Inside This Issue:
2009 Wheat Harvest Bittersweet
A Close Look at a Pesticide Complaint Investigation
Weed-Free Certification Adds Value to Forage, Mulch
Summertime Food Safety
2009 Legislative Session Wrap-up
Our Other Newsletters
Working for KDA
KDA Speakers Bureau
Employees of the Quarter
The KDA Connection is a quarterly electronic newsletter published by the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
On Monday, I had the honor and pleasure of accompanying Governor Mark Parkinson to Colby to join Mike Brown and his family as they were wrapping up wheat harvest.
Last week, the Obama administration announced my selection to lead the Kansas Farm Service Agency. It’s a familiar job—I held it from 1993 to 2001—so I’m looking forward to returning to known territory, but I’m going to deeply miss serving as secretary of agriculture.
Governor's Wheat Harvest Visit Brings Back Memories
by Bill Spiegel, Kansas Wheat
was a frequent visitor to his grandparent's wheat farm in Scott County. Pictures of him riding a combine as a youth, he says, are notable in part because those machines had no cab, let alone air conditioning. After emerging from a combine operated by Tanner Brown southwest of Colby July 6, Governor Parkinson remarked that today's combines are vastly improved.
Governor Parkinson's visit to the Thomas County farm of Tanner Brown and his father, Mike, symbolizes the importance agriculture plays in the states' economy.
"It's important to highlight how important agriculture is to the state and particularly, how important wheat is to our agricultural sector. We have an awful lot of parts of the state that are hurting because of the recession," Parkinson says. "The recession has hurt everybody but it has probably affected agriculture less. Kansas needs some good news and we wanted to highlight that there are good things happening in the state. Farmers in many parts of the state are having good crops and yields and can help us come out of the recession."
The Kansas wheat crop was projected to average about 40 bushels per acre, based on National Agricultural Statistics estimates in May. Mike Brown expects his wheat crop to follow suit.
"The harvest so far has been fairly decent, with yields in the 40 to 60-bushel-per acre range. Proteins are running from 9 to 12.5, so they're pretty variable. Test weights have been running 60 to 64 pounds, so those are good," he says. "We've lost 450 acres to hail. We still haven't cut a whole field yet, because we've run into some green wheat we've had to cut around."
Brown asserts that a positive wheat crop means good news in rural Kansas communities.
"When we have good yields and the prices are good, it makes a big difference to Main Street in these small towns. Implement dealers, car dealers and hardware store merchants. It's a big factor for all of us out here in the western part of the state," he says.
More than 20% of the Kansas population is involved in farming or other sectors of agriculture, Parkinson says. But that doesn't mean rural Kansas is recession-proof.
"Agriculture has changed dramatically over the years. We've gotten very good at farming and very efficient at it. And as a result of becoming more efficient, it takes fewer people and that's had a dramatic impact on cities around farms. We've sort of been a victim of our own efficiency and that's been a problem. The number of people directly involved in farming has declined but it's still a very important part of our economy," he says. "
Adrian Polansky, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and USDA's appointee to run the Kansas Farm Service Agency, joined Parkinson on the harvest trip to Colby. Polansky, who farms near Belleville, says wheat harvest is a nostalgic time for many Kansans.
"There is something special about wheat. I don't know exactly what it is, whether it is the golden fields, the time of the year, or the tradition of wheat harvest going back to binding machines and threshers. But there is something magical about wheat harvest that at least in me, gets the emotion going like no other crop. It's an opportunity to focus on agriculture in a larger sense. It's an important time in Kansas now, and will be in the future," he says.
pesticide and fertilizer program on policy issues and interaction with state and federal agencies. I had not had the opportunity to work with field staff on a pesticide complainant before, so I was excited to see one in action.
The pesticide program’s laws and regulations are designed to protect the environment and human health, as well as to regulate products that benefit farmers, homeowners and the public. The pesticide program receives about 140 pesticide complaints a year, and they investigate each one.
One recent Sunday we received a complaint of pesticide drift in northeast Kansas. The complaint was assigned to Duane Simon, the investigator who works in that area. I went with him as he conducted his investigation the following Wednesday.
