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Grain field in Kansas

(The Center Square) – At the sixth annual Kansas Governor's Summit on Agricultural Growth, industry leaders will be updated about different sectors of Kansas agriculture and discuss growth outcomes.

Scarlett Hagins, vice president of communications at Kansas Livestock Association, told The Center Square that agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at nearly $70.3 billion, and it employs more than 250,000 people either directly or indirectly. Direct contributions come from agriculture and food products, and indirect contributions come from farms and agricultural businesses purchasing inputs from supporting industries within the state.

"Cattle ranching and related businesses employ nearly 39,000 people and contribute an estimated $8.7 billion to the state’s economy," Hagins said. "According to Kansas Agricultural Statistics, the state is home to the third-largest cattle population in the U.S. at 6.5 million head, which is twice the human population. Kansas ranks second in commercial cattle processed and fed cattle marketed. The state also ranks third in the value of beef exported at around $1 billion."

Representing the industry are a diverse group of ranchers, farmers and agribusinesses.

Kansas Department of Agriculture reports that beef is the largest agricultural sector in Kansas. Profits from Kansas beef products totaled over $1.4 billion as of Jan. 1.

The state is developing a few programs that will benefit the industry as a whole. One such program is the Rural Veterinary Work Force Development Task Force designed to evaluate and address the shortage of rural vets.

"Once they determine exactly where and what the need is, whether it pertains to specific services or a lack of people to perform those services, they will begin to develop a strategy to solve the shortage issue," Hagins said. "The information gathered also will be used at the educational level to help in the evaluation of both curriculum and admissions policies."

Hagins said there is also a need for a viable end-to-end cattle disease traceability system. The system, which provides critical tools to manage a disease outbreak and another important issue to the Kansas livestock industry, is currently being addressed by livestock producers, industry stakeholders like KLA and state agencies, including the Kansas Department of Agriculture through a program called U.S. CattleTrace. It involves every segment of the industry, including cow-calf, livestock market, feed yard and packing plants.