Numerous proposals affecting the state's livestock industry were debated during the 2000 Kansas legislative session.

Lobbyists for the Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) were at the capitol protecting the interests of producers throughout the 89-day session. All in all, the balance of final action taken by lawmakers on livestock industry issues was considered positive by KLA leadership.

"The legislature avoided some dangerous traps that would have hurt our industry, and took several prudent actions that will be beneficial," said KLA President Alan Hess, Alma.

A host of bills that would have been negative to the industry were opposed successfully by KLA. Based on policy positions taken at the 1999 KLA convention and 2000 KLA legislative meeting, the association opposed a series of marketing and environmental bills introduced by the state legislature.

All segments of the cattle industry were represented during KLA testimony against SB 590, a bill that would have taken away a producer's freedom to decide how his or her cattle should be sold. The bill could have limited marketing options by making it illegal for individuals to forward contract cattle or sell livestock through a producer alliance. Compelling testimony from KLA members convinced the Senate Judiciary Committee not to advance the bill.

KLA opposed SB 565, which would have regulated all contracts dealing with agricultural commodities. The bill would have restricted, if not prohibited, forward contracts on all ag products. This proposed new level of regulation did not make it out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where the bill was introduced at the request of Sen. Stan Clark, Oakley.

Livestock producers would have been subjected to more audits, investigations and interference as proposed in SB 494 and HB 2712. The bills, both successfully opposed by KLA, would have duplicated existing federal efforts by creating a Kansas Packers & Stockyards Act.

KLA led the effort against SB 551, which would have given counties broad authority to increase environmental regulations on farm and livestock operations. The bill, also introduced at the request of Senator Clark, could have empowered counties to increase separation distance requirements for livestock facilities and expanded regulation of those who chemigate. KLA contended livestock businesses should not be burdened with the potential myriad of regulatory schemes that could have been approved in the 105 Kansas counties.

SB 670, requested for introduction by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, would have allowed citizens to file lawsuits challenging the waste permits issued to livestock operations. The proposal, which didn't make it out of committee, due in part to KLA's opposition, would have given citizens up to 120 days after a waste permit is issued to seek court action shutting down a confined feeding facility or municipal waste system.

The legislature approved and Gov. Bill Graves has signed a bill supported by KLA to increase the availability of nonresident deer hunting permits in Kansas. The bill will allow landowners or tenants to apply for nonresident permits, which, in turn, can be sold for a profit to in-state or out-of-state hunters.

KLA was instrumental in making sure long-standing pasture and feed liens were retained. As originally proposed, SB 366 would have eliminated these important statutory liens. KLA lobbyists successfully contended producers should continue to have the first and prior lien on the grazing, feeding and care provided for livestock owned by others.

A bill allowing farmers and ranchers to take losses up to $1,500 from the current tax year and offset gains from previous years received legislative approval. KLA supported the measure as it worked through the legislative process.

With the support of KLA, state legislators approved a bill proposed by Governor Graves that would revise Kansas antitrust laws. HB 2855 will modernize existing statutes to allow the state attorney general authority to investigate and take action against those who commit antitrust violations in Kansas.

Two issues of interest to KLA members remained unsettled at session's end. One would have allowed for the creation of water banks in Kansas, a concept supported by KLA. SB 388 would have given water users more flexibility, provided financial incentives to conserve water and reduced the use of water within the boundaries of banks. Also left hanging in the balance were KLA-supported bills that would have lessened the increase in ag land valuations recently experienced by landowners. In related action, a provision to reduce the appraisal of land enrolled in the federal Wetlands Reserve Program was approved by lawmakers late in the session.

KLA is a trade organization representing the state's multi-billion dollar cattle industry on legislative and regulatory issues affecting the business, at the state and federal levels. Members of the association are involved in all segments of the livestock industry, including cow-calf production, cattle feeding, swine, dairy and sheep.

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