Two bills work to sell off Kansas one farm at a time

Two proposals with their origins in the Governor's office are designed to work hand in hand to undermine a Kansas way of life and simultaneously cede the state's natural resources to corporate agricultural interests.

One proposal from the Department of Agriculture would upend an 80 year old Kansas law that keeps corporate farming interests out of the state - designed and supported by Republicans at the time of its passage to preserve the Kansas family farm.

The change would allow corporate or foreign agribusiness to enter the state and dominate land and production markets in a way that would likely render the family farmer obsolete, lead to rural depopulation and further erode the state's tax base. To sweeten the pot for huge corporate farm operations, the governor's office is pushing yet several more in a long line of corporate tax breaks, offered under Senate Bill 202. The bill would authorize more than $10 million in sales tax exemptions and corporate tax credits to large agriculture companies that move or invest in Kansas under the High Performance Incentive Program - a move that would at once provide corporate welfare to large commercial interests and reduce revenue for cities, counties and local schools. The High Performance Incentive Program, or HPIP, has traditionally provided tax breaks for companies that provide above average wages in the state, with a requirement that companies document their planned investments before qualifying under HPIP. The breaks include a 10 percent income tax credit for capital investment, a training tax credit, and a sales tax exemption for capital investment costs. Under the new proposal, the tax relief would be retroactive to the 2012 tax year, and would be extended to chicken egg production, sheep and goat farming, cattle feedlots, dairy cattle and milk production and hog and pig farming. Inconceivably, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Pork Association and the Kansas Livestock Association have supported both the HPIP expansion and the move to lift Kansas' restrictions on corporate farming - two measures certain to hurt those organizations' members and, eventually, their own ability to help shape farm policy. Such measures, and their aggressive support by the governor, show that Kansas is now governed under a corporate-political complex in which state policy is a joint venture between politicians who literally give away the farm to large multi-national corporations, who, in exchange, help fund those politicians' continued success at election time. While this symbiotic relationship between governance and business might be good for both host and parasite, but it is bad for everyone else who calls Kansas home.

Jason Probst is News Editor at The Hutchinson News