Talking about issues

The Butler County Farm Bureau hosted a legislative dinner Tuesday evening, giving them a chance to meet the legislators and talk about some of the issues important to Farm Bureau.
Following the meal, the legislators introduced themselves and talked about why they ran for office.
The first to speak was Mary Martha Good, the newly elected representative for House Seat 75.
“The reason I ran is because as a teacher, I taught for 26 years and retired a year and a half ago, I was very tired of what they did to teaching,” she said. “They took away our due process; they took away our tenure. And as a teacher, we work our little tails off with the kids we have and they took away our aids in the classroom.”
She said the district was only able to give each teacher an hour a day with a para or aid.
“It just got to be too much,” Good said. “Right now our future is those kids and I think we all need to realize that. I know over half the budget is spent on education and I’d like to see how that’s all going to come about.”
She said she did get on the education committee, children’s and seniors committee, and election committee in Topeka.
She is looking forward to her time in Topeka.
“I think we have a good group of people in there to work together and make some decisions,” Good said. “It’s not going to be a fun year. There is no money. We are all going to have to take a cut and a hit and go on, but if we can live through the next two years, I think after that we will start seeing things come around.”
She went on to say her brother in Emporia also ran and was elected.
“He’s the one that really got me going and said you need to do this, you need to quit teaching and do this,” she said. “I said ‘no, no” and finally I had enough and retired and filed about six months later.
“I hope to make all of you in District 75 pleased. I want to use common sense. I will cross party lines to get work done.”
The next to speak was Susan Humphries, who was elected to House Seat 99.
She said her husband worked for Cargill for 30 years and her family in Arkansas are farmers, which are her ties to agriculture.
“At 53 I decided to go back to law school after the kids were grown,” she explained. “Two of our children are adopted and that was really interesting going back to be an adoption attorney.”
She has been doing that for a couple of years.
“I had some extra energy and extra time and just felt there was a little bit more that I needed to be doing and I found out Denis Hedke was not going to be running again in District 99, so I filed for that seat. My priorities are children.”
She said there are more children in foster care in Kansas now than ever in the past.
“So I think it goes along great with what you all say about the farming family,” she said. “It goes along with family.”
She said she was on the federal and state affairs committee.
“I feel like the foster care problem, it really relates down to the family, so that is my priority,” she said.
She also is on the judiciary committee and criminal and juvenile justice committee, which she said are new to her.
Doug Blex was the final representative to speak. He was elected to House District 12.
He said he lives near Independence and has a family farm.
“I’m a small-town person,” he said. “I’ve been that way pretty much most of my life.”
He said he is pretty new to politics, having helped Mike Pompeo with his campaign and serving as county chair in Montgomery County for a lot of years.
“I was settled in,” he said. “I’m a wildlife biologist by training. When I campaigned, I knew I was in a rural area and I have dealt with endangered species, I’ve dealt with engineers. I’ve always had a common-sense approach. I realize God gives us those things to be stewards, but I’m not a tree hugger; I’m not a preservationist. I’m strong Second Amendment and I realize they are out there to be used wisely.”
He said his expertise was probably water, having served on the governor’s 50-year water vision. He also is chair of the conservation district and served 25-years in wildlife law enforcement.
“I ran I guess because I felt like I can make a difference,” he said. “I’m going to try to bring common sense joining the farm community and what we do and they are not going to con me.”
He said he has a good ability to read people and look at unintended consequences.
“A lot of legislation has unintended consequences,” he continued. “I don’t really have a lot of political aspirations. I said no the first few times, then Mike Pompeo called me up from Washington and I couldn’t say no to him. I’m there with a servant’s heart. I really enjoy the rural district I have.”
He is serving on the ag committee, water and environment committee, financial institutions committee and health and human services committee.
Next, Ryan Flickner, senior director, Kansas Farm Bureau Advocacy Division, thanked them for their willingness to serve.
He began with a history lesson of Farm Bureau for the group.
“We are a true grassroots organization,” he said. “That starts with 105 members of Kansas Farm Bureau. Each county is a member and only the county is a member of the Kansas Farm Bureau. Collectively we have roughly 35,000 voting members within the Kansas Farm Bureau family.”
He said they meet annually to pass resolutions. That resolution book is what he uses when he is in Topeka.
“As a general farm organization, we do have a  little bit of skin in the came in just about any bill you all will be debating over the next few months,” he said.
But he said they do try to narrow their focus to the issues most important to them.
He said tax is key to their members and agricultural land. Another thing that comes up is sales tax exemption. Another issue includes the water conversation and tailoring that discussion to the area of state it affects. An issue the current administration would like to address is corporate agriculture, which is certain agricultural businesses that have an exception, but if a person was trying to do the same thing the cattle industry has with swine, dairy or poultry, they are not able to do that. It also impacts passing the family farm down to non-lineal decedents. He said a family farm would no longer be structured as a family farm, which he said was unconstitutional.
To conclude, Steve McCloud, 4th District KFB board member, spoke about the land use value formula for taxing agriculture. He said it was part of the Kansas Constitution since the mid-80s and taxes agricultural realty on its productivity and soil type. He briefly explained this process which runs over an eight-year rolling average and provides a steady stream of income to the state by leveling out the ups and downs.
One other topic brought up was  agricultural use, including agritourism and agri-entertainment and how lands are classified.
The meeting was concluded with the announcement of upcoming events, including a day at the Statehouse on Feb. 9, legislative coffees on Feb. 25 in Douglass and Whitewater, the Farm to Fork tour and dinner on Aug. 10 and the Butler County Farm Bureau Annual meeting on Sept. 19.

Julie Clements can be reached at