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Farm groups concerned about Rep.'s removal

By TIM UNRUH

Special to The Hays Daily News

Kansas farmers and leaders of commodity groups vented frustration and worry Wednesday over Rep. Tim Huelskamp's removal from the House Agriculture Committee.

Some wondered why he was removed from the committee and suggested the Republican's resolve not to compromise on some issues contributed to his ouster from the powerful position in formulating farm policy.

One suggested Huelskamp's removal was deserved and was needed to bust an extreme conservative movement and shift the Republican Party back to the middle.

Huelskamp also was removed from the House Budget Committee.

His exclusion from those committees is "a deep source of embarrassment for Kansas. It's about the people we're sending to Congress," said Vance Ehmke, a Lane County farmer and a former state Kansas Association of Wheat Growers president. He has testified three times to the House Agriculture Committee since 1995.

"We have just become way less influential. We don't have a vote on ag issues. We don't have somebody on the committee. That was a horrific loss," Ehmke said. "They don't even want our opinion anymore."

Kansas commodity group leaders echoed his angst but shied away from attempting to explain why Huelskamp lost his committee seats.

"I don't know all the inner workings. I just know it's a frustration that politics is getting in the way of Kansas having a voice on that committee," said Justin Gilpin, CEO of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Wheat Commission.

"We're definitely disappointed," he said, and KAWG members "have more questions than answers."

Weather and other conditions in Kansas are unique compared with other states, such as Iowa or Illinois, said Minneapolis area farmer Steve Baccus, who is president of Kansas Farm Bureau.

Not having someone from Kansas pushing issues "certainly makes it more challenging for those of us in Kansas to develop good farm policy."