2018 Legislative & Policy Watch                       Weekly E-Update

Issue No. # 11, March 18, 2018

In This Issue
Noxious Weeds and Corporate Agriculture
Electric Rate Uncertainty
Field Notes: Indentured Poultry Growers
CEP Live Facebook Interviews
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates


The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst


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Contact Information


Sen. Jerry Moran
DC Ofc 202-224-6521

Sen. Pat Roberts
DC Ofc  202-224-4774

Rep. Roger Marshall, 
1st Dist. 
DC Ofc: 202-225-2715

Rep. Lynn Jenkins
2nd Dist.
DC Ofc: 202-225-6601

Rep. Kevin Yoder
3rd Dist.
DC Ofc: 202-225-2865

Rep. Ron Estes
4th Dist.
DC Ofc.: 202-225-6216
 NOXIOUS WEEDS AND CORPORATE AGRICULTURE

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.

 ELECTRIC RATE UNCERTAINTY

The battle is on over escalating electric rates charged by the investor-owned electric utilities (Westar - Kansas City Power & Light). This battle comes at a time when these two companies are in merger talks. There will be a Kansas Corporation Commissioner selected in March as one (Pat Apple) of the three commissioners is retiring. There is also a struggle over the monthly electric charges to solar power customers and what if any energy efficiency programs will the utilities offer to customers?

Since 2007, Westar electric rates have increased by 67% and KCP&Ls electric rates have increased by 70% while inflation grew by only 18% from 2007 to 2018. In that same time frame Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments increased 23%. Comparing regional state and national electricity prices, Kansas comes in at 10.63 cents per kwh while the national total was 10.57 kwh. Missouri was 9.53/kwh and Oklahoma was 8.17/kwh. Just for industrial electric rates, St. Louis rates are 20% lower, Iowa rates are 43% lower and Tulsa rates are 46% lower.

One key driver is the Transmission Delivery Charge (TDC) that is regulated by the federal government with no KCC oversight. In 2008, the Westar TDC was $4.50 per month for the average residential customer while today it is $16.40 and Westar has just filed for another increase. Beyond the TDC, other automatic surcharges include fuel increases, environmental costs and property taxes. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1612 has been introduced to force the KCC to study these regional electric rate disparities and bring recommendations back to the 2019 Kansas Legislature to explain the differences and whether new laws are needed by the KCC to better control some of these increases.

The Kansas Electric Power Cooperative (KEPCo) is a generation and transmission electric cooperative that serves 19 rural electric cooperatives. KEPCo strongly supports the need for enhanced regulation of for-profit electric utility companies in Kansas in order to control escalating costs attributed to capital spending.

 There is an insatiable desire among the for-profit utilities to invest capital in utility infrastructure simply for the sake of growing stockholder profits. Kansas needs a mandatory 'integrated resource' planning process that is an exhaustive analysis of the anticipated loads, generation resources, and delivery infrastructure to serve retail and wholesale customers. This process is present in a majority of states but non-existent in Kansas. The public - through its regulators and representatives - have virtually no input into the large capital expenditures that is paid out over decades.

The merger debate over Westar and KCP&L (Great Plains Energy the parent company) is starting to heat up. There will be a public forum on the merger before the KCC late March and some final decision by June. While the KCC staff and the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board (that represent residential/small commercial customers) have agreed to the parameters of the merger, the industrial, clean energy and other commercial customers have not agreed. While Westar and KCP&L have agreed to a limited moratorium on rate increases for five years, both companies have recently filed rate increases before the merger is actually consummated this summer. While the basic electric rates would be frozen for five years, those surcharges on transmission or fuel costs would not be affected thus ensuring higher rates. The companies state they must merge to compete in today's market of much larger regional electric utilities.

The selection of the next Kansas Corporation Commissioner is critical to the future of energy planning and development. The requested merger must be carefully deliberated. The KCC does not have a comprehensive 'integrated resource plan' to judge further energy investments. Kansas is almost last in assessing the potential for energy efficiency investments to benefit all customers and spur greater clean energy business development. In fact, the KCC is now going backwards with rulings to punish solar homeowners (with higher monthly charges) and disregard the energy conservation programs that KCP&L provides its customers in Missouri but cannot in Kansas.


FIELD NOTES
INDENTURED POULTRY

On March 6, the Office of Inspector General at the Small Business Administration (SBA) released a report on the review of poultry loans guaranteed by the SBA. Agricultural loans are not a large portion of SBA's guaranteed loan portfolio, but poultry loans are 70% of the agricultural loans made. The records were pulled on 11 loans. 

The SBA is supposed to make loans to independent businesses. In reviewing the loans, the Inspector General came to the conclusion that integrators like Tyson control the chicken growers completely and that without the Tyson contract these growers are completely out of business.  Thus they are not independent businesses.

Tyson mandates by contract management agreements, oversight inspections and market controls. From 2012 to 2016, SBA guaranteed $1.8 billion in loans to 1,535 poultry growers. The Inspector General concluded that given existing regulatory and SBA requirements for eligibility these poultry loans may be ineligible and thus these loans should not have been made. This is the industry that our Department of Agriculture and Administration is working so hard to bring to Kansas. For the full report go to 


CEP LIVE Facebook Schedule
This week's CEP LIVE interview featured  Dawn Buehler, Friends of the Kaw.   You can  view and hear it  Here.

See previous week interviews and the schedule below:
1/16/18  Dorothy Barnett, CEP; 

1/ 23/18  Zack Pistora, Sierra Club;

1/30/18 Scot Anglemeyer, Ks. Association of Community Action Agencies https://www.facebook.com/CEPheartland/videos/1581837078599483/ 

2/6/18 Paul Johnson, Kansas Rural Center

2/13/18 Spotlight on Integrated Voter Engagement

2/20/18 Jessica Lucas, Clean Energy Business Council

2/27/18 A Visit to the Statehouse 101

3/6/18 Mitzi McFatrich, Kansas Advocates for Better Care

3/13/18 Dawn Buehler, Friends of the KAW 


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