The Kansas Agriculture Secretary was the featured speaker Monday at the annual Riley County Livestock Association annual meeting, held at Pottorf Hall.
Mike Beam spoke about the value of agricultural exports, which surpassed $4 billion in 2020, the highest total in Kansas since 2014.
“The first half of that (year) was pretty stressful. Prices were pretty depressed. As we got into the later summer and fall, exports started picking up and we saw a pretty good rally in a lot of our commodity prices, largely driven by exports in 2020,” he said.
Beam says 2021 values already appear to have eclipsed the 2020 numbers.
“The data is not in, but even through October, ag exports from Kansas were at about $4.3 billion,” he said.
According to Beam, roughly 20 percent of all Kansas jobs rely on international trade.
In addition to a good export market, Beam noted how his office and the state are continuing to look to ways to expand the state’s agricultural sector. He says three main action items have been identified, particularly in the beef sector.
“Number one, a work force period. Having people that are available to work and then of course having ones that meet the technical needs,” he said.
The second action item he says is having a good traceability system to safeguard against potential foreign animal diseases.
“So we spend considerable time every year always trying to fine tune our emergency response plan,” he said.
Ag producers also hope to increase the state’s meat processing capacity at some point as well.
Beam says his office worked with some of the federal COVID relief monies and helped distribute and administer about 80 grants of $12 million to local food entities, including $8 million to small meat processing facilities across the state to increase their own capacities.
Because of that he says, the state is needing to hire more inspectors.
The meeting featured a silent auction and dinner, raising funds for Riley County 4H youth.
A representative from the Kansas Livestock Association also spoke to some legislation they’re watching go through the state legislature this year, including a raw milk bill (SB346), and legislation that would provide more transparency in labeling of meat alternative products. That bill is currently in the House Agriculture Committee.