Tag Archives: Farm Bureau

My friend and writing mentor John Schlageck decided to retire. I doubt if retire is quite the right word. If I know John, he will be the farthest thing from retired–he just won’t be coming into Kansas Farm Bureau each morning.

In any case, the idea to fill the hole with guest columnists was hatched and I was asked to help.
I admit it, I struggled to come up with an idea. After all, I write a weekly column and to ask my little-pea-picking brain to come up with two ideas in one week is a lot. Then it dawned on me, the first column should be about John.

It’s an idea he would hate. You see, John would never go for the idea because he reveled in the focus of this column staying on the farmers and ranchers he worked for and not himself.

I also contemplated writing this in the same style John would have and then realized I could not. There truly is only one John Schlageck and try as hard as I might, I could never replicate his style and voice.

His writing has a warmth and depth that I have never found anywhere else. He paints a picture with words like very few can. A picture with depth, color and detail. One that takes you to the very place and time he is describing.

Over the past decades of service to Kansas Farm Bureau, John has explored every corner of our state. He has gone to places like Sin City…I mean Sun City (it’s an inside joke that probably everyone who has ever went to Busters can understand). More importantly he has covered nearly every inch of this state meeting the very men and women he worked for. Getting to know them so he could share their stories in vivid color.

For those of you who have not met my friend, although I know there are not many, the man is even better than his writing. John has one of those personalities that fills the room without taking all the air out of it. Much like his writing, he is always focused on other people rather than himself. That is an exceedingly rare quality and one that should be held in highest regard.

Shortly after I started my column, John gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received. He told me he liked my writing because I wrote from the heart and about things I knew. Those words meant so much to me because I knew that was how he writes. John never really worked a day at Kansas Farm Bureau. He loved what he did too much to have considered it work and all of us in the Farm Bureau family benefited from that dedication.

I also don’t want this to sound like a memorial because it is far from that. It is simply the last sentence in a very good chapter. I know I echo the thoughts of many when I say we wait with anticipation to find out what exactly the next chapter will bring. I don’t know what it will be, but I know it will be good.

As the Agriculture Department moves forward with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations, the department must ensure its new Interim Rule balances the benefits for both farmland and wetland, as Congress intended, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. As it was written, the Interim Rule makes program participation much more difficult and fails to give farmers the opportunity they should have to participate in the process.

“Because conservation compliance programs operate fundamentally as regulatory programs they should operate with all the duties and rights that such a regulatory program entails. Equally important, all guidance, policy and interim rules must match up with the statute,” Farm Bureau wrote in comments submitted to USDA on Tuesday.

For too long USDA had been making regulatory determinations based primarily on guidance and policy that was not put through the required public process—an error that Farm Bureau said permeates the wetland identification and appeals processes. “USDA holds all the cards, leaving farmers without the necessary tools to protect their property and due process rights,” the group wrote.

In keeping with the statute, USDA must recognize that prior-converted cropland is not only not farmed wetland, it is no longer wetland and should never be treated as wetland under the Food Security Act or any rule implementing the Food Security Act.

Also at odds with the law is the department’s newly added discretion in determining that a decades-old map is of insufficient quality to uphold a certified determination.

“Determinations certified prior to USDA’s adoption of new mapping conventions should be exempt from invalidation due to changes that only new imaging technology can detect. To that end, USDA’s regulations should expressly recognize that pre-1990 certifications are valid unless the producer raises the issue that they were never provided with appeal rights after passage of the 1990 farm bill (and thus, were not able to appeal the determination to become certified),” Farm Bureau said.

In the Interim Rule USDA has added several terms and definitions that expand the farmland wetland category by making it easier for USDA to designate land as a farmed wetland. This substantively changes what land qualifies as prior-converted cropland or commenced-conversion wetlands under the statutory exemptions, which is harmful to farmers who have relied on prior interpretations.

The group also took issue with USDA’s failure to implement the minimal effect exemption provisions as lawmakers directed. “Congress exempted farmers from ineligibility if the impacts of the wetland conversion were minimal to the wetlands in the area,” the group noted.

The statute also provides that “the Secretary shall exempt a person and does not require that a landowner first request such a determination; rather, such determination must automatically accompany any determination regarding eligibility.” Lastly, the statute requires the Secretary to “identify by regulation categorical minimal effect exemptions on a regional basis.” Unfortunately, USDA has violated the statute by failing to implement this provision to the detriment of farmers and ranchers nationwide.