partner in the ownership of Central Soy Foods in Lawrence, KS, which produces tofu, tempeh and soymilk from organic soybeans.
Erik Wisner – Food Safety director at the Kansas Department of Agriculture - gave a presentation on the state inspected meat slaughter and processing facilities. Kansas has 58 state inspected meat processing plants and 32 custom slaughter plants. In the 2008 federal Farm Bill, provisions were made to allow state inspected meat processing plants to sell across state lines but USDA is still drafting rules and regulations to make this change possible.
In conclusion, the Kansas Rural Center requested that the Kansas Department of Agriculture designate one of their rural development division staff as a “local foods coordinator”. KRC also recommended that a local foods council should be established to identify the resources and opportunities for Kansas to increase local food production and consumption. This council should consist of representatives from K-State, Kansas Small Business Development Centers, Beginning Farmer Loan Program, USDA – Rural Development & FSA, SRS, WIC program, advocates and entrepreneurs.
Time will tell whether KDA and others will be able to respond to the growing interest in local foods and the opportunities local and regional food production and its related businesses present for economic development in Kansas.

Mar 17, 2011

Rural Papers January-March 2011 Issue

Inside This Issue
No. 238
January-March 2011

GE Alfalfa Deregulation Defies Common Sense

by Mary Fund

In late January, USDA caved to industry pressure and approved genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa for public sale without any federal restrictions to prevent con-tamination of the nation’s non-GMO and organic alfalfa seed and crops. USDA’s decision met with quick outrage from conventional non-GMO producers and organic growers and consumers. Citing the many risks to organic and non-GMO conventional farmers that USDA acknowledged in its own environmental impact statement, the Center for Food Security announced an immediate legal challenge.

Opponents have long argued that GM alfalfa poses a serious threat to non-GMO and organic alfalfa due to the unique properties of the plant. Alfalfa is a basic feed for all organic livestock, and the most common legume in organic crop rotations in the northern states.

Pollinated by bees and other insects that travel great distances, cross pollination with non-GM alfalfa and wild alfalfa is a very real threat. The decision appears to completely ignore this potential for cross pollination and contamination of non-GMO and organic crops, and the subsequent damage to markets demanding non-GMO products. It also ignores the growing evidence of Roundup resistant “superweeds” that are appearing in fields across the country that have received years of applications of the herbicide.

USDA’s decision to deregulate appeared especially harsh to non-GMO and organic farmers because in December USDA’s Secretary Vilsack had announced they were working to find a compromise. USDA, he stated, would approve GM alfalfa under either complete deregulation, or partial deregulation with restrictions on where and how the crop could be grown as a way to protect non-GMO alfalfa and organic alfalfa. As late as a week before the final decision, Vilsack indicated USDA would choose partial regulation.

Called “co-existence”, the proposal being discussed was not popular among non-GMO and organic growers because most agree that the GM traits can’t be contained in alfalfa. But co-existence did attempt to address concerns about cross-contamination by requiring a five-mile buffer between GM alfalfa plantings and non-GMO or organic.

Organic organizations argued for a contamination compensation fund for what they saw as the inevitable contamination of their crops and seed and the resulting damage to their non-GMO markets. But industry firmly opposed a compensation fund, which many see as tantamount to admitting that they could not contain the impact of their product, and that they apparently did not care if they did.

Speculation is that the Obama White House joined a long line of administrations supporting the biotechnology industry above the needs and welfare of farmers and the environment. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama Administration “abandoned the proposal to restrict planting of genetically engineered alfalfa, only the latest proposal shelved as part of the administration’s review of ‘burdensome’ regulation.”

Burden is on the farmers.
In a statement of principles prior to the decision, the National Organic Coalition stated, “Farmers who seek to avoid GMOs must not continue to be solely responsible for contamination prevention and clean-up and/or be forced to give up growing certain crops.” But the decision to deregulate puts the burden of preventing contamination firmly on the backs of organic and non-GMO producers. USDA has not provided evidence of proven methods for preventing contamination.

