By Heather Landsowne and Jason Walker, Kansas Department of Agriculture
In August 2015, the Kansas Department of Agriculture hosted a meeting of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. A direct result of that meeting was a call to action to develop growth strategies for Kansas agriculture — no small feat considering agriculture accounts for 43 percent of the state’s economy. Through the first six months of 2016, the KDA ag growth team traveled the state to hold more than 250 one-on-one meetings with leaders from all sectors of Kansas agriculture, gathering information to identify challenges and opportunities for growth of the industry.
This material was used to guide discussion during the first-ever Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth held in August 2016. Nearly 400 leaders representing a variety of agricultural interests from across the state attended the Summit, which featured a series of interactive workshops identifying the challenges and opportunities within individual sectors from traditional agriculture areas like beef, pork and wheat to cotton, specialty livestock, unmanned aerial systems and more. A panel discussion brought attention to the importance of talent and workforce in agriculture, which was also a topic in the afternoon workshops, along with several other issues affecting all sectors across the industry including barriers to entry, consumer awareness and community acceptance of agriculture, global opportunities, transportation and logistics, and water and natural resources. The input from those workshops has been compiled and shared with participants.
Kansas Beef Industry
As the single largest sector in the Kansas agriculture industry, there have been many discussions, during one-on-one meetings and during the Summit, focused on strategic opportunities to grow the Kansas beef industry. During the Summit, beef sector workshops focused on topics related to market volatility, consumer demand, regulatory challenges, consumer and influencer outreach, education and training for beef industry producers and professionals, and the need for a market-driven, voluntary, individual animal traceability system that not only provides critical tools to manage a disease outbreak, but also enhances consumer confidence and trust in Kansas livestock, protects food safety, and provides opportunities to access export markets.
From beef and pork to agricultural equipment and animal health, there is a need for individuals with education and training to work in agriculture. During the Summit, there was a strong focus on opportunities related to talent recruitment, training and skill development, federal laws and regulations related to workforce and talent, and affordable housing and quality of life.
The KDA ag growth team is now using feedback from the Summit and the one-on-one meetings to develop strategic growth plans which can lead Kansas agriculture into a future focused on growth. The work that has begun as an industry and the development of strategic growth plans for Kansas agriculture will result in an industry that grows stronger and grows smarter as it works to feed, power and clothe a growing global population.
One recommendation received during this process was to make the Summit an annual event. Therefore, KDA will host the second annual Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth on Aug. 24, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Manhattan. A social event will be held the evening prior to the Summit. Mark your calendar now.
For more information about the Summit and the strategic growth plan, visit agriculture.ks.gov/summit.