Corporate agriculture using State power is tightening its grip on Kansas residents. Corporate poultry was the first step using State power to limit county residents from protecting their environment or neighboring property values. Now comes the expansion of corporate agriculture chemical expansion using State power to stop counties from setting higher health standards and greater protection from 'non-target' pesticide drift.
Kansas lawmakers have the opportunity and the duty to establish a policy stating that Kansas supports a balanced approach of non-chemical, biological methods as the first choice to protect public health before resorting to synthetic chemical controls.
Corporate control of the poultry industry began right after WW II and today is completely vertically integrated with the integrators ( such as Tyson) owning the birds, the feed, the veterinary services and the processing, leaving the chicken farmers (growers) with the building debt, disposal of chicken litter tonnage and composting dead birds.
The pork industry followed suit starting around 1980 as thousands of independent swine farmers were overwhelmed by industrial pork from large confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) contracted to certain corporations or the corporations actually owning the hogs. The independent market collapsed.
The beef industry moves ever closer to this model with four corporations owning 85+% of the processing. These corporations use forward contracts to strangle any semblance of a free market. The final chapter may well be in corporate control of agriculture seeds and chemicals. With ChemChina buying Syngenta and Dow buying Dupont, the last shoe to drop will be Bayer buying Monsanto insuring that these three monopolies will set key input costs for struggli
ng farmers. Free markets today must mean freedom to monopolize a market.
The Kansas Senate is now considering the noxious weed bill - House Bill 2583. The Kansas Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources committee has had this bill since February 22 when it passed the Kansas House 101-16. Normally the committee will put out a calendar of next week's hearings on Thursday before the week of hearings. This time, the Senate committee waited until Wednesday - March 14 to schedule one day of hearings two days later on Friday - March 16. As witnessed in the House, the chemical drift proponents were given unlimited time, and opponents are hurried to get the hearing over. The Senate committee did relent and schedule a hearing for opponents on Monday - March 19 at 8:30 am in Room 159-S. If you can attend, public comments are often allowed and you can leave a written statement.
The concerns over House Bill 2583 are many. Kansas Legislators should not surrender their authority over noxious weeds to unelected state officials such as the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture because though presented as a bureaucratic efficiency, it is so much more.
As we grapple with the effects of decades of pesticide application that has created resistance of a growing number of weeds to certain pesticides, we create a treadmill of ever stronger pesticide use. We need to ensure our policies take a more balanced
approach and that we are not creating greater problems.
Pesticide drift is not defined in this bill or in Kansas law. There are no guidelines or procedures established to define a 'noxious weed'. Under this bill, with the consent of the Secretary of agriculture, a County Commission can declare any plant a noxious weed in their county. At that point the County has unlimited access to all private property to look for the noxious weed. If the County does any spraying, the cost goes on the landowner's property tax with payment due in as little as two years.
There is little non-chemical weed control research in Kansas-knowledge of which becomes even more vital for farmers to avoid the monopoly pricing of chemicals. There should be an organic farmer on the 'noxious weed advisory committee' that consults with the Secretary to determine noxious weeds. (See KRC testimony Here.)
Furthermore, why make this fundamental change in the final year of a Governor's administration? The 2019 Secretary of Agriculture should be involved since that person will implement this law if passed. Kansas lawmakers should spend 2018 developing a comprehensive bill that protects public health first, promotes the safest noxious weed control and promotes improvements in 'integrated pesticide management' strategies for the future.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee has scheduled Wednesday - March 21 - the day to amend and pass House Bill 2583. Call your Senator with your concerns on the future of noxious weed control-- and pesticide use- in Kansas.