Not many farmers can afford to sue the corporate manufacturer if their crops become contaminated, which is Big Ag giant Monsanto. And in case that is not enough, Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement, that each farmer buying their seed must sign, makes it crystal clear that the farmer is the one held liable, not Monsanto: “In no event shall Monsanto or any seller be liable for any incidental, consequential, special or punitive damages.” So farmers carry the burden either way.

Solution for a non-existent problem – or creation of a new one?
But you might ask, is there a real need for Roundup Ready alfalfa? The bio-technology industry argues that commercial alfalfa growers complain of weed problems or thin stands. Weeds in Roundup resistant alfalfa could be sprayed without damaging the alfalfa. But any good farmer knows that the best answer to the problem is to implement a vigorous crop rotation.

Alfalfa is a perennial crop, but the longer it is kept in place, the more problems there are. So the solution is to plant a new crop every few years, use the old field for corn or soybeans, and take advantage of the fertility and nutrients the alfalfa provides. The introduction of GM alfalfa simply allows poor management based on a monocrop system, and seals the biotech seed industry’s hold on the top four commodity crops- corn, soybeans, cotton and alfalfa.

Furthermore, the development of “superweeds” resistant to Roundup after years of exposure is well-known and is creating a whole new set of problems. Critics argue that USDA failed to analyze this in their approval of GM alfalfa. Recent stories describe farmers undoing years of conservation tillage work with heavy tillage—all due to super weeds no longer responding to Roundup—or returning to the use of more toxic herbicides. There is also emerging news from long-term research that using the same seed and pesticides on millions of acres of farmland could be creating unforeseen damage to soil quality and plants.

Destroying organic markets.
The organic sector has been a profitable part of a diverse U.S. agricultural economy—a 26 billion dollar a year industry that helps keep almost 15,000 family farms operating. Double- digit annual growth has been the norm for nine of the past ten years.

“Preserving market and farmer choice and agricultural diversity are central to USDA’s mission and the future of rural American livelihoods,” stated Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association. “This failure to do so will make it increasingly difficult to meet the growing demand for U.S. organic crops.”

Legal challenges.
The Center for Food Safety, the non-profit group who fought the earlier legal battles on GE alfalfa, vows to seek a court order immediately reversing and voiding USDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa. “We will be back in court,” Andrew Kimbrell, CFS Executive Director stated, “ representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment and consumer choice.”

For more information see the following:
Center for Food Safety www.centerfor
National Organic Coalition
Organic Farming Research Foundation

Small Farmer Commentary

Building Resilience at the Grassroots

by Mary Fund

Uncertainty seems to be the common theme in our lives these days. Despite the recent excitement about an increase in the number of jobs created nationally, a slight drop in unemployment rates, and polls claiming more people feel optimistic about our economic future, most people I know are skeptical at best. Most of us simply don’t count on national polls and talking heads for an accurate description of what we see around us. And we certainly don’t count on them to tell us what to do in terms of defining our own sense of security.

From my vantage point here in rural Kansas, what we see coming at us is not pretty. We see a state budget (like many other states around the country) in crisis with a $300-$500 million shortfall for the remainder of the fiscal year we are in, not to mention the next year. Locally, this means cuts to schools, possible closings and a new round of consolidations. It means cuts to other basic programs and services. At the federal level, these cuts are only amplified as are their impacts.

We see people hanging onto jobs they have and a shortage of other job options. We see rising prices at the grocery stores and rapidly rising gas and fuel prices. Young would-be farmers watch land prices rise far beyond their reach- and beyond the capacity of the land to pay for itself, even with high commodity prices. We see fewer high school graduates able to afford college or technical schools. And we see college graduates unable to find jobs in their new areas of expertise.

But as the old Chinese adage goes, from crisis there is opportunity.

Increasingly, people are asking just what can they do – in terms of creating a business or filling a need? In other words, if the larger more abstract economy of Wall Street and the role of government fluctuates or pulls away, what can we do that will meet our needs? Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and that may be what we need a good dose of now to create an economy based on use value and not speculation.