We met with the complainant during his lunch break at a Topeka business to fill out paperwork and to get his statement. Since he was not going to the property with us, he gave us directions to where he alleged the pesticide drift occurred.
Simon explained to me that an investigator must be unbiased and be focused on facts and evidence that support them. He said it can be very challenging, regardless of how clear the case seems to be to the complainant or the respondent, because there must be evidence to prove the law was violated.
When we arrived at the complainant’s property, I quickly learned how difficult it was to investigate a complaint and to follow required sampling procedures.
Simon explained the sampling procedure as he donned gloves, clipped the vegetation samples and put them in individual containers. He labeled and sealed each one according to procedure to show that the integrity of each sample was maintained. Writing on sticker seals, jars and bags was difficult in the wind, but Simon said it is essential to deliver properly collected, official samples for the program’s enforcement team.
Once we collected the samples, we contacted the respondent to meet with him. During the meeting he became agitated as we discussed the complaint, and he refused to make a statement. After additional explanations, he finally agreed to sign the forms to allow the investigation to proceed.
The respondent had a very different view of what had occurred. Fortunately, Simon, who has worked with the pesticide program for 15 years, is good at building rapport and that allows him to collect both versions of an event and to collect facts for the case file.
This case was unusual in that the complaint was made before there was evidence of damage. There had been a previous dispute between the two neighbors in the past over a pesticide application, so the complainant did not wait to see if actual damage was sustained to his property to file this complaint.
Simon said it was not uncommon for some families and neighbors to attempt to settle disputes through our complaint process. These complaints often are made with other disagreements or a broader dispute in the background. Regardless of motivation, the investigator must remain neutral and not express any personal opinion. Simon consistently showed great skill bringing the conversations with the complainant and respondent back to the facts of the event that led the complaint.
The final part of the investigation involves the laboratory analyzing the vegetation samples for pesticide residue, followed by the investigator writing his report. As of this writing, this complaint is not yet resolved. The inspector’s report has been sent to the enforcement team, and lab results are pending.
Weed-Free Certification Adds Value to Forage, Mulch
by Jessica Bowser
During the last week of June, with heat indexes reaching 110°F, I walked through 40 acres of wheat to observe a weed-free forage inspection that had been requested by a farmer in Marshall County.
For forage or mulch to be certified weed free, an inspector from the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s plant protection and weed control program has to inspect it. There also are seven county weed directors approved to conduct these types of inspections, but the department still handles certifying the crop as weed free.
Weed-free forage and mulch are required on many U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, in national parks, military locations, tribal lands and National Fish and Wildlife refuges. Certifiable forage products include straw, alfalfa hay, grass hay, grain hay, and forage pellets and cubes. Recreational horse riders using federal property may need weed-free forage to feed their horses, and state and federal agencies may require weed-free mulch for right-of-way projects. Having a crop certified as weed free opens the door to more lucrative marketing opportunities for the producer.
For this inspection, I traveled to Marshall County with the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s state weed specialist, Jeff Vogel. Vogel said that farmers often wait until the last minute to call the department to schedule an inspection but that it is more helpful if they call a little earlier to ensure there’s plenty of time to get it scheduled. The program inspects about 15,000 acres of forage a year. With only six inspectors, and the seven county weed directors, it’s challenging to get all the inspections done within the time they are needed.
Before entering the field, Vogel reviewed common noxious weeds with me. He explained that the department has a written agreement with the North American Weed Management Association to sponsor the state’s weed-free forage program. The goal is to stop the spread of noxious weeds and undesirable plants. The agreement lists 54 plant species that are prohibited from being in certified weed-free forage. Vogel said that he also looks for Kansas noxious weeds while inspecting the fields. Currently there are 14 noxious weeds identified in Kansas, and the Kansas Legislature is the only entity that can make changes to the state’s noxious-weed list.
After walking the field, Vogel called the farmer to tell him we were finishing the report and he could meet us in 15 minutes. Vogel found two prohibited weeds in the perimeter of the field, so he rejected three acres. He mapped all his findings on a weed-free forage field map and outlined parts of the field he rejected due to a prohibited weed. With a laptop computer and printer in his truck, Vogel was able to print a preliminary inspection report.
