INSIGHT: Burning and Other Issues

Glenn Brunkow, Pottawatomie County farmer and rancher

It is springtime in the Flint Hills, and that means one thing: It’s pasture burning season. Those of us who are caretakers of the Flint Hills know fire is the most important tool we have to maintain the last large-scale vestige of warm-season tallgrass prairie. Without it, invasive shrubs and trees would take over and the Flint Hills prairie would be no more. However, in recent years burning has come under extra scrutiny from the EPA because of air quality issues in the large cities surrounding the Flint Hills. Pardon the pun, but we had a burning issue.

Kansas Farm Bureau and other agriculture organizations worked with EPA, Kansas State University and others to build, a website that helps producers understand where their smoke will go so they can time burns to lessen the impact on our city cousins. This voluntary collaboration is an example of how working with others can ensure we have all the tools we need to be good stewards of the natural resources we all value and rely on. In the end we have helped reduce the air quality problems with minimal impact to our essential operations.

That is why Kansas Farm Bureau is so vital to all of us as ag producers, even if you are not a Flint Hills grazer and are not impacted by this issue, I can give several others that do have direct implications to your long-term sustainability as a farmer or rancher. Kansas Farm Bureau plays a critical role in the day-to-day operations of everyone in agriculture, and I can think of no more important reason that every farmer and rancher, or anyone involved in ag for that matter, should be a member of Kansas Farm Bureau.

We are all busy with the day-to-day details of our farms and ranches, and we only get busier every day. The incredible staff of Kansas Farm Bureau are here every day watching out for the best interests of our members. As the largest general farm organization in Kansas and as a part of the American Farm Bureau Association, the largest general farm organization in the United States, we can work with other ag organizations, consumer groups and across the aisle with both parties to help build better and more workable solutions to protect our livelihoods.

I am sure you know those of us involved in production agriculture are a very small minority, less than 2 percent of the population, and that is why we need the unified collective voice of Kansas Farm Bureau. If you are not a member, I promise it will be the best money you spend each year. If you are a member and you know of neighbors who are not, I challenge you to sit down with them and tell them we need them. Kansas Farm Bureau has a place and a need for everyone involved in agriculture.

Because of Kansas Farm Bureau’s engagement, we still have the ability to use fire as a tool to keep our Flint Hills ecosystem healthy and viable. This was a victory for all of us in Kansas agriculture and, pardon the pun, is not blowing smoke.

“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.