Not to downplay the importance of fighting for the programs and protections government is supposed to provide in terms of offering a level playing field, so that small farmers and businesses have a fair chance against giant corporations, who can never actually have our best interests at heart, but we also need to find ways to support each other as we struggle to create communities for our families and neighbors.

Building resiliency at the grassroots is what happens when we begin asking what is important to our communities, our farms, and the quality of our lives. What kinds of enterprises or collaborative efforts can we promote or adopt to meet our needs here in this place we have chosen to live?

The trend toward ever larger farms and giant corporations controlling our food supply is not only unsustainable, but it is not what people want. A food system that consolidates inputs, homogenizes the landscape and creates dependencies on the very corporations and technologies that created it, provides neither security in today’s world, nor good places to live and raise our families.

Small though they may be, KRC sees signs of farmers, consumers and communities beginning to take steps toward a more sustainable future. For instance, more farmers and ranchers are showing interest in an integrated approach to crops and livestock production with reliance on cover crops and legumes for nutrients, forages, and erosion control, and exploring alternative markets for crops and livestock. Designing systems based on these lessens dependence on expensive outside inputs and opens up new options for marketing.

While no one argues that all food can be produced locally, growing interest in strengthening local food production with hoophouses and development of farmers markets and direct marketing to institutions and food services is a step toward greater food security. It also provides an entry point for young farmers, and more business opportunities for value added or related food enterprises.

The number of communities developing economic development plans based on existing talents and skills of stakeholders, and importing the skills and services needed (medical, manufacturing, communications, energy etc.) is growing. Building a local food system is often a part of these plans.

In Kansas, the push to involve watershed stakeholders in decisions about water quality protection locally has generated discussion about less expensive management based options available to a wide range of producers. Connecting what happens on the individual farm to broader watershed goals protects the resource base critical to building local communities and the local economy.

These are small steps to be sure, but they are all part of building resiliency into our local economies, and thus into the national economy. Debate should be focusing on how to do more of this.

Mary Fund is editor of Rural Papers and coordinates the Kansas Rural Center's Clean Water Farm Project. She and her husband have a certified organic farm in Nemaha County. Kansas.

Congressional Budget Cuts Target Farm Programs

The Kansas Rural Center joined 154 grassroots organizations sending a letter to the U.S. Senate in opposition to a government funding bill that would cut more than $60 billion from the federal budget for the last half of fiscal year 2011. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) circulated the letter.

The groups argue that the bill (H.R.1) unfairly singles out programs that serve sustainable, organic, beginning and minority farmers, and that the disproportionate cuts to agriculture and rural America are reckless and unjust.

The bill slashes a disproportional amount from the agriculture budget (22%) relative to other budget functions, and the House is also proposing deep cuts to conservation and renewable energy funding provided by the 2008 Farm Bill. A combined $500 million would be cut under the House bill from the Conservation Stewardship Program the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).

However, no cuts were proposed for agriculture’s two biggest line items--commodity payments and crop insurance-- while conservation, renew-able energy, loans for beginning and minority farmers, and feeding programs for low income families took big hits.

The letter urged the Senate to reject this short-term approach that disproportionately targets a particular piece of government spending and threatens to reverse economic recovery in rural communities. For more up to date information on agricultural budget cuts and farm bill programs, go to NSAC’s website at:

Improving Winter Management Can Improve Herd and Calf Health Clean Calving Environment Directly Linked to Calf Health

by Mary Howell

Hanover, Ks. - Improving winter-feeding conditions, reducing winter-feed costs, and maintaining herd health, especially at calving time, were topics at the recent “Improving Livestock Production Workshop” in Hanover. Thirty-nine people gathered at the Kloppenberg Community Center for the workshop sponsored by the Tuttle Creek WRAPS to learn more about how to improve herd productivity and profitability.

Dr. Larry Hollis, Kansas State University Extension Beef Veterinarian, focused on winter feed, feeding site management, and ways to improve herd health at calving time. “Pro-ducers need to keep their cows in good shape during the winter prior to calving to give the calf the best chance at arriving healthy and performing well throughout its life cycle,” he ex-plained. Good quality hay should be eaten and poor quality hay should be used for something else.

