Kansas Department of Agriculture | KCUR

Kansas Department of Agriculture

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Wearing sweaters, small kids (of the goat variety) went springing over hay-lined pens in the Good Karma Micro-Dairy barn in Russell County. Here, Erin and Doug Renard milk goats and cows and make raw cheese, Greek yogurt, butter and gelato.

“As you noticed when you came here, there's no signs,” Erin Renard said. “One of the reasons there's no signs is expense. But the other reason was we couldn't even put 'raw milk' on the sign. Now we can.” 

ST. JOHN, Kansas — Water — who gets to use it, when and how — sparks fights all over the world.

The latest battleground is in south-central Kansas, near the federally operated Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.

In its simplest form, it’s a clash between the refuge, which isn’t getting its legal share of water, and the local farmers who may be forced to cut back on how much water they use on their crops.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Rhododendron plants sold at more than 60 stores in Kansas are infected with a disease that kills oak trees, so the Kansas Department of Agriculture is asking residents to destroy them.

Attercop311 / Wikimedia Commons

Segment 1: Kansas farmers hope to boost agricultural economy with new cash crop.

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer in April signed off on a bill that included the Alternative Crop Research Act, which effectively allows the Kansas Department of Agriculture to oversee the cultivation of industrial hemp. Although hemp is famously difficult to maintain, both seasoned and novice Kansas farmers are eager to cash in on one of the most lucrative crops in American history.

Stephen Koranda-File Photo / Kansas Public Radio

After pushing for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump earlier this year kicked off negotiations among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Any major changes to the agreement could have a big impact on Kansas.

Kansas Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran have said they’re open to updates but emphasize that the agreement needs to preserve or expand export opportunities.

Bryan Thompson / Kansas News Service

Darrel Urban stands in front of a newly-dug pit the size of two football fields laid end-to-end, and ten feet deep. Soon, it will be full of hog waste, and two more large pits will join it.

A site two miles outside of the tiny town of Pfeifer, Kansas, in the northeast corner of Rush County near Hays, is slated to be the new home of a massive hog farming operation. It will be home to thousands of pigs, and their waste. It is a less than a mile from Urban’s home.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Everyone knows agriculture is huge in Kansas.

It’s a $62 billion a year industry that accounts for 43 percent of the Kansas economy and touches every part of the state.

Following the 2012 Brownback tax cuts, farmers no longer had to pay state income tax -- just like 334,000 LLCs, S corporations and sole proprietorships.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The rows of grapevines at Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery near Paola, Kansas, are withering, with dying leaves and shriveling fruit.

But that’s expected this time of year.

The prospect of it happening in the middle of the growing season concerns owner Dennis Reynolds more. Grapes are a sensitive crop, especially when it comes to herbicides that may drift over from neighboring farms or ditches.

The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture says he’s moving most of state Agriculture Department to Manhattan. Secretary Dale Rodman says the agriculture in Kansas will benefit from being part of what he’s calling “the synergies” between Kansas State University and a burgeoning animal and plant science industry.

The move will allow the Kansas department to work more closely and avoid redundancies with bioscience research and commerce already going on in Manhattan.