UPDATE on the Governor-appointed Local Food and Farm Task Force
The task force’s eighth public meeting will take place at K-State Extension’s Olathe Research Station this month. After a tour of the facilities, task force members will take a crack at honing in on what their recommendations will be. Previous meetings focused primarily on information gathering, but the July meeting marks a shift for members who must now synthesize what they have learned into a meaningful report – due to the legislature at the end of this year.
The Local Food and Farm Task Force, established in 2014 with the passage of senate bill 286, is responsible for preparing a statewide food and farm plan containing policy and funding recommendations aimed at increasing production and consumption of Kansas grown foods. Thus far, task force discussions indicate that the report’s emphasis will be on impacting Kansas’s small but growing fruit and vegetable sector.
Topics and presentations at previous task force meetings have included:
- January: Big picture of fruit and vegetable production, distribution, and access issues and needs in Kansas. This included a presentation focusing on how each of KRC’s Feeding Kansas findings and recommendations resonate with the Task Force’s four priorities.
- February: access to farm loan and crop insurance programs, and potential for development of vegetable crops in Kansas. Emphasis on need to gather current and future economic impact information for the fruit and vegetable sector, particularly dollars earned and jobs created over time.
- March: logistics for learning what members need to learn before writing the report.
- April: understanding of scale and opportunities… emphasis on Extension support needs
- May: various aspects of specialty crop production and locally-grown food distribution in Kansas. A key take-away was that Kansas could greatly benefit from the creation of an interdisciplinary clearinghouse for information and education through Kansas State University. Currently, many departments at KSU as well as Extension hold a great deal of farm and food system related information, but the university lacks a cohesive central entity to gather and communicate that information broadly.
Because the task force has repeatedly identified Kansas State University Research and Extension as a critical resource to leverage and support to more effectively develop Kansas’s local food system and fruit and vegetable sectors, KSU’s Dean of Agriculture, John Floros, has been invited to meet with the group in August.
The task force’s final report to the legislator must address the following four priorities:
1.) Identification of financial opportunities, technical support and training necessary for local and specialty crop production;
2.) Identification of strategies and funding needs to make fresh and affordable locally grown foods more accessible;
3.) Identification of existing local food infrastructures for processing, storing and distributing food and recommendations for potential expansion; and
4.) Strategies for encouragement of farmers’ markets, roadside markets and local grocery stores in un-served and underserved areas.
At every meeting so far, at least one task force member has referenced the recommendations inFeeding Kansas: Statewide Farm and Food System Assessment with a Plan for Public Action, a report issued by the Kansas Rural Center in late 2014. Members have stated that they see Feeding Kansasas an important guide for their work. Recommendations in KRC’s report, available in full online at: http://kansasruralcenter.org/feeding-kansas/, include:
- Supporting and sustaining food and farm councils across Kansas, to better engage Kansas voices in shaping policies to address Kansas’s agriculture and food needs;
- Creating a central clearinghouse for information related to Kansas farming and food systems, to provide more clarity and better enable Kansans to engage in those systems;
- Advancing fruit and vegetable production and consumption in Kansas by improving farmer access to necessary research-based information, technical assistance, stable markets, and adequate protections for the production of those food products.
The Feeding Kansas recommendations stem from extensive dialogue with citizens across the state who wish to see Kansas farms better incorporated into state’s food supply chain, thereby strengthening Kansas’s economic, community, environmental, and health status.
All eight members of the Local Food and Farm Task Force have received copies of Feeding Kansas and KRC expects those recommendations to remain a key consideration in the drafting of task force recommendations over the next several months. Because task force meetings are open to the public, they are great venues to visit and voice your support!
The date of the July task force meeting is yet to be determined. The August meeting is scheduled for August 14. For current information on when and where the next meeting will be, or for any other task force related questions, contact Julie Roller at the Kansas Department of Agriculture:Julie.Roller@kda.ks.gov.