Land Institute hires former Kansas ag secretary

SALINA, Kan. (AP) -- Former Kansas Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty has become a vice president of the Land Institute in Salina, which works to promote a new sustainable agriculture system that minimizes environmental damage.

Svaty, 33, a farmer from Ellsworth County who also served in the Kansas Legislature, will work on public policy issues, promote the institute's pursuit of natural systems agriculture and raise money, The Salina Journal reported ( ).

A native of Ellsworth County, Svaty served three full terms in the Kansas House. He resigned during his fourth term to take the job as Kansas secretary of agriculture, a job he held from 2009 through 2011. Since then, he has been senior adviser to the administrator of the Region 7 office of the EPA, covering Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and nine tribal nations.

Wes Jackson, the Institute's founder and president, said Svaty can use his public service experience to further the Land Institute's goals.

"Josh has a good eye for problems and proposed solutions," Jackson said.

Svaty said he has grown to admire the Jackson and the Land Institute's staff of 33 -- including seven doctorate level scientists -- as they work to return farming to the way nature intended.

"You spend your whole life fighting natural and unnatural forces. The Land Institute's and Wes Jackson's mindset is to find answers through nature rather than fighting against it," Svaty said.

The Land Institute's many projects include developing perennial grains that are grown to mimic the prairie and require less fossil fuel, conserve soil and water and adapt to weather extremes in growing conditions caused by climate change, according to a Land Institute news release. Its budget for fiscal 2014 is $2.8 million, and total assets are $11.1 million.