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Colyer Sidesteps Policy Specifics At Kansas Agriculture Summit

Bryan Thompson
Kansas News Service
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer speaks at the Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth. Colyer and Gov. Sam Brownback spoke Thursday at the second annual event in Manhattan.";

Speaking Thursday at the Kansas Governor’s Summit on Agricultural Growth, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer shared stories of his agricultural roots.

He talked about growing up as a fifth-generation Kansan. He told of the hard work he did as a young man in Hays, replacing the stone fence posts on his family’s farm.

What he didn’t talk about were the policies and priorities he would pursue whenGov. Sam Brownback leaves for an ambassador position in President Donald Trump’s administration, making Colyer the state’s chief executive.

Brownback and Colyer both spoke at thesecond annual summit in Manhattan. Brownback drew repeated ovations as he gave an address he referred to as his “swan song.” He is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation as the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom.

Brownback told the audience that Colyer would continue the administration’s agricultural focus as governor.

“He’s going to be a great guy to work with,” Brownback said. “There won’t be any drop of effort or focus on this administration’s part. It will be a continuation. We’re gonna keep going on forward. The baton will be handed off fully and competently, and I think you’re going to continue to see this industry grow.”

Colyer spoke mainly in generalities during his remarks, describing Kansas as the heart of America and saluting the spirit of innovation.

“This is our opportunity to really say, ‘Where are we going to be in the next few years?’ and the ag community of Kansas is really leading that,” he said. “This is the key economic driver. It is the key thing that is our kids’ future.”

Colyer pledged to listen to Kansans, a theme he has repeated since he announced earlier this month his intention torun for a full term as governor.

“We have some tough, tough decisions to make together, but we’re going to do those together, and that’s what’s so exciting about Kansans,” he said. “Whether it’s sharing water, or it is an ag summit, or it is making sure that we have great schools across the state, we’re willing to do that.”

Speaking later with reporters, Colyer didn’t expand on his priorities for agriculture.

“We’ve got great things happening in the ag sector that we can really build over the next few years,” he said. “What is exciting today is having the ag growth summit gives us a place so we have a plan. Where are we going to be over the next four or five years? How do we have a real action plan that’s created by Kansans? I’m very excited about what we’re doing.”

“We have some tough, tough decisions to make together, but we’re going to do those together, and that’s what’s so exciting about Kansans.” — Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer

When asked for specific policies and priorities, Colyer talked again about listening to Kansans.

“Where we’re going is what I’m focusing on,” he said.

The lack of specifics did not go unnoticed by farmers at the summit. It didn’t seem to bother them, though.

“It’s going to follow pretty well in the footsteps of Sam Brownback,” said Ron Suppes, who grows wheat and sorghum near Dighton in western Kansas. “I think he’s on the right course. He’s had a good mentor there.”

Roger Sewell, who grows cotton and is part-owner of a cotton gin near Pratt, said he hopes Colyer continues work on the50-year water vision that Brownback launched during his first term.

“We’re highly involved in that water vision, and it’s a valuable part of our farm economy in the Pratt area,” he said.

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @KSNewsBryan.