Bob Dole and farm challenges were on the itinerary of Gov. Bill Graves' trip Wednesday through the Lawrence area.
Gov. Bill Graves took a day trip Wednesday through the Lawrence area, but the experience wasn't all fun and games.
The governor got a firsthand look at the ups and downs of family farming in Douglas and Jefferson counties during the 21st Annual Governor's and Legislator's Farm and Ranch Field Day.
"This is perfect timing for this day," said Graves, who said he was grateful to get away from scrutiny over whom he would appoint to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bob Dole.
Actually, Graves discussed the issue one-on-one with several reporters and tour participants. But neither he nor Lt. Gov. Sheila Frahm, whom Graves said he would give "first right of refusal" for Dole's seat, announced their intentions.
"Any announcements that'll need to be made, the governor will make them," Frahm said.
Graves and Frahm joined state Cabinet members, legislators and farm officials in the daylong tour. Although yards were neatly trimmed and barns were cleaned, visitors learned that life on the farm had taken on tarnish in Douglas County.
Tour stops included longtime Douglas County hog operations that had gone belly up and a diversified farm that had recently cut back.
"The bank has decided they don't want us to be in the hog business," said Carolyn Wulfkuhle, who along with her husband, Lloyd, runs Lone Pine Farms near Stull.
After more than 30 years in the hog business, the Wulfkuhles learned last week that their banker considered hog farming too high-risk and would no longer extend credit to the family.
"So if you've got a business plan to survive after hogs, what is it?" Graves asked.
The Wulfkuhles will lease the operation to two former employees who have arranged financing from their family. The family also will concentrate more on income supplements, such as seed and pork sales.
Homer Wulfkuhle, who runs a cattle and crop farm southeast of Lloyd and Carolyn Wulfkuhle's farm, told Graves that urbanization of the county was strangling his farm. He said suburban homes had recently been built near his farm, driving up his land value and property taxes.
"My problem here is that my appraisals are higher than what I could sell this place for," he said.
Sue Pine, co-owner of Pine Family Farms, described how poor market prices, bad weather and disease had forced her family out of the once-lucrative potato-growing business. She also said that urban pressure -- Mount Oread is visible from the Pines' headquarters north of Lawrence -- was a looming threat.
"If you start looking at Lawrence and the way it's growing, will we be here five, 10, 15 years from now?" she said.
Wednesday marked the first time that the farm and ranch tour had visited Douglas and Jefferson counties.
Graves said that, during his conversations with local farmers, it was clear that the state needed to work harder to ease concerns about property taxes and over-regulation.
"For me," Graves said, "this is a good eye-opener."