Ideally hay is best fed unrolled on a clean area daily in the amount that the cows need and will clean up in 2-3 hours, Hollis told the group. The hay should be unrolled on standing dormant leftover grass. The cows will eat all of the unrolled hay and the dormant grass, rest and then scatter the manure when they move to another location or go to drink. “This can keep the manure, nutrients and bacteria out of the creek; it’s healthier for the calves, and good for the watershed, but,” he acknowledged, “ it is more work for the farmer versus dropping bales in round bale feeders close to the homestead.”

“Round bale feeders are a blessing or a curse depending how they are managed,” Hollis warned. The design, spacing and angle of bars determine how much feed is wasted using hay rings. In a study done in Michigan the most efficient hay feeder was a round feeder with an upper cone holding the bale so that hay pulled out was then caught in the lower ring and consumed; the next most efficient was a ring that was solid on both the bottom and upper rim with angled middle bars. A trailer with angle bars and bunks to catch the loose falling hay was third, with the rounded cradle type feeder being the most wasteful.

The number one cause of calf mortality is diarrhea or calf scours. Contributing pathogens are virus, bacteria, salmonella, clostridium, and cryptosporidium. Within every herd are carrier cows that transmit these viral diseases every year. Newborn calves must receive an adequate amount of colostrum within twelve hours of birth to receive the protection needed to fight off disease until they start building their own immunity.

Hollis explained that humans transfer antibodies to the embryo through the placenta as well as in the colostrum, but in cattle there is no cross-placental transfer of antibodies. An 80# calf needs to consume one gallon of colostrum, ideally having its first drink within two hours of its birth. Within 24 hours the gut wall closes, and then, no more can be absorbed. If the calf is slow to nurse, the caretaker should either milk the cow or use alternative colostrum to feed the calf.
Hollis noted that the best colostrum is from the cows within the operation because they produce the antibodies from that farm.

If there is a cow within the herd that gives much more colostrum than her calf needs, Hollis suggests milking her and freezing that colostrum to use for another calf later. The protection from colostrum lasts about nine weeks. Research has shown that calves receiving inadequate colostrum have decreased performance throughout their life cycle. When weaned they are more likely to get sick, more likely to die, and gain less weight than their counterparts.

Spreading cattle out over a larger area lessens the concentration of disease producing organisms that young calves are exposed to. It is critical to keep calves in a clean environment-- the bigger the calving area and the cleaner the ground, the less the concentration of bad organ-isms. When the challenge level to the calf overwhelms the protection it got from the cow and the immunity it is able to produce on its own, diseases like scours break out.

Research in the Sand Hills of Nebraska has developed a successful calving system that keeps the newborn calves away from the older calves. This system requires eight different calving areas, fenced with gates and water. Each week, the pregnant cows are moved into the next cell away from the cows with calves. This happens each week with the cows with calves staying in the cell they calved in. By keeping all of the calves of the same birth week batched together the following happens:

  1. Carrier cows that exist in each herd are more spread out;
  2. Older calves are disease amplifiers; by leaving age groups together the immunity of the younger calves is less compromised.
  3. This system reduces and practically elimi-nates scours regardless of which organ-ism is causing the outbreak.
  4. The number of calves affected will be minimized.
“Feeding-site management can have a direct effect on newborn calf health.” Hollis concluded.“Pick the manage-ment option that works best for you. With calf scours organisms, ‘dilution is the solution to the pollution’. ”

“Low-cost or no-cost” management options were the topic for Dale Kirkham, a cow-calf producer in Greenwood County as well as a Clean Water Farms-Field Organizer for the Kansas Rural Center. Kirkham challenged cattlemen in the audience to have their cattle working for them instead of the other way around. “Cattle have four legs, a mouth and rumen for a reason,” Dale told the audience. Cattle can move around the pasture to eat thus helping distribute the manure and nutrients. They do not need all of their feed hauled to them to perform well.

If pastures are managed properly in the summer, Kirkham pointed out, there will be dormant grass for use during the winter. Hay can be unrolled in a different area each day on standing grass reducing the negative impact of feeding in the same spot every day. By offering some additional protein, the cow’s nutritional needs are met.

