Tag Archives: Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Most consumers typically don’t think that a food safety risk lurks in their kitchen’s flour bin, but a handful of product recalls since 2015 in the United States and other countries is changing that mindset.

Rather than accept that it’s just the way the cookie crumbles, scientists at Kansas State University are taking the challenge head on to find ways to ensure the safety of flour and the many products that are made from it.

“When I was trained as a food scientist, one of the things we were taught is that there were a few products that were generally safe,” said Gordon Smith, department head for grain science and industry at K-State. “Maybe those products were not absolutely safe, but they were on a continuum of things that were much lower risk. Flour was one of those products.”

In January, 2019, General Mills announced a voluntary national recall of five-pound bags of its Gold Medal unbleached flour, citing the potential presence of Salmonella. There have been no confirmed consumer illnesses as a result of the suspect flour, but the company issued the recall “out of an abundance of care,” according to a statement.

The incident symbolized a heightened awareness in the flour industry that the raw product could carry such potent pathogens as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) or Salmonella introduced at some point from harvest in a crop field to the consumer’s kitchen.

“We are curious about where the contamination comes from,” Smith said. “We can speculate and speculate, but no one knows the answer to that positively or if there’s a single source. No one knows where it comes from or what happens during storage or processing.”

Armed with world-class laboratories capable of studying dangerous pathogens in controlled settings, the university is replicating commercial milling and baking processes and introducing E. coli and Salmonella at high doses to determine ways to reduce the risk of contaminated flour and finished bakery products.

K-State food scientist and microbiologist Randy Phebus has worked for more than 30 years tracking foodborne pathogens. Since 2012, Phebus has been a lead investigator on a $25 million project to investigate the presence of STEC in beef products and cattle.

He’s now part of a K-State group that has turned a watchful eye to flour.

“Ultimately in flour, like in many other products, we would like to have a ready-to-eat, pasteurized product that is safe,” he said. “The (food) industry is looking for that type of product, but the reality is that raw, agricultural-based products like flour are not risk free.

“We are on a quest to find a processing method or antimicrobial technology that will help the industry reduce these food safety risks to a very low probability of causing consumers to get sick or companies to have a contamination-related recall.”

Kaliramesh Siliveru, an assistant professor in the Department of Grain Science and Industry, is leading computerized modeling of grain processing, re-creating the life of flour from the time a wheat stalk is grown in a farmer’s field to the time flour is scooped out for a homemade cake or cookies.

That work is finely detailed, essentially building a picture of the entire environment for flour processing.

“You have to make certain that the entire chain is clean,” Siliveru said.

He added that, in practice, computerized modeling provides a fuller understanding of the potential spots where E. coli or other pathogens may be found, whether that be in the field, during harvest, at the flour mill, in a consumer’s kitchen or someplace else.

“Computer modeling also provides insight into how these pathogens are transferred in the supply chain from farm to table and allows us to design a kill step to inactivate these dangerous pathogens,” Siliveru said.

Phebus notes that K-State’s work responds to an important industry issue to maintain the safety of flour and baked products.

“Companies have a brand and the liabilities that go with marketing retail or wholesale flour,” he said. “It’s also a very important food service issue because if you’re a pizza parlor or something like that making bread, you’ve got to know that you’re not going to be making people sick.

“And it’s a home kitchen issue because if you’ve ever baked a cake, you know that even if you’ve baked the cake well, the flour gets all over the kitchen, so it’s a cross-contamination hazard.”

Smith noted that K-State’s work includes faculty in the university’s grain science department and the Food Science Institute. K-State also is working with the Manhattan-based American Institute of Baking, which works with more than 200 bakery companies across the United States, and several milling and processing equipment companies.

Parts of the studies are being carried out in the Hal Ross Flour Mill, located in the university’s grain science complex in Manhattan, and in food safety labs in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry.

“It’s high level research, but it’s also information that is part of teaching students,” Phebus said. “We may be training the first generation of food science, milling and baking science students who will be food safety experts concentrating on grain handling, flour milling, bakery products and even pet food.”

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications from farmers who want to be part of the state’s industrial hemp research program, which state lawmakers created last April.

One of the farmers eager to get on board is PJ Sneed, who is building infrastructure, clearing land and establishing a cover crop on his land in western Reno County.

“I’m very excited; for me, it’s been a long time coming,” Sneed said. “It has for a lot of people, especially the grassroots movement. We’ve all been waiting for this moment.”

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed legislation last April to allow industrial hemp production only for research purposes, with a goal of encouraging the resurgence of hemp as a production crop and to promote economic development. The 2018 federal farm bill also legalized hemp farming.

The agriculture department has spent the last year gathering public input and establishing regulations for the program. Applications are due to the department by March 1.

Before the federal farm bill was approved, Kansas could only establish a research program for hemp growing but the state is now open to establishing commercial growing if the legislature approves, The Hutchinson News reported .

“So nothing is changing yet. The law that passed last spring and the regulations that go with it are what’s on the books,” agriculture department spokeswoman Heather Lansdowne said.

