Tag Archives: Kansas

Governor Laura Kelly yesterday toured counties damaged by flooding in Kansas and Nebraska with Maj. General Lee Tafanelli from the Kansas National Guard, Deputy Director Angee Morgan from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management and Acting Director Earl Lewis from the Kansas Water Office. They flew by helicopter to Leavenworth and then up the Missouri River Basin surveying the damage and relief efforts.

Kelly signed an executive order yesterday easing motor carrier regulations to expedite emergency relief and restoration. Last week, the governor issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for several counties affected by flooding. Local, state and federal partners will continue to work together to address the needs of communities and rural areas.

Last week’s bomb cyclone continues to inundate parts of the Midwest with flood waters this week. Following the storm that hit Nebraska the hardest, the flood waters made their way downstream over the weekend to include, Iowa Kansas and Missouri. Multiple levees have been topped or breached, which has swamped farmland and small towns along the Missouri River.

Some areas broke record levels, including those set in the historic floods of 2011 and 1993. The Army Corps of Engineers has reduced water releases from the Gavins Point dam over the weekend, but much of the current problem stems from the saturated Platte River in Nebraska. Still, releases from Gavins Point have been above average since last June, stemming from a wet spring and fall last year. Nearly the entire lower Missouri River, along with the Mississippi River, are included in flood warnings.

Producers are urged to contact their local Farm Service Agency to find information on assistance programs. In addition, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has set up a relief fund and exchange. Details of the fund can be found at www.nefb.org.

KANSAS – For the week ending March 17, 2019, there were 1.0 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 1 short, 56 adequate, and 43 surplus.

Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 short, 70 adequate, and 28 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Winter wheat condition rated 3 percent very poor, 8 poor, 40 fair, 44 good, and 5 excellent.

In the opening paragraph of the FFA Creed there is the line, ” in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.” When E.M. Tiffany wrote those lines, there was no such day as National Ag Day but, National Ag Day 2019 may have merged the day and the meaning behind the line.

Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring it  Ag Week in Nebraska on Wednesday, March 13th. The  Governor signed the proclamation inside the Rural Radio Network Studios in Lexington.

Governor Ricketts and Director of Agriculture Steve Wellman following the signing of the Ag Week proclamation.

Listen to the Governor and Director of Agriculture here: https://post.futurimedia.com/krvnam/playlist/governor-ricketts-declares-ag-week-in-nebraska-6295.html

During the signing, Governor Ricketts urged Ag producers and Nebraska residents to prepare for the impending storm.

Even with meteorologists warning and the Governors urging,  producers could not know the upcoming storm would bring record low pressure. The pressure dropped so fast that it became what is known as a bomb cyclone.  Meteorologists refer to a strengthening low as “bombing” out if its minimum surface pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less.  In just 13 hours, a bomb cyclone was seen in the Midwest.  As a result, Pueblo, Colorado had set a low pressure record on Wednesday.

By the morning of Thursday, March 14th, Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Panhandle of Nebraska were under snow and heavy winds with blizzard like conditions. Eastern and Central Nebraska had heavy rains that swelled creeks and rivers. Flooding started to wash over roads and making travel dangerous.

The March 13th storm dropped heavy snow in the Nebraska Panhandle. NRRA Radio Station KNEB stayed on air throughout the storm. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Boyear)

Through all this, Ag producers worked to care for their livestock as best they could.  For numerous ranchers the storm hit during calving season. Susan Littlefield may have captured just how dire the situation was with her radio story, “In Their Own Words.” Littlefield spoke with Brooke Stuhr who ranches near Albion. Stuhr described how her husband worked through the night  and freezing rain to try and scrape pens. He then re-bed them so that the cattle would not be in knee deep in near freezing mud.

Listen to “In Their Own Words” here: http://bit.ly/2TPkGii

Stuhr’s story is similar to many producer’s across Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado who fought near white out conditions, more than a foot of snow, rain,  freezing rain,  and flooding. Ag producers truly struggled even with all their toil to try and prepare livestock and their property. They lost livestock, equipment, feed, and infrastructure like fence. This only marks the beginning as flood water recedes,  and the mud takes its place. Ag producers have a long road ahead. The mud will suck pickups and tractors in. The  mud will also be a harbinger of illness for newborn animals.

