September 26, 2018

Statement by Steve Nelson, President, Regarding Signing of KORUS Trade Agreement

Lincoln, Neb. - “The President’s approval of a modernized United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) is welcomed news for Nebraska farmers and ranchers. South Korea has been a tremendous trading partner and consumer of Nebraska beef, pork, corn, soybeans, as well as other agriculture commodities. This agreement eliminates the uncertainties that existed about our ability to access this critical market moving forward.”

“Nebraska Farm Bureau’s own economic analysis* shows the KORUS agreement was worth roughly $340 million to Nebraska agriculture in terms of total exports in 2016. On an individual basis, our analysis shows the KORUS agreement is worth $34.35 per-head to Nebraska beef producers and $11.52 per-head for Nebraska pork producers. The fact this trade agreement will continue is a win for Nebraska agriculture, our farm and ranch families, and Nebraska’s broader economy.”

“Furthermore, we are hopeful the finalization of the KORUS agreement is just the start of more good news for agriculture that would come in the form of the U.S. finalizing an updated NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico as well as the U.S. expanding market opportunities into other countries including the EU, Japan, and other member nations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit

$736,000 Grant Will Help Kansas Expand K-TRACS Drug Monitoring

Kansas City, Kan. - A $736,313 grant from the Department of Justice will help Kansas expand its K-TRACS prescription drug monitoring program, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said today.

The Kansas Board of Pharmacy, which operates K-TRACS, will receive the money. The grant comes from a justice department program aimed at helping law enforcement and public health officials across the nation address prescription drug and opioid misuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 72,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses.

“We are facing the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We’ve never seen anything like it.”

Stephen McAllister, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, said: “Kansans and all Americans need to understand that opioid addiction is a national public health emergency. Tens of thousands of people every year are disappearing into a whirlpool of addiction, bankruptcy, divorce and death.”

The Kansas Board of Pharmacy will use the money to develop a public awareness campaign for K-TRACS, to conduct an audit of K-TRACS records and to hire a special investigator who will use K-TRACS data to identify suspicious and harmful prescribing patterns.

September 25, 2018

Seeking Nominations for Kansas Water Legacy and “Be the Vision”

Professional Abstracts, Student Posters and Photo Contest entries also being sought

Manhattan, Kan. - The Kansas Water Office (KWO) is accepting nominations for the Water Legacy Award as well as the “Be the Vision” to be presented at the Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas November 13-14, 2018 in Manhattan, Kansas.

The Water Legacy Award recipient will be selected based on significant contributions and lasting impacts on the future of water in the state. Past recipients of the award include Wayne Bossert in 2015, Joe Harkins in 2016 and Pat Sauble in 2017.

“Be the Vision” recipients, which can be individuals, municipalities, companies or organizations, will be selected as an entity or individual taking extraordinary measures to conserve, reuse or adopt better practices to help ensure the future of our state’s water resources.

In addition to these awards, professional abstracts, student posters and photo contest entries are being accepted. Each of these will be part of the upcoming conference.

For more information to register for the conference or about each of these nominations and deadlines, please visit

The Governor’s Conference on the Future of Water in Kansas is hosted by the KWO, K-State /Kansas Water Resource Institute. Major sponsors for the event include Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock. 

Judge OKs Class Action In Leavenworth Taping Case That Could Affect 1,000 Attorneys

Attorneys say their privileged meetings and phone calls with clients at the Leavenworth Detention Center were unlawfully recorded.
Leavenworth, Kan. Attorneys alleging their meetings and phone calls with clients at the Leavenworth Detention Center were unlawfully recorded can move forward with a class-action lawsuit, a federal judge ruled last week.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough found that a class action was the best way to proceed because “(i)t would be judicially uneconomical for the Court to entertain hundreds if not thousands of individualized claims” over the same issue.

That issue is whether the private operator of the facility, CoreCivic, and its provider of telephone and recording services, Securus Technologies, unlawfully intercepted privileged attorney-client communications in violation of federal and state wiretap laws and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

“This has always been a real important case to us in terms of the underlying implications of constitutional rights and the American criminal justice system,” said Michael A. Hodgson, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit.

“We took this case because of the nature of the privileged conversations themselves and the importance of the attorney-client relationship,” he added. “So I would say we’re cautiously optimistic and encouraged by the court’s ruling.

We’ve got a long ways to go … but this was a great first step in that process.”