Also, herd health is better when cattle are not confined in a small area for the winter. If cattle are fed the same time of day in the same place, they will soon be waiting at the gate for their daily handout. Owners can train them otherwise.

A safe source of water needs to be offered during the winter. “Ask anyone who has ever had cattle drown from an ice break or needed to rescue cattle from icy water,” stated Kirkham. Storm conditions can prevent chopping ice, or snow can cover the pond and cattle break thru the ice before they realize.

By strategically placing salt and mineral, grazing distribution will improve, leading to improved range conditions. Pasture rotation allows the grass to rest; the grass plants become healthier and heal the land. During the summer cattle should be encouraged to stay out of ponds and streams to reduce loafing in fragile riparian areas. As cattle enter the streams and ponds they take sediment and bacteria into the water with them, thus lessening the life of the pond and damaging the banks. Research has shown that if off stream watering sites are offered to cattle, they will spend less time drinking and loafing in the riparian area. Performance will often improve when the cattle are offered an unlimited supply of good clean water to drink.

“Producers must play the hand that they are dealt,” Dale concluded. “Each of us needs to look at our operation, the decisions we make and the activities that we do. Are we making a positive impact or a negative one? We have the ability to make a difference!”

Barbara Donovan, Tuttle Creek WRAPS (Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy) Coordinator, presented a slide show educating the group about the Tuttle Creek Watershed being a top priority in the State of Kansas.

WRAPS is a voluntary grass roots program working with local parti-cipants to build awareness while identifying remedies using Best Management Practices (BMPs.) The long term goals are to protect and restore water quality and storage. Additionally, WRAPS goals are to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, control flooding, and protect the productivity of agricultural lands.

Tuttle Creek WRAPS Watershed, along with other state and federal conservation programs, has cost-share available to help producers adopt management practices to address water quality problems. Gary Satter, Executive Director of Glacial Hills RC & D, described programs with funding available for qualified livestock producers and cropland farmers.

Interested producers should contact their USDA Service Center for the Natural Resources Conservation Services & Conservation District.
Washington Co. 785-325-2321 Ext.3
Marshall Co. 785-562-5343 Ext. 3
Riley Co. 785-776-7582 Ext. 3
Glacial Hills RC & D 785-945-6292
Barbara Donovan, Tuttle Creek WRAPS Coordinator, can be e-mailed at

Sponsors for the workshop were Tuttle Creek WRAPS Watershed, Glacial Hills RC & D, Kansas Rural Center, Marshall Co. Extension, and River Valley Extension. Partial funding was provided by Kansas Department of Health and Environment via U.S. EPA Non-point Funds.

Open Letter to the New Governor of Kansas: Looking for Economic Opportunities

by Paul Johnson

Congratulations Governor Brownback on your election as the 46th Governor of the great state of Kansas. In the midst of a very serious economic recession and the highest unemploy-ment in decades, Kansas should use this situation to reassess certain fundamental infrastructures in our state – food, energy and affordable housing.
In remembrance of our 150 years of pioneering self-reliance, Kansas can rediscover an economic independence that will boost our economy, create more local employment and leave us less vulnerable to future food and fuel price hikes. The State of Kansas has developed and funded several 10-year transportation plans but that model has not been applied to our systems of food, energy and affordable housing. You could provide such guidance.

Governor, as you know, Kansas has tremendous agricultural resources to be a diversified producer of many food products. Unfortunately this diversi-fication has significantly declined over the last 100 years. In 1910, Kansas had over 140,000 acres in fruits and vegetables but today that acreage has declined to just over 6,700. Kansans consume $525 million annually in fruits and vegetables but 97% of that total - $509 million – is imported while only 3% - $16 million – is grown locally. Comparable data could be compiled for the opportunities in meeting the growing consumer demand for local, natural meats by the remaining 71 small meat processors in Kansas. Kansas should establish some local food goals to capture - say 10% - of the $5.6 billion spent annually on food in our state.

