Water, workforce top priorities for Kansas ag stakeholders

Lawmakers, businesses and producers attending this year’s Kansas Ag Growth Summit are trying to tackle two of the state’s top issues: water and workforce.

Ag Secretary Mike Beam says the urgency to improve the state’s water crisis is still high despite summer rainfall.  “Maybe we bought a year or something that. We’ve been putting off for 25 years. It’ll help economically for sure, for those and of course, not everybody has experienced those rains.”

He tells Brownfield he’s trying to develop an economic analysis of water depletion from the Ogalla Aquifer. “Not only for the High Plains region, but for the state’s economy if we do nothing or don’t do enough.”

Farmer Clay Schemm says he’s encouraged by progress the state has made, but policy needs to fair and balanced. “Figure out solutions that aren’t going to put one person out of business and let one other person keep growing. We don’t want to pick winners and losers.”

Governor Laura Kelly tells Brownfield the state continues to develop apprenticeship programs to help improve labor shortages, but a federal solution is needed. “We will never solve our workforce shortage issues, particularly in the agricultural industry, without a comprehensive immigration reform program.”

She says that she’s bringing together stakeholders to create a working group to help solve some issues. Kelly says K-State has been developing water saving technologies for producers and hopes the group can find ways to use that at scale.

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