Sep 09 2019
Hosting My 14th Kansas Conservation Tour
On Tuesday, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matt Lohr joined me in Brown, Doniphan, Atchison and Wyandotte counties to meet with farmers, ranchers and partners of our state’s agricultural and natural resource associations during my 14th Kansas Conservation Tour. The tour gives me and partners across Kansas the opportunity to learn more about ongoing conservation efforts across the state, including water and soil conservation, watershed protection and river sustainability.
We began the day with a discussion on the Emergency Watershed Protection Program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), which allows communities to address damage to infrastructure and lands. During this stop we saw how Brown County officials and NRCS are working together to reduce threats to life and property by stabilizing a damaged road caused by increased moisture across the region.
At the next stop we joined the Kansas Iowa Tribe and Chairman Tim Rhodd to learn more about the Tribe’s conservation efforts relating to their Tribal Soil Climate Analysis Network (TSCAN). Data from the TSCAN is used in a variety of ways to monitor drought development, predict changes in crop, range, and woodland productivity and predict regional shifts in irrigation water requirements. This provides an invaluable level of information to farmers and ranchers and serves as a key component of the work done by producers of the tribe. I appreciate Chairman Rhodd and Tribal leaders for joining this year’s tour and for their deep compassion in caring for the land.
Our next visit was at HBJ Farms in Doniphan County, owned and operated by brothers Howard, Brad and Jason Taylor. Their operation was severely impacted by flooding this past spring, causing extensive damage and loss of production. During our visit, we heard from Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Director David Schemm and producer John Taylor to discuss the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and the assistance it has provided HBJ Farms during these difficult circumstances.
After HBJ Farms, we joined Kansas commodities organizations to discuss the conservation title in the farm bill and the implementation of conservation practices for a sustainable future. Thanks to leaders and staff of these commodity groups and organizations for their input on Tuesday and for all their work to assist producers.
In Atchison County, we joined officials at Benedictine Bottoms, a protected area purchased under the authorization of Congress through the Mitigation Project in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 1986. At this stop we heard from Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) and their management of three habitat types that include timber, native grass and wetlands. These bottoms also serve as an area where excess flood waters can be held and prevent further damage downstream.
We concluded the Conservation Tour with a stop in Wyandotte County at Kaw Point Park, where the Kansas River meets the Missouri River. Here the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Nature Conservancy briefed us on their ongoing efforts to improve management through the Sustainable Rivers Program. We also heard from The Conservation Fund who discussed how local governments and non-profit organizations have come together to form the Blue River Conservation Collaborative to help protect and preserve working lands and wildlife in the upper Blue River Watershed in Johnson County. We also heard from the KDWPT and their work to combat Aquatic Nuisance Species not native to Kansas that can threaten lake and river ecology, harm native or desirable species and interfere with our economy.
A special thank you to NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr, Kansas NRCS State Conservationist Karen Woodrich and Kansas FSA Director David Schemm for joining me on this tour and to all who participated in my 14th Kansas Conservation Tour.
World-Renowned Ocean Explorer Dr. Robert Ballard Speaks at Atchison High School
On Tuesday, it was a privilege to host Wichita native and world-renowned ocean explorer Dr. Bob Ballard in Atchison, Kansas. We were also joined Admiral Tim Gallaudet, Deputy Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both Dr. Ballard and Admiral Gallaudet are two of the world’s leading experts on Oceanography and Ocean Exploration. Dr. Ballard, well known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, isAmelia Earhart’s airplane.
In Atchison, Dr. Ballard joined community officials, business leaders and members of the Amelia Earhart Foundation at the Atchison airport, named in honor of Earhart. During this event, Dr. Ballard, Admiral Gallaudet and I discussed the Foundation’s plans for a museum in honor of Earhart, and ways in which partners can support this project.
I then hosted Dr. Ballard and Admiral Gallaudet at Atchison High School, along with Atchison students and community members. Here, Dr. Ballard spoke on his ongoing expedition to find Earhart’s plane. During his presentation, Dr. Ballard called the crew of his ship, the Naultais, for a video chat where they discussed their mission and the methods by which they’re searching for the plane. A key component of Dr. Ballard’s work is to recruit and encourage young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Dr. Ballard and I discussed the importance of these careers to our world, and to the Kansas economy.
