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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Ag chief urges vision in recharging rural Kansas

March 31, 2004

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Good plans and great attitudes are in Adrian Polansky's recipe to rescue rural Kansas from the scourge of out-migration and down times in agriculture.

The Kansas Secretary of Agriculture and Belleville-area farmer told a Salina audience Monday that it would take "active, involved people" putting a number of ideas to work to save rural areas.

"We've talked about a lot of different programs," he said. "I don't think we've spent a lot of time on a vision for rural communities."

Polansky's audience included 125 farmers and agribusiness persons.

While no plan will work for every small Kansas town, change is inevitable everywhere, Polansky said.

Adapting to change, he noted, is essential.

During his short presentation, Polansky focused on small-town successes, such as furniture-maker Dessin-Fournir in Plainville, which employs more than 100 people and markets around the world. Brush Art advertising agency in Downs, with more than 20 workers, has heavy-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar on its client list. There are opportunities out there that are packed with potential, he said, mentioning agri-tourism -- specifically hunting and fishing.

Bio fuels is a growth area in value-added agriculture, he said. But while Kansas' market share in ethanol has risen from 2 percent to 4 percent. Nebraska has snared more than 40 percent of the ethanol market.

The number of vineyards has grown in Missouri and Oklahoma in recent years, he said, but Kansas' growth in that area has stagnated.

"I'm convinced there are no one-size-fits-all solutions," Polansky said, "but I'm confident we can find ways to be successful in Kansas."

He touted Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' 43-member Rural Life Task Force, which is exploring ways to revitalize small communities in the state.

Dane Britton, who works for A.G. Edwards & Sons, said Kansas could be in the position to cash in on plastics that are made from grains when the industry moves away from petroleum-based plastics.

There are positives out there, Polansky said, and they should be celebrated.

"We've got to start talking more about successes," he said. "We talk about the negatives so much of the time."

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