The farmer records the date of harvest and the number and size of bales at the bottom of the inspection report and returns it to the department and a certificate of inspection is issued. Once the certificate is issued, the farmer’s weed-free forage is certified. The farmer is billed for mileage and a $30 per hour inspection fee.
Vogel said buyers like it when the forage is marked weed free, so the department sells bale tags for 15 cents apiece for small loads and transit certificates for $20 apiece for multiple truck loads.
Of the 40 acres that Vogel inspected, he was able to certify 37 acres as weed free. The farmer said his regular buyer had plenty of straw and no longer needed any, so Vogel said his contact information could be added to a list of certified weed-free producers the plant protection and weed control program maintains online. That way, potential buyers would be able to find him.
Summertime Food Safety
by Steve Moris
Picnics and other outdoor gatherings are a great way to keep connected with family and friends. By following a few food safety tips, you can enjoy your time together knowing that food you prepared isn’t going to send a loved one to the hospital with a foodborne illness.
Here’s what you need to remember while preparing, cooking and serving food from your grill:
2009 Legislative Session Wrap-Up
A handful of bills passed by the 2009 Kansas Legislature impact Kansas Department of Agriculture programs and the services we provide. These changes took effect July 1, unless otherwise noted.
Senate Bill 64 (also House Bill 2309) addresses using eminent domain for the condemnation of water rights.
Senate Bill 212 affects wine shipments and farm winery sales at farmers’ markets.
Senate Bill 203 impacts our food safety and lodging program in the following ways:
House Bill 2050 impacts the water appropriation program in the following ways:
We originally asked for a targeted 10 percent fee increase to keep funding at sustainable levels, but it was not approved by the Legislature As a result of not receiving the fee increase plus subsequent budget reductions, the Division of Water Resources had to reduce its staff. To date, eight employees have been laid off and an additional 23 positions are being held open. This will impact the level of customer service the agency typically provides, as well as delay some inspections, reports and water right application processing. Another area impacted is the agency’s work involving interstate water compacts and litigation.
House Bill 2283 is still active for the 2010 legislative session. If passed, it would prevent the chief engineer from initiating proceedings to establish an intensive groundwater use control area in a groundwater management district without the district requesting it. An IGUCA is an important tool currently available to the chief engineer to use when dealing with regional water shortages. Without it, the chief engineer would be required to administer (shut off) individual water rights to deal with water shortages. The IGUCA gives the chief engineer a more comprehensive tool to satisfy senior water rights without completely shutting off junior water rights. We will continue to oppose the bill to protect the authority of the chief engineer and to ensure that actions to satisfy senior water rights don’t do unnecessary economic harm to an entire region.
House Bill 2295 impacts the dairy inspection and pesticide and fertilizer programs in the following ways.
Agriculture Chemical Act.
Chemigation Safety Law
Q. How can I choose a lawn care company that will mow my grass and control any pest weeds or insects?
A. Contact three different companies to compare their services and costs. Confirm their physical addresses and ask for a company representative to come to your property to discuss the level of care you want. Inquire about other lawns they are maintaining in your area and drive by them or visit with the homeowners if you can. Make sure you understand exactly what work they will do for the quoted fee. For example, weed spraying may be included while an application to control grubs is extra. Ask about what pesticides they use and when they apply them. If you would like advance notice of any pesticide applications, be sure to stipulate this in advance. You may need to move furniture, toys or pet food bowls off the lawn. You also need to find out who is responsible for watering the lawn if it is necessary after a pesticide application. Ask if they offer written service agreements and how often they are renewed. If they renew automatically each year, ask for an annual written confirmation. After collecting this information, call the Kansas Department of Agriculture (785) 296-5210 to confirm the companies are licensed to apply pesticides to control weeds, insects, or diseases. Finally, check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if other consumers have filed complaints about the businesses. You can also find out if any of the businesses has a history of pesticide violations by filing an open records request with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The request form is online at www.ksda.gov. Use this information to make an educated decision about which lawn care company is right for you.