Addressing unprecedented farm income declines through proactive programs supporting farm families and rural communities leads Kansas Farmers Union’s 2017 policy priorities.
“Our policy is as grass-roots as it can be. I’m always proud of the commitment our delegates have to creating sound and timely policy and special orders as the below special orders show.” said President Donn Teske, “ it’s also very timely this year in regards to the impending farm crisis.”
Kansas Farm Management Association data reveals that 2015 average nominal net farm income was the lowest since the last widespread farm crisis in 1985. The 2014 average net Kansas farm income was $128,731. In 2015, it dropped to $4,568–less than 5 percent of the previous year’s average.
Lower agricultural commodity prices have contributed to sharp reductions in net farm income. Compounding the low prices are decreased agricultural land values. Predictions are for a 30-50% drop in land values over the next three years. The outlook for the next several years suggests continued pressure on farm finances is likely.
KFU is calling on the Kansas Legislature to fund programs assisting farm families and rural communities in managing the financial and interpersonal stresses of the declining Kansas ag economy. The Kansas Legislature has examples of successful programs on which it could build, including Kansas Agricultural Mediation Services (KAMS) and the Farmers Assistance Counseling and Training Services (FACTS) program of the 1980s.
“The crisis response network, that was established in the eighties, helped hundreds of farms and farm families survive. Many were able to adapt their farm and survive, some were assisted as they transitioned out of agriculture. But literally, every single one we assisted we tried to help create the best-possible scenario in their particular crisis. Our success numbers were huge.” said KFU Vice President Linda Hessman who was on the ground-floor of the eighties crisis.
Delegates to the KFU convention adopted the following 2017 Special Orders:
Statewide Agriculture Counseling and Assistance Program
The 2016 annual convention of the Kansas Farmers Union believes the unprecedented, all-time low commodity prices have created undue stress on individuals, families, communities, and the economy. We urge immediate action by the Kansas Legislature to enact legislation creating a program similar to the highly successful Farmers Assistance Counseling and Training Services (FACTS) program of the 1980s.
State Mental Health Services Concerns
The 2016 annual convention of the Kansas Farmers Union believes mental health issues demand our immediate attention and vigorous support. The state of Kansas has a long history of a government supported mental health system. We support expanded mental health services. We oppose efforts in Kansas to privatize public mental health services, particularly the state mental health facilities. The degree to which we embrace and support those with mental health issues is a reflection of our character and resolve to maintain and grow healthy communities.
We urge the Kansas Legislature to expand Medicaid and rural healthcare services. Continued lack of action leads to the decline and depopulation of our great state. One rural hospital recently closed, and others are struggling. Any further delay in implementing Medicaid expansion in Kansas only contributes to the accelerated economic decay of the rural healthcare infrastructure of the state.
We strongly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership because it eliminates the constitutional obligation of the legislative branch to thoroughly debate specific provisions of trade treaties important to their constituents. It would harm citizens by overturning laws promoting public health, job creation, food safety and environment while suppressing wages and America’s agricultural and manufacturing competitiveness. It also fails to prohibit “currency manipulation” by other countries, one of the main causes of our nation’s continuing massive trade deficits and loss of competitiveness of American farm commodities on the world market.