Photo: Beth Vavra captures this picture of her husband near Turkey Creek trying to bring cattle in from rising waters.

There are better days ahead though. The increased moisture will help green the grass when the weather warm ups. The silt from floods will deposit needed nutrients into productive bottom ground. The storm may have also showed ag producers how to better prepare and care for livestock in future storms.  It was National Ag Day and Ag producers celebrated by caring for their livestock and land. They knew that better days were ahead because of the current struggles.

For those that want to help those affected by the storm visit http://krvn.com/help-now/  .

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows Kansas winter wheat is doing well with an abundance of moisture this month.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 97 percent of the state had adequate to surplus topsoil moisture conditions. About 98 percent of the state had adequate to surplus subsoil moisture.

The agency rated the Kansas winter wheat as 9 percent poor to very poor, 40 percent as fair, and 51 percent as good to excellent.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The southern Great Plains has a reputation for growing a large percentage of the U.S. wheat crop that is so important to millers and bakers around the globe who depend on it for making bread and general purpose flour.

But because of lower prices, compounded by weather challenges in recent years, fewer and fewer overall acres have been planted to wheat. A February report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated U.S. winter wheat planted area at a 110-year low.

One part of the wheat industry bucking that trend is organic wheat production. While still a tiny part of overall U.S. wheat output, organic production – wheat certified by the USDA to be grown free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers – grew by more than 11 percent to 10.5 million bushels, according to the USDA’s most recent report. That crop was grown on more than 336,550 acres.

Organic wheat sought by millers and bakers for use in flour and ultimately for organic bread, pastries, crackers and snacks, commands prices sometimes two to three times higher than conventionally-grown wheat.

But growers considering switching from conventional wheat production to organically-grown wheat face obstacles, including a lack of research focused on which existing varieties grow well in organic environments and a need for new varieties developed specifically for organically-managed fields.

To address the benefits and challenges, Heartland Plant Innovations, a for-profit innovation company that was formed through a collaboration of Kansas wheat producers via Kansas WheatKansas State University, and private investors, conducted a survey of organic wheat growers in the southern Plains and organized a conference in late January in Manhattan, attended by wheat producers, plant breeders, flour millers, extension professionals and other industry representatives.

“HPI’s goal in hosting this conference was to uncover the challenges and opportunities within the organic wheat industry,” said HPI President Dusti Gallagher. “The outcome of this conference will be to produce an industry-wide white paper that will assist in advancing the industry forward. HPI’s efforts will focus on exploring opportunities to breed and evaluate wheat lines optimized for organically-managed lands.”

Organic wheat grower Michael Raile said the biggest benefit of growing any organic crop is not having to worry about handling chemicals or protecting himself and consumers from them. He and his wife Ashley along with his parents, Tim and Robyn, grow organic wheat on farmland near St. Francis, Kansas in the far northwest reaches of the state. Their land has been in the Raile family tracing back to Gottlieb Raile Sr., who arrived in the United States from Odessa, Russia in 1885.

“My current farming operation is in transition to be fully organic on all my acres,” Raile said, adding that about half his acres are already certified and the rest are in the transitional phase. “Before becoming organic, I was a conventional no-till farm.”

He added that making a transition from a conventional wheat operation to certified organic takes three years, during which the grower cannot use synthetic fertilizers or chemicals. Crops produced in those three years must be sold on the conventional market.

“Weed control is the biggest challenge, since the only method available is mechanical removal,” Raile said, adding that seeking out markets for organically-grown wheat is something of a challenge but one he likes. “I enjoy seeking out new markets and building relationships with past buyers, since it’s unlike the conventional marketplace and being able to sell it locally.”

Other crops he is considering are organic barley, oats, peas, millet and sorghum.

Because they cannot use synthetic pesticides or fertilizer on their fields, organic farms on average produce about 23 bushels per acre less wheat than conventional farms.

Protein was the top priority for organic farmers according to the survey and conference participants. Other priorities include test weight, disease resistance, falling mixograph/farinograph numbers (which are used to measure specific properties of flour), and yield.