Governor – the energy picture has dramatically changed in Kansas over the last 60 years. The Hugoton natural gas field was the third largest gas field in the world. Kansas built an economy and a housing stock around this very inexpensive energy supply. Kansas was a major natural gas energy exporter. In 1997, Kansas turned the corner and became an energy importer. Kansans now import over $2.5 billion a year. Every unnecessary dollar spent on Wyoming coal is unavailable to reverberate in our own economy.

Also, Kansas has been virtually last among the 50 states in offering utility-based or governmental energy efficiency programs. Kansas has 948,000 occupied housing units and a best guess is that only one-fourth of these units are adequately insulated. Utilities are guaranteed monopolies serving defined areas. Energy utility law should clearly mandate that energy conservation is equal to energy production to provide the most cost-effective energy service. Your first appointment to the Kansas Corporation Commission can send this ‘balanced energy’ policy signal.

Governor – in your State of the State address, you listed a ‘decrease in the percentage of Kansas’ children who live in poverty’ as one of your five measurable goals. One serious problem for many low-income families is the availability of affordable housing. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Kansas has 948,000 occupied housing units with 302,000 being rentals (32%) and 646,000 being owner-occupied (68%). 4 out of 10 renters are cost burdened paying over 30% of their income for housing expenses while 1 in 6 homeowners are paying over 30%. In April, the housing data from the 2010 U.S. Census will be available to assess the cost of housing in Kansas.

Kansas needs a coordinated 10-year private-public housing plan that identifies the needs for new construction, rehabilitation options and a dedicated funding source - similar to the 10-year transportation plans. This plan must be coordinated between the 7 entitlement urban areas and the balance of the state of small cities and rural areas. Your ‘Rural Opportunity Zones’ investment plan will need an affordable housing component to grow.

For whatever else happens with our economy, Kansans will always eat, will always pay utility bills and will always have to pay their housing costs. Where we can capture those food dollars locally and lessen utility bill and housing expenses, Kansas will be a wealthier and more secure state for the future. What a tremendous legacy you could leave for our blessed state.

Paul Johnson is currently KRC’s Legislative and Policy Watch Project Coordinator monitoring the State Legislature.

Research Shows Problems Emerging With Roundup

Editor’s Note:
The Land Stewardship Project, a sister sustainable agriculture organization in Minnesota, runs a regular feature in their newsletter called “Myth Buster Box” an ongoing series of ag myths and ways of deflating them”. In their summer 2010 issue they tackled the myth that Roundup is not a long-term environmental threat and provided research findings debunking that myth.

Recently more controversy has arose as Don Huber, Purdue University emeritus professor, wrote USDA asking them to stop the deregulation of Roundup Ready crops, particularly GE alfalfa. He expressed concern over a newly discovered organism that may have the potential to cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals, which may also raise concerns about human health. Huber believes the appearance and prevalence of the unnamed organism may be related to the nation’s over reliance on the weed killer known as Roundup and/or to something about the genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops.

Response from academia and industry was swift faulting Huber’s work using the usual “bad science” claims, which one would expect regarding such a widely used and profitable product. But one thing is clear: all questions about the long-term impact of Roundup Ready and glyphosate have NOT been answered, and more research needs to be done. The question is whether industry can produce unbiased research, and whether public dollars will be able to fund such research.
Mary Fund, Editor

The following article from the Land Stewardship Project is reprinted with permission.

Research Shows Problems Emerging with Roundup

Much of the basis for society’s (and government’s) acceptance of Roundup Ready GMO technology centers around the belief that the herbicide glyphosate (a linchpin in the Roundup Ready system) is safer for the environment than many of the pre-emergent herbicides it was supposed to replace. This is based on the idea that its greater volatility makes it less likely to hang around long enough to create environmental and human health problems. So, goes the argument, applying more glyphosate is less of a threat than applying less atrazine, for example.

But there are signs the herbicide glyphosate is threatening the soil’s long-term ability to create a healthy growing medium for crops. That’s not just a regrettable side effect that puts a bit of a tarnish on a silver bullet—it’s a potential bombshell that changes everything farmers (and environmentalists) have been led to believe about this ubiquitous herbicide.