Lansdowne said the earliest the state could have additional laws to allow industrial hemp would likely be 2020.

Sneed agreed and predicted a large increase in hemp growers in the new future.

“I think in year two you’ll see a huge boom after people see what it is and how it’s grown,” he said. “In 2020 I think you’ll start to see more banks open up for commercial loans and things like that.”

The application process will include background checks and more.

The Hemp Biz Conference and the Planted Association of Kansas, of which Sneed is a member, will host a symposium on hemp growing in Hutchinson on Feb. 23. He said it’s designed to help farmers network and find markets but the focus this year will be on rules and regulations and the application process.

ORLANDO— The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased to announce its 2019 Industry Award is being awarded to East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE), an ethanol and renewable diesel biorefinery in Garnett, Kan. RFA presented the award to the board and staff of EKAE today at the 24th annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC).
RFA’s Industry Award recognizes companies or individuals who have made a significant contribution to the U.S. fuel ethanol industry through technology innovative, market development, consumer education, policy advocacy, and other efforts.
“This year’s recipient checks more than one of those boxes,” said Geoff Cooper, RFA President and CEO. “This is a company that has embraced new technologies, led the way in promoting new markets for E15, and last year, in particular, demonstrated remarkable leadership in advocating for ethanol and defending the RFS during a very challenging time for our industry.”
In June 2018, EKAE hosted then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for a tour of the plant and a discussion about ethanol and the RFS. Pruitt had just issued 48 RFS compliance exemptions to “small refiners,” eliminating 2.25 billion gallons in renewable fuel blending requirements.
“When he got to EKAE, Pruitt was met by a firm and well-prepared group of ethanol industry advocates that refused to be intimidated,” Cooper said. “In a discussion that lasted for over an hour, East Kansas leaders made sure Pruitt got the message about the devastating impact of his small refinery waivers on the ethanol industry and farmers.”
In March 2018, Paul Teutul, Jr., chose East Kansas as the backdrop to unveil the RFA’s custom E85 motorcycle. The unveiling was featured on the Discovery Channel’s American Chopper show last summer. Not only did the episode showcase the ethanol-powered motorcycle, but it gave the EKAE board and staff an invaluable opportunity to tell ethanol’s story to viewers around the world.
Cooper also recognized EKAE for its groundbreaking renewable diesel project, its role in making E15 available at retail for the very first time in 2012, and for taking top EPA officials on a plant tour the day before a pivotal RFS hearing in Kansas City in 2015.
Open since 2005, EKAE operates a 48 million gallon per year ethanol plant that also produces more than 200,000 tons per year of high-quality distiller grains, in both wet and dry form. The biorefinery also produces 5 million pounds of corn oil each year from more than 16 million bushels of locally sourced corn.

After 45 years covering agriculture in Kansas and Missouri, I will “pull the pin” (retire) from Kansas Farm Bureau Jan. 31. I’ll put my pen in the desk drawer, close my computer, hang up my camera and turn off the phone. Don’t worry Insight will continue.

But I will not forget this vocation of agriculture and more importantly the men, women and children who call this vocation their own.

Who knows?

After a few months I may put pen to paper and write about this most honorable profession once more.

The opportunity to advocate on behalf of agriculture for 45 years has given me a reason to believe. No other career I could have embarked on would have fulfilled my inner need to remain connected to a life I was born into 70 years ago in northwestern Kansas.

My family and four others literally carved the community of Angelus out of the prairie during the waning years of the 19th Century. Before settling in northwestern Kansas, they’d settled in up-state New York by way of Germany in the early 1830s. From there they moved to a small farm near Milwaukee, Wis. A decade later, on to Wein, Mo. and finally the short-grass prairie on the great High Plains.

Growing up in a family of hard working, dedicated German and French immigrants, I was destined to “tell the story of agriculture.” I will carry a place in my heart for the farmers and ranchers who remain a part of this vocation as long as I inhabit this old world.

After four decades of writing a weekly column, starting “Kansas Living” magazine, producing “Insight” on the radio, “Voice of Ag” radio spots, writing speeches for three Kansas Farm Bureau presidents, video production and managing KFB’s print media department, far too many events occurred to mention them all. Here are a few highlights:

Droughts, killing freezes, brutal winters with blizzards and loss of livestock, farm bills including the Freedom to Farm spearheaded by Kansas’s own Sen. Roberts, Russia’s Boris Yeltsin cutting wheat at the Rau farm in Sedgwick County followed by a visit from the white combine.

The advent of animal welfare including PETA and HSUS, Waters of the U.S. in a semi-arid western Kansas, the over appropriation of irrigation out of the Ogallala Aquifer, yearly Governor’s tours, Farm Bureau members lobbying congress in D.C. led by KFB President John Junior Armstrong in ’78.

So much history, so much fun and so many wonderful farm families. The opportunity to visit farms and ranches in all 105 counties. The chance to visit with members – in their pickups, combines or drive through a pasture filled with fleshy momma cow-calf pairs – as they proudly showed me their farms and shared the intimate details of their lives and livelihood.

