Kansas ag growth summit focuses on stress, food supply systems and climate change

Several hundred members of the Kansas agriculture community recently gathered for the sixth annual Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth, hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam and Deputy Secretary Kelsey Olson. Although the event was originally scheduled to take place in person, it was converted to a virtual.

Gov. Laura Kelly greeted summit participants and thanked the Kansas agriculture community for all they do for Kansas. She went on to express her commitment to the issues that have an impact on the ag industry. “Our partnership isn’t just about the agricultural industry or the food supply chain. It’s a commitment from me to address the unique issues facing our rural and farming communities,” Kelly said. This includes a focus on trade, economic development, education, health care and other efforts to bolster rural communities through the Office of Rural Prosperity, the Eisenhower Transportation Legacy Program, and the Office of Broadband Development.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was unable to attend the summit live but sent a greeting to the Kansas agriculture community, providing information about his administration’s support of and strategy for climate-smart agriculture that puts agriculture at the heart of tackling climate change. He reinforced that agricultural producers play a critical role in fostering a healthy environment and are the best stewards of the land.

The morning sessions began with a discussion about the important role agriculture plays in land conservation and climate change, with presentations from Jason Weller, president of Truterra LLC, the sustainability business of Land O’Lakes; Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor in the Kansas State University department of agronomy; and Debbie Reed, executive director of Ecosystems Services Market Consortium.

The second session was a dynamic conversation about ag stress and the importance of caring for your own health and wellness in the high-stress world of agriculture featuring Meg Moynihan, senior advisor on strategy and innovation at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Moynihan shared insight from work Minnesota has done to tackle this difficult topic and sparked ideas for how Kansas can further address it.

The summit presented a panel of Kansas business owners who were recipients of Securing Local Food Systems grants in the fall of 2020, which funded projects to expand the capacity of the state’s food supply systems. They spoke about challenges they faced during the pandemic and how they learned of grant opportunities, and then explained how they were able to use the grant funds in their businesses or organizations to help increase the food supply in their communities.

Recipients of the second annual Kansas Ag Heroes honors were recognized by Secretary Beam and Deputy Secretary Olsen, who thanked the group for the efforts they have made during the last year to serve their communities and the Kansas agriculture community. Information about the Ag Heroes recipients this year can be found at www.agriculture.ks.gov/AgHeroes.

This year’s sector breakout sessions were also held in a virtual format starting July 1, in a series of 17 online meetings to discuss the issues and challenges facing the various agricultural sectors. The ag summit wrapped up with a summary of the common themes—workforce, business development support, education and outreach, research, infrastructure and animal disease response—which will create a strong foundation of topics for KDA and other agriculture partners to focus on over the coming year.

A recording of the Aug. 26 Ag Growth Summit, along with other resources from the event and recordings of all of the sector breakout sessions, can be found at www.agriculture.ks.gov/summit.