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Kansas Wheat Talks Policy at Home and in the Nation’s Capital


By Julia Debes for Kansas Wheat


KANSAS (Feb. 1, 2024) — Kansas wheat farmers voiced their concerns and priorities for the next Farm Bill last week — both at home during the 2024 Kansas Commodity Classic and in the nation’s capital as part of national winter wheat meetings. 

“Having farmers ask questions directly about policies and provide their perspective on what’s going on in farm country adds emphasis and personal impact to national policy discussions,” said Shayna DeGroot, Kansas Wheat director of membership and government affairs, who accompanied the group. “These face-to-face conversations fill in knowledge gaps and present solutions that are generally well-received by our ag-friendly Congressional and national association staff.” 

In Washington, DC, the Kansas delegation met with counterparts from across the country during the NAWG/USW Winter Conference, which brings together both the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) — the industry’s policy arm — and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) — the export market development organization dedicated to promoting wheat in international markets. 

As part of the larger fly-in organized by NAWG, Kansas wheat farmers and staff took to the Hill to communicate the importance of getting a Farm Bill passed before the current one-year extension expires and providing their input on meaningful changes that would benefit Kansas wheat producers. The delegation included DeGroot; Kyler Millershaski, KAWG president from Lakin; Clay Schemm, at-large KAWG board member from Sharon Springs; Brian Linin, past chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission from Goodland; and Marsha Boswell, Kansas Wheat vice president of communications. 

The group met with all six of the U.S. Congressional offices representing the state of Kansas, including directly with U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. They reiterated the importance of maintaining crop insurance as the U.S. farm safety net, the need to double funding for export market programs (Market Access Program or MAP and the Foreign Market Development program or FMD) and increasing the reference price for wheat. More specifically, the team outlined the inequalities in the distribution of disaster payments under the 2022 Emergency Relief Program (ERP), which provided lower relief payments for higher levels of disaster. 

Even more specifically, NAWG is advocating to officially classify intentionally seeded winter wheat as a cover crop for NRCS and other climate-smart programs, while not impacting its eligibility as a harvestable cash crop insurable through crop insurance and other safety net programs. According to NAWG, cover crops and other practices that have been termed “climate-smart” have been regarded as emerging tools to help farmers continue to be the best stewards of their lands, but winter wheat has been overlooked as a vital tool in both conservation and food security. 

Off the Hill, the USW Board of Directors elected Kansas wheat farmer Gary Millershaski of Lakin as Secretary-Treasurer for the 2024-2025 fiscal year. As a member of the USW officer team, Millershaski will provide a Kansas perspective and help guide the organization’s work in more than 100 countries to develop, maintain and expand international markets — made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 17 state wheat commissions and cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. 

Meanwhile, back home in the Sunflower State, Kansas wheat farmers also had the opportunity to discuss policy, markets and weather during the 2024 Kansas Commodity Classic on January 26, in Salina. At the annual convention of the Kansas corn, wheat, soybean and grain sorghum associations, Ross Janssen, KWCH chief meteorologist, shared his positive outlook on the weather for the 2024 growing season while Jim Minert, agricultural economist and director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue University, presented a tight outlook on the grain markets. 

Representative Jake LaTurner (KS-02) answered a wide swath of questions from the audience regarding political discussions in Washington, DC, followed by a panel of representatives from the national commodity organizations, including Chris Tanner, KAWG Vice President from Norton, who serves on the National Association of Wheat Growers board of directors; Wayne Stoskopf with the National Corn Growers Association; Kyle Kunkler with the American Soybean Association; and Craig Meeker with the National Sorghum Producers.

“These events — fly-ins in Washington and meetings in Kansas — guide our actions to follow up on conversations, answer questions and make sure our legislators have the information they need to put those priorities to work,” DeGroot said. “That’s our role with KAWG — continue the work to advocate on behalf of Kansas wheat farmers and plan and prioritize engagement on the policies and programs impacting their farming operations.” 

Learn more about opportunities to continue these policy discussions and the other benefits of joining KAWG at kswheat.com/policy.