This post is written by Sen. Jerry Moran and was originally published in his Kansas Common Sense Newsletter
On Tuesday, I hosted my 13th Annual Kansas Conservation Tour with stops in Neosho, Labette, Cherokee and Crawford counties. The Conservation Tour is an opportunity for me to learn more about conservation efforts across the state, including water and soil conservation, river sustainability, and wetlands and grassland prairie preservation efforts, as well to discuss irrigation practices and other important agricultural issues for producers. Hosting this tour on the week of Thanksgiving is appropriate, as it embodies the values of the holiday: being thankful for the resources our state has been blessed with. Preserving and protecting what we have been given is critical to the future of Kansas.
During the tour, I met with an impressive group of farmers, federal agricultural and natural resource agencies, associations, and private organizations, including: the Kansas Association of Conservation Kansas Wheat Growers Association, Kansas Corn Growers Association, and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association. This year, we highlighted the important conservation work being done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Kansas Forest Service, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and private landowners.
We started the day at the Lil’ Toledo Lodge, located on the Neosho River near Chanute, for a discussion about the Sustainable Rivers Program (SRP). The SRP is a nationwide partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that focuses on preserving river flow while balancing the needs of water consumption with the ecological considerations of the river. We also discussed the Nature Conservancy’s Healthy Streams Initiative and the work in the state related to that program.
The second stop of my Kansas Conservation Tour took us to the Parsons Arboretum. We were joined by the Kansas Forest Service to discuss community forestry efforts across the state that assist municipalities with tree planting and proper tree management in cities. We also received updates on their fire management programs that provide fire-fighting resources and equipment to fire departments in rural areas. With a number of devastating wildfires across the state in recent years, this program is of special importance to our Kansas farmers and ranchers.
Following our session in Parsons, the tour headed to a wetland and native tallgrass prairie area near Chetopa where the group was briefed on the Natural Resources Damages Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) program. NRDAR is a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism aimed at restoring the wetland and grassland areas that were previously contaminated by decades of lead and zinc mining. We heard from project stakeholders, including Ducks Unlimited, who is a private partner of NRDAR.
Over lunch, we heard from the Kansas Soybean Association, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Wheat Growers Association, and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association about conservation topics pertaining to their interest areas. During my remarks to the group, I discussed the history, purpose and importance of my Kansas Conservation Tour, and gave updates on work I’m doing in Washington pertinent to the group and their collective conservation efforts.
Our last two stops were both farms that had improvements with assistance from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). At the Egbert’s farm near McCune, we saw an irrigation pond and terraces that were installed by these fifth-generation farmers with cost-sharing assistance provided by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and technical assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
For the last stop on my Kansas Conservation Tour, we visited Misty Mornings Farm near Mulberry to hear from the farm owner, Misty, and her husband, Charlie. They showed the group their high tunnels that provide a unique opportunity to extend the growing seasons for their crops while using fewer resources.
One thing that was clear throughout the tour is that a strong Farm Bill conservation title is vital to Kansas farmers and ranchers. I would like to send a special thanks to State Conservationist Karen Woodrich, State FSA Director David Schemm, State Forester Larry Biles, and all those who participated by sharing their experiences, farms, land and best practices with one another.