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Speakers discuss EPA regulations, water conservation at KFU Convention


EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks and Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Josh Svaty spoke to Kansas Farmers Union Convention attendees on Dec. 11 at the Salina Ramada Inn.

Brooks said that EPA Region 7 does the most work with agriculture than any other EPA region.

"Lisa Jackson looks at me and asks how are we raising food, fiber and fuel," Brooks said. "We are in contact every day and in every way with producers."

There are 550 people who work in EPA's Region 7 are dedicated to making rules that can sustain the land where we live, Brooks said.

"It's honorable to be in charge of those people," Brooks said.

In recent years, Brooks said, the EPA has been making an effort to listen to producers and find out how producers are coming into contact with the EPA.

"If there is a complaint, we can hear it and fix it, if it's viable," Brooks said. "We want to engage problems and see if there is a solution."

Brooks said during his time at the EPA he has made an "effort to go out on criticisms," for example that the EPA is in a "war with agriculture."

"We want to have open, fair discussions with agriculture and hope that over time the work we do will develop into a more normal working relationship," Brooks said.

Brooks also wanted to bring some light to some rumors that have been circulating about possible EPA regulations. He said there is not and never has been an EPA plan to regulate dust coming off fields and country gravel roads. He also said the same for "cow farts."

Svaty said his time as Secretary of Agriculture was an "unique and exciting time." He said the biggest learning curve was how the markets work.

He said he originally saw the Chicago and Kansas City Boards of Trade as primarily commodity trading, but found out the opposite. He found that in Chicago only 2 percent are grain contracts.

Svaty said one thing he worked for during his time as secretary was water conservation. What he proposed was to add conservation as a beneficial use for wells, so that landowners wouldn't have to pump water just to keep the water right.

"Kansas is understanding that water will be an issue," Svaty said. "We are finally seeing that leaving water in the ground is not a bad thing."

Svaty said Kansas needs to use water management because it seems we are moving into drier times, especially in Western Kansas.

"We have to be proactive. If we let it go too far, we will be in trouble," Svaty said.

Svaty's main concern with dry conditions is losing the state's economic benefit from beef cattle production, since 54 percent of all agriculture receipts in Kansas are related to the cattle industry.

"If we want to keep cattle ranches and feedlots here, then we must be long range with our water planning," Svaty said.

As for what's next for Svaty, he doesn't know right now. His father would like his help on the family farm and Svaty admits he would like to farm full time, but "there's too much fight in me to sit back and watch things happen."

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