Don Huber, a Purdue University emeritus professor of plant pathology, has recently been making minor waves within the world of no-till/minimal till agriculture by highlighting glyphosate’s ability to make the growing environment for plants an unhealthy one. In a summary paper of the latest research in this area, Huber documents how glyphosate has significantly changed nutrient availability and plant efficiency. Some of these changes are brought about by glyphosate’s direct toxicity, while others are caused indirectly through changes in soil organisms.

It seems one of the indirect effects of glyphosate is that it ties up or “chelates” the micronutrients necessary for healthy plants. For example, it can consistently inhibit plant enzymes responsible for disease resistance. It does this to plants engineered to resist being killed outright by glyphosate, as well as their non-GMO counterparts.

Huber’s 13-page paper has this chilling conclusion: “The introduction of such an intense mineral chelator as glyphosate into the food chain through accumulation in feed, forage, and food, and root exudation into ground water, could pose significant health concerns for animals and humans, and needs further evaluation.”

Huber’s warnings are being taken seriously by a sector of the farming community that benefits greatly from Roundup Ready technology: no-till and minimum-till farmers. In an effort to reduce tillage-based weed control as much as possible, these types of crop producers have adopted glyphosate-resistant plant technology in droves.

But in an article tellingly called “Are We Shooting Ourselves In the Foot With a Silver Bullet?”, the March 2010 issue of No-Till Farmer magazine quoted Huber and other researchers who are quite concerned that Roundup Ready is becoming a detriment to crop farming. It turns out farmers and crop consultants are reporting more incidents of entire fields showing signs of disease and stress in general. Crops may not die outright, but will do things like mature earlier, turning yellow and losing the bright green coloring that shows they are still adding to their final yield.

“For the last 2 to 3 years, corn plants have been losing color about 7 to 10 days earlier each year,” Iowa crop consultant Bon Streit told No-Till Farmer. “In 2009, we often saw corn yellowing up by August 1 even where nitrogen deficiencies weren’t the problem.”

Up until now, such signs of stress were automatically blamed on weather or some other “outside” culprit. But Huber and others are now saying no-till and minimum-till farmers need to look at their own spray tanks as a source of problems. Perhaps the most troubling point that Huber makes is that contrary to conventional wisdom, glyphosate is not a temporary presence in the environment. It can actually stick around in the soil for long periods of time.

“We see a buildup of glyphosate in the soil in part from glyphosate-tolerant crops and weeds,” Huber told No Till Farmer. “When we add phosphate fertilizers for corn, soybeans or wheat, for example, the the phosphorus reacts to release the glyphosate back into the soil, where it’s available for uptake by plants.”

And that build-up, along with the negative results of that build-up, gets worse over the years. One German study found that wheat planted in soil where glyphosate had been used for a decade yielded 46 percent less than wheat planted where glyphosate had been used for only a year. And since no-tillers disturb the soil less, they are at greater risk of seeing the herbicide accumulate to levels where crops will be negatively affected.

As Huber’s paper makes clear, we need research on the long-term effects of GMOs now more than ever. And we’re upping the ante by the minute.

• To read Don Huber’s summary paper on glyphosate, see: chemicalandcropnutrientinteractions.pdf.
• The article, “Are We Shooting Ourselves In the Foot With a Silver Bullet?”, is in the March 2010 issue of No-Till Farmer: com.

Myth Busters The Land Stewardship Letter’s popular Myth Buster series is available on their website at: For paper copies, contact Brian DeVore at 612-722-6377 or


March 30 Workshop: Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety and GAPs

As the demand for local and organic food has exploded in the last five years, so has the expectation on the part of consumers and institutional buyers for clean produce that lasts on the shelf and in the refrigerator. At the same time, institutions have begun demanding food safety assurances, and now the Food Safety Modernization Act has opened the door for FDA regulation of the production and handling of fresh vegetables and produce.

Join Rock Spring Farm's Chris Blanchard for a review of post harvest handling practices, and the methods developed at Rock Spring Farm for meeting the documentation and record-keeping requirements of the GAPs audit process in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Workshop begins at 9 a.m. Workshop concludes at 4:45 p.m.
Location: Dreher Family 4-H Building, (next door to the Extension office), 2110 Harper St, Lawrence.

