Governor Laura Kelly tips her hat to the influence of the Flint Hills prairies on the Kansas cattle industry

MANHATTAN — Rancher Jan Lyons provided the fitting backdrop of native Flint Hills grasslands and about 100 Angus cows and calves on Thursday for Governor Laura Kelly’s signing of a proclamation affirming the high value of the industry cattle in Kansas.

“We have great spring water in this pasture,” said Lyons, the first woman to serve as president of the Kansas Livestock Association. “The green grass that grows here is so full of nutrients that our cattle spend at least 90% of their life there. We are able to feed the grass healthily and secure the carbon in the soil.

She said Kansas’ beef industry is the largest sector of the state’s agricultural economy and deserves recognition with the governor’s designation of May as state beef month.

Before sitting down at a table placed in the pasture to sign the honorary decree, Kelly said she was heartened by the preservation of such large tracts of enduring bluestem and other grasses that give the Flint Hills color, texture and economic muscle. The nutritious grass that grows on the rocky ground – mostly unsuitable for crops – is eaten each year by more than a million cattle that graze the hills of central Kansas.

“I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate than here in the heart of a thriving cattle ranch, overlooking the pasture, which is absolutely stunning,” Kelly said.

Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation designating May as Beef Month in Kansas during a visit to the prairie ranch operated by Jan Lyons and her family in lower Manhattan. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Kelly, a Democrat seeking re-election in 2022, said Kansas’s rural economy was driven by farmers who grew hay and grain eaten by livestock, cattle ranchers who raised livestock, and large and small processors delivering meat products to consumers.

The beef industry contributed nearly $13 billion annually to the state’s economy, she said, and the industry exported $1.7 billion worth of beef products annually. .

“Kansas is recognized nationwide and around the world for raising healthy livestock and producing nutritious, high-quality beef,” the governor said. “Family-owned operations like Lyons Ranch are the norm in Kansas agriculture. Eight to five percent of farms and ranches in Kansas are family owned. I will continue to work for policies that help our Kansas farm families in every county across the state.

She said she was committed to funding the road projects needed to efficiently move livestock and produce through the food chain, the expansion of broadband services to promote business opportunities and meet the demands of agriculture precision, and provide emergency aid during disasters such as wildfires and tornadoes.

Mike Beam, secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said appreciation for the value of native grasslands and the role livestock play in sustaining those resources is growing. At the same time, he said, the beef industry was facing rising fuel and feed costs as well as broader supply chain issues.

Lack of rain in parts of the state, particularly southwestern Kansas, remained a concern for growers who needed moisture to generate the grasses needed by cattle herds, he said. .

“What worries me? Are we in a 2012 drought? said Beam. “If that’s the case, these pastures aren’t going to hold up. It’s a joker.

Cattle rancher Angus Jan Lyons, the first female president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said she was proud of her multi-generational business because it was environmentally friendly and produced high-quality beef.  (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Manhattan-area cattle rancher Jan Lyons, the first female president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said she was proud of her multi-generational business because the Flint Hills operation was environmentally sustainable and produced cattle and high quality beef. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Lyons, who has operated the multi-generational ranch for decades, said his view of the prairies was among potential targets of eminent domain in the 1980s by the US military. The Department of Defense speculated that an additional 100,000 acres of central Kansas property was needed to expand space for military training exercises at Fort Riley.

A political and economic coalition known as Preserve the Flint Hills has been formed to push back against the military’s proposal, she said. Area farmers and ranchers participated along with American senses Nancy Kassebaum and Robert Dole, and the Department of Defense eventually shelved the plan.

“It was good to get together,” Lyons said. “As I’ve learned over the years, that’s how we get things done.”

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