Kansas wheat farmers take to Capitol Hill during fall NAWG fly-in

Three Kansas wheat producers stepped out of the tractor and onto Capitol Hill in mid-September to share their on-the-ground perspective of the major issues impacting agriculture and present potential policy solutions in preparation for the next Farm Bill.

“Getting farmers on the Hill allows Kansas legislators and their staff to ask farmers questions directly on issues they are discussing,” said Shayna DeGroot, Kansas Wheat director of membership and government affairs, who accompanied the group. “Farmers can tell legislators directly what’s going on in farm country and fill in knowledge gaps. These face-to-face conversations are beneficial and productive with both sides presenting new ideas and solutions. It’s much more personable and more joyful to shake each other’s hands.”

The delegation representing the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers was part of the larger fall fly-in organized by the National Association of Wheat Growers, which arranged for morning briefings with USDA agency representatives on Sep. 13 and 14.

During the afternoon each day, the Kansans—including Chris Tanner from Norton, Clay Schemm from Sharon Springs and Kyler Millershaski from Lakin—met with elected officials and their staff with the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The KAWG delegation also had the opportunity to attend a reception with the biennial Agricultural Trade Goodwill Mission from Taiwan, ahead of the delegation’s visit to the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kansas.

“I always feel fortunate when we go to D.C. that all of our offices are receptive and know that agriculture drives the Kansas economy and have our back,” Tanner said. “If you come to D.C. with an issue, you’ll be greeted with folks willing to hear your concerns and wanting to do something about them to make them better in Kansas. We have good leadership in D.C. and very ag-friendly staff.”

During the Hill visits, the KAWG crew walked legislators through the 2021-2022 growing season. With drought impacting most of the state, average yields decreased significantly from the previous year—38 bushels per acre in 2022 compared to 52 bushels per acre in 2021. Despite the drop, Kansas continued to hold the title as the leading producer of winter wheat in 2022 at 260.3 million bushels, followed by Washington, Oklahoma and Montana.

While legislators cannot control the weather, they can assist Kansas farmers with other items on an expanding list of concerns, including the high cost and limited availability of fertilizer, high crop insurance premiums, shortages in farm labor and continued drought and wildfires. The KAWG crew outlined how leaders can help farmers, including by promoting agricultural exports, advocating for crop insurance programs, reducing regulatory costs and supporting agricultural research.

Tanner highlighted discussions on the practicality of regulations like commercial driver’s license requirements for on-farm use, especially in remote areas of western Kansas. He also took the opportunity to discuss how potential adjustments to crop insurance practices could better reflect how crop rotations can wildly impact insurance adjustments and serve as a more effective safety net.

“All the offices were very receptive to the issues we brought up and aware of current issues Kansas farmers are facing,” DeGroot said. “We have a delegation that serves on multiple committees that pertain to agriculture—from the ag committee to transportation, ways and means and others. Across the board, they all end up impacting agriculture.”

The trio of farmers is back in Kansas and back to work for the fall fieldwork season. Likewise, DeGroot pointed out that the policy work is also far from done. The fly-in’s discussions garner a whole after-action to-do list to follow up on conversations, answer questions and make sure legislators and board members alike have the information they need to enact solutions. That’s the role of KAWG—continue the work to advocate on behalf of Kansas wheat farmers and plan and prioritize engagement on the policies and programs impacting their farming operations.

Learn more about the benefits of joining KAWG and share your top concerns for the next farm bill at https://kswheat.com/advocacy-for-kansas-wheat-growers. To see the handout including this year’s production numbers, current issues impacting the Kansas wheat industry, and suggestions for legislators visit https://kswheat.com/sites/default/files/shayna_handout_sept22.pdf.