Dr. Ballard spoke of his personal calling to discover Earhart’s plane, so her legacy can inspire young people to pursue careers in aviation and to break barriers in their careers. Dr. Ballard’s expedition will air during a documentary titled “Expedition Amelia” on National Geographic on October 20.
Hosting Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy in Kansas
I was pleased to host Secretary of the U.S. Army Ryan McCarthy on Thursday at both Fort Riley and Wichita State University. Thursday morning, we started our day at Seitz Elementary School on Fort Riley. In 2011, I joined then-Secretary of the Army Robert Gates at Fort Riley for the groundbreaking of Seitz Elementary, and then Lt. Gen. Seitz to cut the ribbon on this school constructed in his honor. I was excited to be there with Secretary McCarthy to tour the school and meet the teachers and students who have benefited because of his leadership on the project from day one, and I'm proud of our work to secure the resources for this important facility.
The visit concluded with a round-table discussion on current issues facing soldiers, their families and the communities in which they reside. I was also honored to participate in a reenlistment ceremony with Secretary McCarthy and 1st Infantry Division leadership. During this ceremony – featuring a Junction City native – soldiers renew their commitment to our country.
Following our visit at Fort Riley, I hosted Secretary McCarthy in Wichita. During our visits in Wichita, I was able to show Secretary McCarthy firsthand the capabilities of Wichita State University, Spirit Aerosystems and the entire region. Over the last year, I have hosted a number of defense officials in Wichita to showcase these resources, and I look forward to continue working alongside Wichita stakeholders to grow the region and its economy.
Attending the Kansas Farm Bureau Ag Leadership Breakfast at the State Fair
Thank you to Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) for hosting the annual Ag Leadership Breakfast at the Kansas State Fair on Saturday. I was pleased to attend this important gathering of Kansas agricultural stakeholders and give an update on my work in the Senate. During my remarks, I expressed my appreciation for our partnership with KFB to advocate for farmers and ranchers across Kansas, as well as to tackle a number of issues important to rural America. Thank you to my friend Rich Felts for the invitation to join and for the warm introduction on Saturday.
Spending Time at the 2019 Kansas State Fair
It was great to spend time over the weekend at the 2019 Kansas State Fair, visiting exhibits and seeing the work of young Kansans. The State Fair is an opportunity for young farmers to showcase their hard work to the entire state. Thank you to the many individuals who work year round to make the State Fair such a successful event.
It was good to see my longtime friends, the McCurry family, and to hear an update on their many projects happening at this year’s State Fair.
Announcing Department of Transportation Emergency Relief Grants
This week, entities across Kansas were awarded more than $1.2 million in emergency relief for the May 2017 wildfires and the massive floods experienced this spring. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has awarded $627,563 and $600,000 respectively to the state to repair highways, roads and bridges damaged by these catastrophic events. As we have seen in the past week, natural disasters can not only be dangerous, but can shatter our infrastructure and cripple our rural economy. I am pleased to have helped secure this grant which will help Kansas continue to recover from the devastating wildfires and floods seen in recent years, and I’ll continue working to support communities impacted by natural disasters.
Joining the Pratt County Farm Bureau’s Annual Meeting
Following my Pratt County Listening Tour stop, I joined members of the Pratt County Farm Bureau celebrate their 100th anniversary. Across Kansas, Farm Bureau and its members work hard to advocate for rural America and on behalf of Kansas farmers and ranchers. Their 100 year anniversary in Pratt County is a milestone not only for the county, but for the whole state in celebration of their efforts over so many years and throughout many challenging times. I enjoyed celebrating this milestone with members and visit with producers to discuss a number of issues including trade and American access to foreign markets, ethanol and renewable fuels, as well as rural healthcare and broadband.
Thanks to Kansas agriculture legend and K-State faculty member Dr. Barry Flinchbaugh for also participating in the event and for his many years of friendship. Thanks also to Pratt County Farm Bureau President Jackie Mundt, Pratt County President and Kansas Farm Bureau President Rich Felts for the invitation to join such a special occasion.
