Field Notes: Local Food & Farm Task Force to Assess Priorities for 2016 Plan
The fourth meeting of the Local Food and Farm Task Force convened at 8 a.m. Friday, March 13, 2015, in the Kansas Capitol, Topeka. The agenda for the day included a business meeting by Task Force members to organize the remaining year and identify information yet needed to compile a local food and farm plan containing policy and funding recommendations that will increase locally grown food production in the state. The plan and recommendations are due to the legislature in January 2016. As previously noted, the Task Force was established by the passage of Senate Bill 286 in the 2014 legislative session and is responsible for this task.
The task force was reminded by Heather O’Hara, Principal Research Analyst in the Kansas Legislative Research Department, of the four primary priorities the Task Force is assigned to address in “assessing and overcoming obstacles necessary to increase locally grown food production.” The four priorities included in the statute include:
- Priority 1.) Identification of financial opportunities, technical support and training necessary for local and specialty crop production;
- Priority 2.) Identification of strategies and funding needs to make fresh and affordable locally grown foods more accessible;
- Priority 3.) Identification of existing local food infrastructures for processing, storing and distributing food and recommendations for potential expansion; and
- Priority 4.) Strategies for encouragement of farmers’ markets, roadside markets and local grocery stores in un-served and under served areas.
Task Force member Cary Rivard suggested meetings the rest of the year should focus on each of these four areas. Several members pointed out that a few field trips and learning more about the obstacles across all farm and food sectors would be beneficial as well. The Task Force spent the remaining time planning out the year and brainstorming topics that they would like to learn more about at future meetings.
The next meeting, April 17, 2015, will take place in Hutchinson where the Task Force hopes to take a tour of a Dillon’s warehouse to learn more about aggregation and distribution of food. The business meeting that day will include evaluating obstacles encountered by food policy councils and producers as well as further evaluating past presentations, the Kansas Rural Center’s Feeding Kansas report, and obstacles other states, such as North Carolina and Iowa, have encountered.
Meetings scheduled for May through August will each concentrate on topics and presenters that provide more insight into each of the four priorities mandated in the Task Force Statute. The following schedule was discussed by the Task Force:
May – Priority 1.) Discussion and presentations will look deeper into financial support for extension, beginning farmer support, and the work K-12 schools are doing in Kansas to bring ag to the classroom.
June: — Priority 2.) Accessibility will be this meetings’ theme with information from SNAP, WIC, sales tax exemptions, cost share programs such as Beans & Greens and Double Up Food Bucks, and Farm to School programs.
July: — Priority 3.) With the topic of processing, storage, and distribution, the task force will look further at meat and dairy processing, cold storage, trucking logistics, grain milling and brewing grains.
August: — Priority 4.) Discussion and presentations will mostly involve organizations and groups such as the Rural Grocery Initiative, USDA Rural Development, the Grocery Access Task Force in Kansas City, local and regional economic developments, and farmers markets doing well in rural areas.
The remaining months in 2015 will be spent writing and researching the plan and recommendations that will be presented to the legislature in 2016. Heather O’Hara will continue to work with the Task Force to help write and edit the report.
All eight members, along with Sen. Tom Hawk of Manhattan, the original author of SB 286, were in attendance on March 13, with an audience of about six people. Legislators present were in and out due to commitments on the house and senate floor. Task force members are: farmer and Chairman Ron Brown, David Coltrain of Seward County Community College, Dr. Cary Rivard of K-State Research & Extension – Olathe, farmer Loren Swenson, and Annarose White and Julie Roller representing KDA. Legislative appointees are Rep. Adam Lusker, Frontenac, and Sen. Dan Kerschen, Garden Plain. (White attended via telephone.)
The task force is meeting monthly and has invited speakers who can answer questions pertinent to local farming and food systems in Kansas. Previous meetings have featured KRC’s Feeding Kansas (http://kansasruralcenter.org/feeding-kansas/) report and the recently adopted Kansas Farm Bureau resolution regarding local food systems (http://www.kfb.org/Assets/uploads/images/capitolgovernment/2015finalstatres.pdf).
The next Task Force meeting will be April 17, 2015, in Hutchinson, Kansas. Members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend, and information about upcoming meetings can be found at http://agriculture.ks.gov/.