Early vigor was also mentioned so the wheat can grow quickly, spread out and tiller early in order to out-compete weeds. Many of the newer varieties, growers said, have been developed so the stalk and head structure are upright, which work well in conventional systems where spraying for weeds can occur. Organic growers, however, prefer heads that splay over and provide shade in the rows, which impedes weed growth.

In addition to the three-year transition phase, lower yields, and weed and pest control, producers said other challenges in changing to organically-grown wheat include

  • A lack of crop insurance instruments that would protect transitioning and organic producers.
  • A lack of wheat varieties that have consistent kernel size.
  • The need for separate storage and transportation.
  • Price transparency and market information are difficult to come by.

The survey and conference were supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Most consumers typically don’t think that a food safety risk lurks in their kitchen’s flour bin, but a handful of product recalls since 2015 in the United States and other countries is changing that mindset.

Rather than accept that it’s just the way the cookie crumbles, scientists at Kansas State University are taking the challenge head on to find ways to ensure the safety of flour and the many products that are made from it.

“When I was trained as a food scientist, one of the things we were taught is that there were a few products that were generally safe,” said Gordon Smith, department head for grain science and industry at K-State. “Maybe those products were not absolutely safe, but they were on a continuum of things that were much lower risk. Flour was one of those products.”

In January, 2019, General Mills announced a voluntary national recall of five-pound bags of its Gold Medal unbleached flour, citing the potential presence of Salmonella. There have been no confirmed consumer illnesses as a result of the suspect flour, but the company issued the recall “out of an abundance of care,” according to a statement.

The incident symbolized a heightened awareness in the flour industry that the raw product could carry such potent pathogens as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) or Salmonella introduced at some point from harvest in a crop field to the consumer’s kitchen.

“We are curious about where the contamination comes from,” Smith said. “We can speculate and speculate, but no one knows the answer to that positively or if there’s a single source. No one knows where it comes from or what happens during storage or processing.”

Armed with world-class laboratories capable of studying dangerous pathogens in controlled settings, the university is replicating commercial milling and baking processes and introducing E. coli and Salmonella at high doses to determine ways to reduce the risk of contaminated flour and finished bakery products.

K-State food scientist and microbiologist Randy Phebus has worked for more than 30 years tracking foodborne pathogens. Since 2012, Phebus has been a lead investigator on a $25 million project to investigate the presence of STEC in beef products and cattle.

He’s now part of a K-State group that has turned a watchful eye to flour.

“Ultimately in flour, like in many other products, we would like to have a ready-to-eat, pasteurized product that is safe,” he said. “The (food) industry is looking for that type of product, but the reality is that raw, agricultural-based products like flour are not risk free.

“We are on a quest to find a processing method or antimicrobial technology that will help the industry reduce these food safety risks to a very low probability of causing consumers to get sick or companies to have a contamination-related recall.”

Kaliramesh Siliveru, an assistant professor in the Department of Grain Science and Industry, is leading computerized modeling of grain processing, re-creating the life of flour from the time a wheat stalk is grown in a farmer’s field to the time flour is scooped out for a homemade cake or cookies.

That work is finely detailed, essentially building a picture of the entire environment for flour processing.

“You have to make certain that the entire chain is clean,” Siliveru said.

He added that, in practice, computerized modeling provides a fuller understanding of the potential spots where E. coli or other pathogens may be found, whether that be in the field, during harvest, at the flour mill, in a consumer’s kitchen or someplace else.

“Computer modeling also provides insight into how these pathogens are transferred in the supply chain from farm to table and allows us to design a kill step to inactivate these dangerous pathogens,” Siliveru said.

Phebus notes that K-State’s work responds to an important industry issue to maintain the safety of flour and baked products.

“Companies have a brand and the liabilities that go with marketing retail or wholesale flour,” he said. “It’s also a very important food service issue because if you’re a pizza parlor or something like that making bread, you’ve got to know that you’re not going to be making people sick.

“And it’s a home kitchen issue because if you’ve ever baked a cake, you know that even if you’ve baked the cake well, the flour gets all over the kitchen, so it’s a cross-contamination hazard.”

Smith noted that K-State’s work includes faculty in the university’s grain science department and the Food Science Institute. K-State also is working with the Manhattan-based American Institute of Baking, which works with more than 200 bakery companies across the United States, and several milling and processing equipment companies.