In his ruling, Bough wrote that he "acknowledges the importance of the attorney-client privilege and recognizes the sanctity of what is at stake in the present controversy — public trust in the legal system and the administration of justice."

Hodgson said the class certified by Bough could eventually number as many as 1,000 attorneys. 

The case, which was filed in 2016, is one of two class-action lawsuits spawned by disclosures that privileged attorney-client phone calls and meetings were recorded at the Leavenworth facility. The other case was filed on behalf of detainees and is in the midst of settlement negotiations.  

Both suits, which contend the recordings violated federal and state wiretap laws, have the potential to expose CoreCivic and Securus to millions of dollars in damages.  

A spokeswoman for CoreCivic, the largest private operator of prisons and detention facilities in the United States, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

CoreCivic owns and operates Leavenworth Detention Center, which houses pre-trial detainees and has more than 1,100 beds.

The company insists it did nothing wrong because it says outgoing calls subject to recording were preceded by a pre-recorded message to that effect. But in-person meetings were recorded as well, and neither clients nor their attorneys were warned that those might also be recorded.

The recordings first came to light in a criminal case alleging that guards, inmates and outside parties had smuggled drugs and contraband into the Leavenworth Detention Center.

U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson, who is overseeing that case, appointed a special master – an independent third party – to investigate the extent of the problem and whether the recordings were provided to law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

In court filings, David Johnson, the attorney who filed the class action case on behalf of attorneys who say they were unlawfully recorded, says that data provided by Securus show that nearly 19,000 calls to 567 attorneys on a list compiled by the special master were recorded. And Johnson says that probably understates the number, since calls were also made to attorneys not on the special master’s list.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

Kansas Could Cut Back On Felonies For Property Crimes

A graphic from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows the trend in property crime and larceny in Kansas. The shaded side of the graph shows rates since Kansas raised the bar for getting a theft-related felony in 2004.
A graphic from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows the trend in property crime and larceny in Kansas. The shaded side of the graph shows rates since Kansas raised the bar for getting a theft-related felony in 2004.
Topeka, Kan. - Kansas could end up handing out fewer felonies — and more misdemeanors —  for certain property crimes.

That could mean sending fewer people to state prison, though some might end up in county jail instead.

Until 2016, stealing $1,000 worth of property was the threshold between misdemeanor and felony theft. Then Kansas raised the dividing line to $1,500.

A criminal justice commission looking at prison overcrowding in the state voted this week to ask the Legislature to do the same for a host of other crimes. They include criminal property damage, stealing mislaid property, counterfeiting and Medicaid fraud.

As of August, both the male and female prison populations were above capacity. The proposed changes would free up an estimated four beds a year and spare people a black mark that can make finding work difficult for the rest of their lives, says Scott Schultz, executive director of the Kansas Sentencing Commission.

It can be harder to find employment with a felony record because many employers require disclosure of felonies.

Getting a misdemeanor instead of prison means potential time in county jail, but not state prison. That doesn’t necessarily translate to less incarceration time. In some cases, people could spend more time behind bars in a county jail than they would have in a state prison.

The Kansas Sentencing Commission is making its case for the change based on research from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Pew found dozens of states have made similar changes since 2001. That didn’t lead to more crime. Rather, property crime and larceny rates fell in states that changed their thresholds. It dropped slightly more in states that didn't change, but the difference was statistically insignificant.

Kansas has raised its threshold for felony theft before — in 2004 — and related crime continued to decline, Pew says.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

September 24, 2018

Average Kan. per-gallon price up 4 cents to $2.70; regional refinery maintenance blamed.

Topeka, Kan. - Despite a majority of states across America experiencing falling or flat gas prices, Kansas was part of a regional trend that saw prices at the pump rise over the past week. The average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Kansas rose four cents this week to $2.70. Several Great Lakes and Central states experienced increased gas prices due to shutdowns of a half dozen refineries in the region because of maintenance issues.

“Generally this time of year, we see gas prices that trend downward, and that is the case in much of the country,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “The refinery issues in our part of the country just go to show you that retail fuel prices are always evolving, sometimes impacted by unexpected factors and, overall, hard to predict. Kansas does still fare very well, though, with gas prices 15 cents below the national average and 12th cheapest in the nation.”

