The key to growing the Kansas economy is growing the agriculture industry, Gov. Sam Brownback told more than 400 leaders representing a cross-section of agricultural interests from all regions of the state at an Aug. 30 Summit on Agricultural Growth.
"Agriculture is critical to Kansas, and for our Kansas economy to grow, Kansas agriculture must grow," said Brownback in opening remarks. "This summit today is a timely opportunity for people in the agriculture industry to look at how we can posture ourselves to grow in the long term. The world is growing and will need more food, protein and agricultural products. Kansas will be there to supply those needs. Kansas will continue to be one of the best suppliers of quality agricultural products in the world."
As the state's largest industry, agriculture plays a critical and strategic role in the overall statewide economic growth, the governor emphasized.
During the morning session of the summit, participants took part in a series of interactive workshops to identify how traditional areas such as ranching and beef processing, hog farming and wheat production can be can be sustained. They also tackled growth strategies for lesser known crops such as cotton and newer opportunities for emerging sectors such as specialty livestock and unmanned aerial systems.
For example, Kansas is also home to other livestock species, including goats, sheep, bison, alpaca, llamas and more. Kansas ranked 13th nationally in meat goats, with 40,000 head, and the industry has experienced continuous growth in recent years. In addition to opportunities to expand production of specialty livestock species in Kansas, there also exists potential to capitalize on consumer demand growth local products through increased small-scale processing capacity for specialty livestock.
As a leader in both agriculture and aviation, an atmosphere exists in Kansas that promotes and supports future aviation technology. One of the nation’s first unmanned aircraft systems bachelor’s degree programs is offered in Kansas, and opportunities exist to not only expand use and production of UAS technologies but also to be an education and training hub for this growing sector.
The workshops resulted in the creation of a list of action items which will be used by the Kansas Department of Agriculture to develop strategic plans for growth within the agriculture industry. Among the action items were efforts to create more value-added opportunities, increase consumer confidence in agriculture and collaborate with economic development movements to help get out the word that Kansas is open for business and wants to welcome new agricultural endeavors.
During lunch, a panel of ag leaders talked about the need to find and retain talented workers and to create programs to train workers, setting the stage for afternoon workshops that focused on the workforce, among other issues.
While the summit was organized by the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the impetus behind it was a recognition of the need to get all facets of agriculture involved in planning for the future and collect a wide range of ideas focused on growth.
"It has been tremendously exciting to see such a broad scope of people from throughout Kansas agriculture coming together to work toward the future," said Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey. "This isn't about what our agency can do, but it's about what we can all do collectively, as we work together to grow agriculture in Kansas."
McClaskey said the ideas that came out of the summit will play a key role as the KDA develops a vision for agricultural and economic growth, sets strategic goals and objectives, and moves forward with growth initiatives.
For more information about the Summit, call KDA at 785-564-6700 or go to agriculture.ks.gov/summit.
Source: Kansas Department of Agriculture