Agriculture is more than an economic industry in Kansas; it is a way of life that relies on hard work, responsibility, and family. Growing up on a farm, I understood that success relied on hard work and commitment, values that we see every day in our farming and ranching communities. This week, I am traveling the state meeting with agricultural businesses to reaffirm our commitment to the success of this important industry. Farming is a source of growth and opportunity for Kansans.
Agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at more than $63 billion, accounting for 43 percent of the state’s total economy. In Kansas, farmland accounts for 88.9 percent of all Kansas land, and more than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops while another 16 million are used for pastureland for grazing animals. Not only is Kansas a leader in beef cattle, wheat and sorghum, our state is one of the fastest-growing dairy regions in the United States, growing by 7.5 percent in 2014. Agriculture employs more than 229,000 Kansans.
Kansas farmers and ranchers are feeding the world, exporting nearly $4.9 billion in agricultural products like wheat, beef, soybeans, feeds and fodders, and corn. Not only is agriculture big business in Kansas, it’s a family business as more than 86 percent of Kansas farms and ranches are family-owned.
Ensuring the future strength of Kansas agriculture requires us to provide the support that allows Kansas farmers to succeed while encouraging more farming and agriculture businesses to expand or relocate to Kansas. Towards this end, I signed into law legislation that better connects famers to the market, creates voluntary, locally-driven and flexible water conservation tools, and created a 50-year vision for Kansas water resources.
At its core, conservation is a conservative value as we act as good stewards of the valuable resources with which Kansas is blessed. We will continue to protect the rights of Kansans by fighting the federal government’s efforts to infringe on our state’s water and private property rights. And we will continue to work with our partners at the state and local level, providing voluntary, flexible tools to help farmers and ranchers conserve resources. Any long-term vision for Kansas’ water resources will only be successful if we recognize that a one-size-fits-all federal policy does not work. Today, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Water Office, Kansas Water Authority, Department of Health and Environment, Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors, are partnering to preserve our precious water resources in Kansas for years to come.
The values of Kansas agriculture make our state stronger. Family, hard work, community, and concern for the future inspire all of us to build a brighter future for Kansas. Together, we will continue the success of this important industry and ensure more opportunity and hope for future generations.
Sam Brownback, Governor