Friday, February 7, 2014

Ag Nuisance?

This past week I was given the opportunity to testify before the Kansas House of Representative Committee on Local Government. It was a fascinating experience, I know, I am strange because I am intrigued by the whole legislative process. It had been some time since I had sat through a legislative committee meeting and my hat is off to those who can do it every day.
The bill I testified against was one that would provide counties with the ability to declare rural areas nuisances, clean them up and charge the land owner for the expense. Sounds pretty straight forward, cities have the power to do so, why shouldn’t counties? After all we have people buying or building their dream houses out in rural areas only to be confronted by so called nuisance properties.
This bill is pretty open ended and included such nuisances as; rank grass, weeds, unsafe buildings, abandoned vehicles and ponds. One of the examples given by proponents of this bill was a farmstead with a rusty stock trailer, flatbed trailer and a scrap metal pile. Now I don’t know about your place but I have a spot that closely resembles this and I have seen many others as I drive around in rural areas.
Most of us do have a “bone yard” with scrap metal, pieces of equipment and vehicles that we use for parts, so this bill hits pretty close to home. I suspect many of us have livestock areas that when in use do not smell very good and at other times maybe grown up in weeds. The smells and the weeds are just part of the natural cycle of what we do. As for the “bone yard”, we are the original recyclers, nothing goes to waste and with the cost of new equipment and repairs, we keep that area out of self defense.
I try to see both sides of any issue, so I put myself in the new rural property owner’s shoes. You have always admired the beauty and tranquility of rural areas. The idea of breathing fresh air in off the porch while you watch the stars twinkle at night with the only sounds being the rustle of the wind and an occasional coyote howling. Why wouldn’t everyone want to live out here in paradise?
Well, maybe you should have looked around a little more and done a little more investigation before you built your dream house on your little slice of heaven. My guess is that the farmer or rancher was there many, many years before you came along. We really don’t mind our neighbors and we want to be friendly but we have to make a living also. The truth is that you have moved right into the middle of our work area.
Contrary to popular belief the life of a farmer or rancher is not always so pristine. Sure we enjoy the beauty of rural America as much as anyone that is why we chose the life we did. However, we understand that at times things may not smell real good, wild animals do not understand no trespassing signs, dust does blow occasionally and not everything looks like a landscape painting. Our ponds may not always have water in them, they might even not smell real good at time, but they do serve a very important purpose.  
I don’t mean to be antagonistic or to pick a fight. We probably ought to look at our homesteads and maybe even do a little cleaning up. However, you must also realize that there are good and logical reasons for what we do. We should probably try to do a better job of explaining and communicating those reasons with you, but remember one important thing. You chose to move here, and we are simply trying to do our job and make a living.
I hope this bill does not become law, it is far too open ended, much too ambiguous and a threat to agriculture as it is written. All of the municipalities who spoke in favor of this bill stated that they would not come after agriculture and I believe them. However, it does erode away our private property rights and leaves the possibility that someone along the line will use it against a farmer or rancher who is just doing their job on their private property. Just keep in mind, the job farmers and ranchers are doing and the nuisances we create all contribute to producing the food you eat.

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