I also witnessed the sorrow and pained hurt in the eyes of a wheat farmer a few minutes after a hailstorm hammered his crop into the ground. Followed by his vision and hope for the next great year.  I’ll never forget and always cherish these moments.

I will remember always the friendships forged with farmers and ranchers throughout Kansas. We all share a love of this business of agriculture, each other and our Farm Bureau organization.

This continues to make Farm Bureau the best. We care on a personal level. Our families and lives became intertwined.

We share common concerns. Kansas agriculture remains a moving target, always changing. What’s right for you, may be wrong for me. Still, in Farm Bureau, we work together to find solutions for our shared industry.

At the end of the day, week, month or year, we love our great organization. We’re unafraid to tilt at windmills like the brave Don Quixote. We toil behind the scenes “to finish the task,” driven by dedicated farm and ranch leaders and dedicated staff, we make a difference in the agricultural vocation.

While it may seem like a long, hard road, it’s been an exhilarating ride. One I wouldn’t change for anything. I’m truly honored and humbled to have served with each one of you.

God bless.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A new study says Kansas goes farther than any other state in limiting state and local agencies from influencing policy about food nutrition labels and portion sizes.

The Kansas News Service reports that New York University researcher Jennifer Pomeranz’s recent study found that Kansas does more to limit the authority of local governments on food policy than any of the 13 other states with similar legislation.

The state’s 2016 pre-emption law prevents local authorities from restricting portion sizes, taxing soda and sugary drinks and banning “incentive items,” such as toys in a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

Similar bills have been cropping up across the country, but Pomeranz says Kansas’ law goes further than others by limiting the state Legislature’s power.

Pomeranz says Kansas basically handed over control of food policy issues to the federal government.

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Rural Center (KRC) announces the availability of its latest report, Lessons Learned from Specialty Crop Growers Across Kansas. The 42-page report is a compilation of five previously published profiles of successful Kansas specialty crop growers, plus the proceedings of a one-day facilitated discussion in February 2018 between those experienced growers and five beginning specialty crop growers.

“Interest continues to grow among Kansas farmers and want-to-be farmers for ways to diversify their farms or to find new enterprises for the growing market demand for local, fresh fruits and vegetables,” stated Mary Fund, KRC Executive Director. “This report is a modest attempt to share information among growers, and to document what
growers see as the challenges and needs if specialty crop production is to move forward in Kansas.”

Kansas only grows about 4% of the fruits and vegetables it consumes, which points to potential economic opportunity. Historically, Kansas grew many more acres of specialty crops until commodity crop agriculture took over most of those acres.

The Lessons Learned report is available online at the Kansas Rural Center’s website at website https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover/. A limited number of hard copies are also available by contacting mfund@kansasruralcenter.org. Farmers profiled include Dave Svaty of Svaty’s Produce near Kanopolis, Frank Gieringer of Gieringer’s Orchard and Berry Farm near Edgerton, Chris and Christi Janssen’s C and C High Tunnels in Scandia, Dan and Kathy Kuhn’s The Depot Market in Courtland, and Nina and Jeter Isley’s Y Knot Farm and Ranch near Bird City in far northwest Kansas.

Most feature high tunnel or hoop house production in addition to field production. Crops feature a full range of vegetables from salad greens, tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins to a variety of fruits: you-pick strawberries and other berries, and apples and peaches. More than one also direct market grass fed beef, lamb and chicken. One also raises certified organic grains and another conventional grain crops.

The report joins KRC’s trilogy of specialty crop guides: Growing Under Cover: Polytunnel Options (December 2014, Updated Oct. 2018); Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Grower’s Guide, 2016; and Growing Over Cover: A Kansas Specialty Crop Grower’s Guide to Cover Crops. All are available for download in color and/or black and white at KRC’s website https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover/.

Hard copies are also available upon request for the Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Growers Guide.

The report was published as part of a project supported by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the SCBG Program at the Kansas Department of Agriculture in Kansas.

Growing Over Cover: A Kansas Specialty Crop Grower’s Guide to Cover Crops is the latest publication in the Kansas Rural Center’s series of grower guides for fruit and vegetable growers in Kansas. The guide is now available for download on the KRC website, and a limited number of hard copies are available by contacting KRC.

Growing Over Cover was prepared with funding from the Kansas Department of Agriculture through the Specialty Crop Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through Grant No. 16-SC-BGP-KS-044.

The guide is the third in a series of specialty crop guides prepared by the Kansas Rural Center in collaboration with Kansas State University Extension. The first was Growing Under Cover: A Guide to Polytunnel Options that outlines the choices available for low and high tunnels, and how to select the right plastic tunnel or hoophouse option for you. Available at http://kansasruralcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Growing-Under-Cover-0-FULL.pdf.

The second guide is Growing Under Cover: A Kansas Grower’s Guide that provides basic management strategies for hoophouse or high tunnel production, as well as enterprise budgets for seven major specialty crops popular in hoophouses including tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens and root vegetables. It is available at KRC’s website at https://kansasruralcenter.org/growing-under-cover-a-kansas-growers-guide/.

The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit research, education and advocacy organization promoting a sustainable agriculture and food system.