What is the import of the farm bill to Kansas?


Wheat combine on farmCorrecting the Wichita Eagle’s facts will place the importance of the farm bill to Kansas in proper perspective.

In criticizing five of the six members of the Kansas congressional delegation for voting against the farm bill, Rhonda Holman of the Wichita Eagle editorialized this: “Five of the six members of the Kansas delegation just voted against a farm bill — a stunning abdication of leadership in a state in which agriculture is 25 percent of the economy.” (Eagle editorial: AWOL on farm bill, Wednesday, February 5, 2014)

The Eagle editorialist didn’t specify what she meant by “percent of the economy” or where she got these figures. But the most common measure of the size of an economy is gross domestic product (GDP), and it’s easy to find.

Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) for 2012 tells us that the category “Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” contributed $5,428 million towards the total Kansas GDP of $138,953 million. That means agriculture contributed 3.9 percent to Kansas GDP. The Eagle based its argument on a value of 25 percent, a value that’s 6.4 times the actual value.

If you included the category “Food and beverage and tobacco product manufacturing” you’d add a few additional percentage points. But you’d still have a number that is just a fraction of what the Eagle editorial board believes to be the contribution of agriculture to the Kansas economy.

Now that you have the facts that the Wichita Eagle doesn’t have, how important do you think is the farm bill to Kansas?

Besides this, the Eagle praised former U.S. Senator Bob Dole for his “effort to bind rural and urban interests in agricultural policy by including food stamps in the nation’s safety net for farmers.” In political science this is called logrolling. It’s one of the reasons why government continues to grow faster than our willingness to pay for it. I think the Wichita Eagle likes that.

It’s for things like this that Dan Mitchell created the “Bob Dole Award” for Misguided Conservatives. It’s for those who fit this description:

“If you say something about fiscal policy and a statist can respond by saying “I agree, so let’s raise taxes,” then you’ve made the mistake of focusing on red ink rather than the real problem of too much government spending.”

Mitchell explains the naming of the award:

Naming the award after Bob Dole also is appropriate since he was never a sincere advocate of limited government. The Kansas lawmaker was a career politician who said in his farewell speech that his three greatest achievements were a) creating the food stamp program, b) increasing payroll taxes, and c) imposing the Americans with Disabilities Act (no wonder I wanted Clinton to win in 1996).

For all of these reasons, and more, no real conservative should want to win an award linked to Bob Dole.


4 responses to “What is the import of the farm bill to Kansas?”

  1. Johnny Stevens

    Great Article Bob. The liberals don’t care about facts, they don’t care about lying. All they care about is getting their way no matter what it cost.

  2. Phillip Brownlee

    E-mail sent to Bob on Feb. 6:

    Per Kansas Department of Agriculture:

    “Agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at more than $35 billion, accounting for 25 percent of the state’s total economy.”


  3. Fred

    This is based on NAICS code. Value-added enterprise are classified as nondurable manufacturing, and then there’s the range of professional and financial services. There’s also direct tie into energy sector and transportation sector through Farm Bill. So, your numbers are based only on farm income, which isn’t a good indicator. I can’t think of a single KS family that doesn’t have an agricultural economic interest. Of course, I’m of a rural background. Phillip is right, farm economic impact has always been said to be 1/4 or 1/3 of KS economy. I don’t know if it’s a big deal or not that KS delegation didn’t vote for Farm Bill. There’s plenty there to disagree with. But, I think that it’s a huge deal that KS delegation had virtually no influence over the legislative outcome. I would argue that farm policy should be our chief legislative priority. The Wichita Eagle is correct in scolding the lawmakers. When Glickman was in Congress, he always represented a primarily urban constituency, but he also always recognized that farm policy is critical to the state as a whole.

  4. I received this from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. I would say that the definition of agriculture used is quite broad, and probably include contributions to GDP that other industries cite when making their pleas for subsidy. in addition, many of these economic activities aren’t influenced by the farm bill, support of which is the purpose of drumming up the importance of agriculture to Kansas.

    The BEA number cited includes the value of agricultural, forestry, fishing, and hunting products in Kansas. This number is important in that it shows the value of the raw commodities produced. However, this number does not account for associated agricultural processing and the jobs created by these industries. The economic impact figure of $35B posted on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website is the total economic impact that agriculture has on the Kansas economy. This includes not only the production of commodities, but also the processing, marketing, and distribution of agricultural products in Kansas.

    For instance, Kansas ranks #3 (nearly 19% of total for US) in the nation for cattle slaughtered, the meat packing industry is large in Kansas, directly employing over 17,000 people with annual sales of nearly $8B in meat and products. Similarly, Kansas has a large flour milling industry with nearly $830M in annual sales. All told, there are 56 sectors that encompass agriculture, food, and food processing in Kansas.

    The Kansas Department of Agriculture publishes “Farm Facts,” that contains many statistics on agricultural production. It is available at the following link:


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