Farmers need to fight back

Farming is under attack. It is hard to turn the corner lately without confronting another challenge to the way I run my business. New regulations threaten from the EPA and FDA, and misinformation about how I run my business runs rampant in the media.

In this country, we spend only 10 percent of our disposable income on food, yet the way America's farmers produce food is constantly maligned. Farm legislation that provides a safety net for my farm, a provider of national food security, is labeled as welfare. One only has to read "The Real Cost of Cheap Food" by Bryan Walsh in the Aug. 31, 2009, edition of Time magazine to realize the uphill battle we face against misinformation and anti-farming sentiment.

If you are a farmer or rancher, you should read the article by Walsh. It will make your blood boil, but I hope it does more. I hope it motivates you to move from the defense to the offense. It's time for farmers to tell the story of how we grow the nutritious, affordable food that this country takes for granted. The best way to do this is through strength in numbers. Join your state and national commodity organizations.

The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, Kansas Corn Growers Association, Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, Kansas Soybean Association and other groups like them serve as the public relations arm of your farming operation. Seed, fuel and fertilizer are non-negotiable line items in your operating budget. Today is the day to add a new permanent line for "advocacy."

My history with the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers has allowed me to realize that as an individual farmer I am limited to my particular farm data forwarded to a member of congress. KAWG, however, can give a more significant picture of the entire landscape because of more data from more farmers. KAWG staff work with elected farmer leaders to lobby and communicate to our legislators. They help us express ourselves so that we are as effective as possible in our communication with legislators or the general public.

The number of full-time farmers in the country continues to shrink, but the few are being called to do more. Smaller numbers require that we work together. Our growers associations exist for that purpose. Please join one today.


Garden City

Cook is the local director and board member of KAWG.

Tax relief not to blame

Many in this state have argued that tax relief for individuals and businesses over the years have exacerbated the budget shortfall situation in Kansas. One way to address this claim is to look at the national landscape.

Nearly all 50 states are facing challenging budget shortfalls, but it should be noted the few states that do have surpluses cut taxes well beyond the 50-state average. Five states had a surplus for fiscal year 2009. These "surplus states" cut taxes by an average of roughly $80 million (compared to a $6.5 million average for the other states) during the 2007-2008 budget cycles. In 2009, the surplus states continued to cut taxes by an average of $25 million, even as the remaining states began raising taxes by an average of $14 million.

Clearly, tax relief is not to blame for the budget situation in Kansas and across the country.



Sontag is state director for Americans for Prosperity-Kansas.