Announcing Grants to Combat the Opioid Epidemic
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded grants of over $4 million to combat the opioid crisis in Kansas. The new resources by HHS are provided through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response grant program and also through cooperative agreements between states and localities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It is important that these new resources – previously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee – reach Kansas communities in desperate need of financial assistance to combat the opioid crisis. These grants will support our health providers in Kansas who come in contact with the opioids problem every day, and will also enable additional mental health treatment to patients. These grants will also allow for better treatment options which will lessen the burden of our nation’s opioid abuse issues on our local police departments and EMS personnel who respond to overdoses and recurring opioid issues in our state. Click here to read more.
Meeting with Rainbow Communications Leadership in Everest
On Tuesday, I stopped by Rainbow Communications in Everest to meet with CEO Jason Smith. During our meeting, we discussed a number of topics including my work to expand rural broadband, the attempts by the Federal Communications Commission to accurately map current broadband availability, the importance of connecting Northeast Kansas to the rest of the world through broadband, and how we can work together to improve and increase digital infrastructure across Kansas and rural American. Thanks to Jason and his team for hosting me at their office in Everest.
Hosting Kansas Listening Tour Stops Across the State
On Tuesday, I joined folks from across Brown County at the Homer White Post #66 of the American Legion. During the townhall we discussed a number of items including veterans’ healthcare and my work to increase veterans’ access to care closer to home, and the Senate’s work to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs accountable. We also discussed rural healthcare and the importance of local hospitals, the Second Amendment, the ongoing trade war and renewable fuels, as well as civility in politics, the regulation of big tech companies and rural broadband. Thank you to all those who attended this Listening Tour Stop in Hiawatha and for their robust and productive conversation. Thanks also to the American Legion and their members for hosting my visit to Brown County.
On Thursday evening, I was in Pratt to host a townhall meeting. During our meeting, we discussed the implementation of the VA MISSION Act and the ways in which it will increase local access to healthcare for our nation’s veterans. We also discussed Second Amendment rights, immigration and the need to secure our southern border, rural healthcare and our critical access hospitals, and rural broadband and my work to grow the economy of rural communities. Thank you to Ninnescah Rural Electric Cooperative and General Manager Teresa Miller for hosting my visit to Pratt. Thanks also to Miss Kansas Annika Wooton of Wichita for attending.
On Friday, I was in Kiowa County for my next Kansas Listening Tour stop. During this townhall, we discussed a number of issues including the current ag economy and the importance of increasing trade for farmers and ranchers, my work to make healthcare more accessible for veterans through the recently-implemented VA MISSION Act, our broken immigration system and the need for comprehensive reform, healthcare the importance of pharmacists in our local community as well as the ever-increasing national debt and federal spending. Thank you to all those who joined me on Friday, and a special thank you to Suleenia Trent and Greensburg City Manager Stacy Barnes for hosting my visit to Greensburg.
Following my time in Kiowa County, I was in La Crosse to host a Rush County townhall on my Kansas Listening Tour. During this meeting, we discussed the importance of veterans’ access to healthcare, my work to get the USMCA trade agreement passed by Congress, immigration and the need to secure our southern border and my work to make certain rural communities – and their economies – continue to thrive. Thank you to State Senator Mary Jo Taylor and State Representative Leonard Mastroni for attending my meeting on Friday.
On Saturday morning I was in Lyons to host a Kansas Listening Tour. During the meeting, we discussed economic development of rural Kansas and the importance of making certain rural America can thrive, the implementation of the VA MISSION Act and my work to increase access to healthcare for our nation’s veterans, trade and the urgent need to pass USMCA. Thank you to owners of Brew 56: Coffee & Taphouse Mark and Stacy Clark for their hospitality on Saturday and hosting my townhall meeting.
Kansans in the Office
Alice Dring, Overland Park
Connie Adams, Overland Park
Daryl Johnson, McPherson
Kola Johnson, McPherson
Van Bloomquist, Lindsborg
Shirley Bloomquist, Lindsborg
Honored to Serve You in Washington
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Thank you to the many Kansans who have been calling and writing in to share their thoughts and opinions on the issues our state and country face. I appreciate the words of Kansans, whether in the form of a letter, a Facebook comment, or a phone call, who wish to make their voice heard.
Very truly yours,