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Law change provides rural opportunity

By John Schlageck

Kansas Farm Bureau

For farm and ranch families across Kansas, the corporate farm bill being worked in the Statehouse represents a unique opportunity to access new markets, to diversify operations and to attempt a new strategy to invigorate rural communities and offer young people a rural alternative.

While no piece of legislation is likely to address all of the issues of out‐migration or depopulation, removing the real or perceived hurdles to bringing a new business venture online can encourage growth in the industry and in turn attract jobs and residents to rural communities.

The new proposed corporate law could provide diversification to economies, better markets to producers and a brighter future for families who want to continue to live and thrive in rural Kansas.

Kansas is now one of just nine states in the country that prohibit or restrict certain farms from doing business in the state. Courts have struck down the corporate farming restrictions in three of those states.

The Sunflower State now lists 18 exemptions that allow corporations to engage in production agriculture in Kansas. Even with these exemptions, agribusiness, hog, dairy and poultry producers have approached Kansas about the possibility of locating here, only to learn that current corporate farming laws would hamper their ability to operate efficiently, or at all. Many of these economic opportunities are modern, efficient, environmentally sound corporate citizens.

A crucial part of this story remains the privately held farms in Kansas. When comparing land values from 15 states, both with and without corporate farming restrictions, there was no correlation between land values and restrictions on corporate farms.

Also, the size of farms in Kansas was compared to eight states without corporate farming restrictions. Kansas ranked second largest average farm size at 702 acres. The number of smallest farms among these eight states grew 5.24 percent compared to .35 in Kansas, and the number of large farms grew 55 percent, compared to 110 percent in Kansas.

Our current law has restricted this state’s ability to attract and capitalize on the potential in Kansas, and to capture the opportunity to keep families on the farm and rural communities alive and well. For many years we’ve simply watched as farm consolidation occurred and rural communities ceased to exist.

For farmers and ranchers of all sizes, the proposed corporate farm bill represents a unique opportunity to access new markets, diversify operations and attempt a new strategy to invigorate rural communities and offer young people a rural alternative.

Farmers and ranchers look at real numbers and real value, not emotional, unsubstantiated arguments. In today’s global economy Kansas will continue to struggle if we as a state fail to embrace concepts of free and open markets. This is a concept farmers and ranchers have long supported.

A change in the law will open our state to new development by removing barriers for entering, or in some cases remaining in business in Kansas. It will allow multi‐generational family operations to continue to work in Kansas instead of making future generations ineligible to own or operate the farm or ranch. Farmers and ranchers want nothing more than to leave a legacy for the next generation of producers.

Date: 4/1/2013



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