Parts of the studies are being carried out in the Hal Ross Flour Mill, located in the university’s grain science complex in Manhattan, and in food safety labs in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.

“It’s high level research, but it’s also information that is part of teaching students,” Phebus said. “We may be training the first generation of food science, milling and baking science students who will be food safety experts concentrating on grain handling, flour milling, bakery products and even pet food.”

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications from farmers who want to be part of the state’s industrial hemp research program, which state lawmakers created last April.

One of the farmers eager to get on board is PJ Sneed, who is building infrastructure, clearing land and establishing a cover crop on his land in western Reno County.

“I’m very excited; for me, it’s been a long time coming,” Sneed said. “It has for a lot of people, especially the grassroots movement. We’ve all been waiting for this moment.”

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed legislation last April to allow industrial hemp production only for research purposes, with a goal of encouraging the resurgence of hemp as a production crop and to promote economic development. The 2018 federal farm bill also legalized hemp farming.

The agriculture department has spent the last year gathering public input and establishing regulations for the program. Applications are due to the department by March 1.

Before the federal farm bill was approved, Kansas could only establish a research program for hemp growing but the state is now open to establishing commercial growing if the legislature approves, The Hutchinson News reported .

“So nothing is changing yet. The law that passed last spring and the regulations that go with it are what’s on the books,” agriculture department spokeswoman Heather Lansdowne said.

Lansdowne said the earliest the state could have additional laws to allow industrial hemp would likely be 2020.

Sneed agreed and predicted a large increase in hemp growers in the new future.

“I think in year two you’ll see a huge boom after people see what it is and how it’s grown,” he said. “In 2020 I think you’ll start to see more banks open up for commercial loans and things like that.”

The application process will include background checks and more.

The Hemp Biz Conference and the Planted Association of Kansas, of which Sneed is a member, will host a symposium on hemp growing in Hutchinson on Feb. 23. He said it’s designed to help farmers network and find markets but the focus this year will be on rules and regulations and the application process.

ORLANDO— The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased to announce its 2019 Industry Award is being awarded to East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE), an ethanol and renewable diesel biorefinery in Garnett, Kan. RFA presented the award to the board and staff of EKAE today at the 24th annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC).
RFA’s Industry Award recognizes companies or individuals who have made a significant contribution to the U.S. fuel ethanol industry through technology innovative, market development, consumer education, policy advocacy, and other efforts.
“This year’s recipient checks more than one of those boxes,” said Geoff Cooper, RFA President and CEO. “This is a company that has embraced new technologies, led the way in promoting new markets for E15, and last year, in particular, demonstrated remarkable leadership in advocating for ethanol and defending the RFS during a very challenging time for our industry.”
In June 2018, EKAE hosted then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for a tour of the plant and a discussion about ethanol and the RFS. Pruitt had just issued 48 RFS compliance exemptions to “small refiners,” eliminating 2.25 billion gallons in renewable fuel blending requirements.
“When he got to EKAE, Pruitt was met by a firm and well-prepared group of ethanol industry advocates that refused to be intimidated,” Cooper said. “In a discussion that lasted for over an hour, East Kansas leaders made sure Pruitt got the message about the devastating impact of his small refinery waivers on the ethanol industry and farmers.”
In March 2018, Paul Teutul, Jr., chose East Kansas as the backdrop to unveil the RFA’s custom E85 motorcycle. The unveiling was featured on the Discovery Channel’s American Chopper show last summer. Not only did the episode showcase the ethanol-powered motorcycle, but it gave the EKAE board and staff an invaluable opportunity to tell ethanol’s story to viewers around the world.
Cooper also recognized EKAE for its groundbreaking renewable diesel project, its role in making E15 available at retail for the very first time in 2012, and for taking top EPA officials on a plant tour the day before a pivotal RFS hearing in Kansas City in 2015.
Open since 2005, EKAE operates a 48 million gallon per year ethanol plant that also produces more than 200,000 tons per year of high-quality distiller grains, in both wet and dry form. The biorefinery also produces 5 million pounds of corn oil each year from more than 16 million bushels of locally sourced corn.