Questions? Contact us at 785-843-7058
Details and brochure download available here.

April 2 Workshop: How to Build a High Tunnel

Learn how to build a high tunnel by helping to construct one! This workshop will be held Saturday, April 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Dan and Mary Howell’s Farmstead, located at 1723 Wildcat Road, about 7 miles southwest of Frankfort, Ks. Bring a lawn chair, cordless drill and dress for work. This is a day of hands-on construction!

The workshop will be led by Dan Nagengast, Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center. K-State Research and Extension Vegetable & Fruit Crop Specialist Cary Rivard will discuss growing crops in a high tunnel during lunch.

Registration is free and lunch is provided, but you must pre-register by April 1. Call the Glacial Hills RC&D to pre-register at: (785) 945-6292.

Directions: Take Hwy 9 west out of Frankfort about 5 miles; turn left at 17th Road; take the first left onto Wildcat Road. The Howell’s are located about 1/4 mile east.

The workshop is sponsored by the following organizations: Kansas Rural Center, K-State Research and Extension, K-State SARE and Glacial Hills RC&D.

Kansas City Food Circle’s 13th Annual ‘Eat Local’ Farmers Expo

Kick off the spring season with the first harvests of the year! The Kansas City Food Circle’s 13th annual “Eat Local! Expos” brings you local and organic produce, meats, eggs, seedlings and farmers market information. Learn about CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), pick up a free directory of local, organic producers and attend how-to workshops.

The expos will be on two successive Saturdays. Admission and parking are free.

Saturday, March 26, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Roger T. Sermon Community Center, Truman & Nolan Rd., Independence, MO; and
Saturday, April 2, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.,
Shawnee Civic Center, 13817 Johnson Dr., Shawnee, KS

Go to for more information.

Mar 15, 2011

Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAPs: Making it Work on a Real Farm

Course description
As the demand for local and organic food has exploded in the last five years, so has the expectation on the part of consumers and institutional buyers for clean produce that lasts on the shelf and in the refrigerator. At the same time, institutions have begun demanding food safety assurances, and now the Food Safety Modernization Act has opened the door for FDA regulation of the production and handling of fresh vegetables and produce.

Join Rock Spring Farm's Chris Blanchard for a review of post harvest handling practices, and the methods developed at Rock Spring Farm for meeting the documentation and record-keeping requirements of the GAPs audit process in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

• Attendees will receive:
• Food Safety Begins on the Farm
• Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower Self-Assessment workbook
• Sample farm map and SOP
• Water testing FYI handout

Who should attend?
•Specialty crop farm owners/operators and key employees
• School garden staff
• Food service/produce buyer professionals
• Extension staff, NGO staff, nonprofit employees, educators who work with specialty crop production and/or food safety/service

What you will gain...
• Ability to describe the main areas of farm food safety
• Ability to assess areas that require implementation of GAPs to reduce chemical, physical, and biological risks.
• Ability to develop SOPs and record keeping logs for key areas.

About the Speaker
Chris Blanchard owns and operates Rock Spring Farm, with fifteen acres of certified organic vegetable, herb, and greenhouse production north of Decorah, Iowa, selling produce year-round through a 200-member CSA, food stores, and a farmers market since 1999. Under the banner of Flying Rutabaga Works, Chris' workshops about farm business concepts, food safety, organic vegetable production, and scaling up to farmers throughout the country have gained a reputation for fresh approaches, down-to-earth information, and honesty. He also co-directs the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. Rock Spring Farm passed the USDA GAPs audit in the fall of 2010.

Registration and Schedule
Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, we’ve been able to keep costs low. Please mail or drop off your registration as soon as possible to ensure that we have the appropriate number of handouts and food.
Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Workshop begins at 9 a.m. Workshop concludes at 4:45 p.m.
Location: Dreher Family 4-H Building, (next door to the Extension office), 2110 Harper St, Lawrence.
Questions? Contact us at 785-843-7058

Download Workshop Registration Brochure