Friday, November 28, 2014

Corporate law change provides rural opportunity

3/13/2013

In response to Saturday’s guest editorial from The Hutchinson News, “Legislation would sell off Kansas one farm at a time,” published in The Herald, not only is the premise misguided, the facts presented simply are wrong.

Kansas now is one of just nine states in the country that prohibit or restrict certain farms from doing business in the state. It is worth noting the courts already have struck down the corporate farming restrictions in three of those states.

In response to Saturday’s guest editorial from The Hutchinson News, “Legislation would sell off Kansas one farm at a time,” published in The Herald, not only is the premise misguided, the facts presented simply are wrong.

Kansas now is one of just nine states in the country that prohibit or restrict certain farms from doing business in the state. It is worth noting the courts already have struck down the corporate farming restrictions in three of those states.

In addition, to bring Kansas at least closer to economic reality, K.S.A. 2012 Supp. 17-5904 now lists 18 exemptions that allow corporations to engage in production agriculture in Kansas. Yet even with these exemptions, agribusiness, hog, dairy and poultry producers have approached Kansas about the possibility of locating here, only to learn that current corporate farming laws would hamper their ability to operate efficiently, or at all. These economic opportunities are not coming from a disorganized or non-caring entity, but from groups that are modern, efficient, environmentally sound corporate citizens.

But a crucial part of this story is privately held farms. The facts show that when comparing land values from 15 states, both with and without corporate farming restrictions, there was no correlation between land values and restrictions on corporate farms. Also, the size of farms in Kansas was compared to eight states without corporate farming restrictions. Kansas ranked second largest average farm size at 702 acres. In fact, the number of smallest farms among these eight states grew 5.24 percent compared to 0.35 in Kansas, and the number of large farms grew 55 percent, compared to 110 percent in Kansas.

For farmers and ranchers of all sizes, this bill represents a unique opportunity to access new markets, to diversify operations, and to attempt a new strategy to invigorate rural communities and offer young people a rural alternative. Those are a few of the many reasons our organization supports it. Our farmer and rancher members look at real numbers and real value, not emotional, unsubstantiated arguments. It’s why our member-adopted policy also supports existing requirements for environmental controls and local input into the decision making process to permit any large-scale project.

In today’s global economy Kansas will continue to struggle if we as a state fail to embrace concepts of free and open markets. This is a concept our members and our policy have long supported. This change in the law will open our state to new development by removing barriers to entering, or in some cases remaining in business in Kansas. It will allow multi-generation family operations to continue to work in Kansas instead of imposing a system in which future generations might be ineligible to own or operate the farm or ranch because of their status in comparison to the original owners of the enterprise.

As farmers and ranchers we are constantly concerned about the next generation. We want to do everything possible to encourage them to stay on the farm without a challenge from this outdated statute.

— Steve Baccus,

president,

Kansas Farm Bureau

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