Of the 10 Kansas cities regularly highlighted by AAA Kansas (see chart below), seven saw their gas prices increase, led by Salina (+10 cents), Garden City (+6) and Wichita (+5). Hays, Kansas City, Kan. and Lawrence all saw a 1-cent decline at the pumps.

According to AAA Kansas, this week’s Kansas gas price extremes are:
HIGH: Kensington (Smith County) – $3.01
LOW: Newton (Harvey County) – $2.56

National Perspective
Motorists in 32 states are welcoming cheaper or stable gas prices at the start of the workweek. Today’s national gas price average is $2.85, which is the same price as last Monday, one-cent more than last month and 27-cents more expensive than this time last year.

The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) data reports that both U.S. gasoline demand and stocks declined signaling supply and demand are in sync post the summer. This is true for most regions, except in the Great Lakes and Central region where prices are increasing due to maintenance at a handful of refineries.

While the national gas price has remained stable throughout September, the price of crude oil started to increase in the last week.

“Crude oil prices pushed past $70/bbl for three days last week,” said AAA Kansas’ Steward. “If they trend above this level for a sustained amount of time, we could see a national trend reversal in pump prices meaning it may cost more to fill-up as we get closer to the end of the year.”

Today’s national gas price extremes:
High: Hawaii – $3.78
Low: Alabama and Mississippi – $2.53

Gas Price Trends in Select Kansas Cities

Last Week
Last Month
Change Over Last Year
Garden City

Bordering states and rank in lowest gas prices around the country

Current Avg.
Rank Today

Great Lakes and Central States Trends
Unlike most of the country, state gas price averages in the Great Lakes and Central region continue to trend more expensive. States in the region with the largest increase on the week: Kentucky (+6 cents), North Dakota (+5 cents), Indiana (+5 cents), Iowa (+5 cents), Minnesota (+5 cents), Illinois (+4 cents), Nebraska (+4 cents), Wisconsin (+4 cents), and Kansas (+4 cents). There was one outlier, Michigan (-5 cents), the only state to see prices drop in the last seven days.

Overall, the increase in gas prices can be attributed to planned and unplanned maintenance at half a dozen refineries in the region. In fact, total inventory in the Great Lakes and Central region sits at 52.3 million bbl according to the EIA. Despite being on par with levels this time last year, the 52 million mark is one of the lowest levels seen since Memorial Day Weekend this year. The low inventory is a contributing factor for the increasing gas prices.

Despite similar year-over-year inventory levels, some motorists in the region are paying in the neighborhood of 50-cents more to fill up compared to last September: Indiana (+58 cents), Ohio (+53 cents), Illinois (+49 cents) and Michigan (+46 cents).

Oil market dynamics
At the close of Friday’s formal trading session on the NYMEX, the WTI increased 46 cents to settle at $70.78. Oil prices jumped higher last week after EIA's report showed another decline in oil inventories, which now sit at 394.1 million bbl. The supply drop from the previous week's 396.2 million bbl has put another spotlight on limited global supply as fall approaches. U.S.-imposed sanctions on Iran and sharp reductions in economically stressed Venezuela are two factors driving concerns that this fall there could be major global crude supply challenges. If EIA's report this week shows another decrease in domestic crude stocks, oil prices are likely to continue their ascent amid continuing global supply concerns.

In related news, OPEC and its partners who have worked to reduce their combined total crude output since January 2017 met on September 23 in Algiers, Algeria, to discuss compliance with their production agreement. After the meeting, OPEC’s leaders confirmed that the cartel does not intend to increase crude production in the near future to offset global supply concerns.

AAA Mobile App
Motorists can find current gas prices along their route with the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. The app can also be used to map a route, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance. Learn more at

Manufacturing Summit A Huge Success for Manufacturers in Kansas

Topeka, Kan. - More than one hundred manufacturing professionals from across the state came together to hear advice from industry leaders, network, and learn about the newest innovations in Kansas manufacturing at an event held by the Department of Commerce last week.

There were presentations on a wide range of topics all throughout the day. Lectures either involved one speaker or a panel of several experts.

Speakers for the event included several professionals from various sectors of the manufacturing industry. Paul Jonas, Director of Technology Development for National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), gave a presentation on new 3D technology that will impact Kansas manufacturing, including augmented reality, additive manufacturing (commonly referred to as 3D Printing), and robotic automation.

“The Summit was a great success,” Darin Greseth, CEO, President and Chairman for BG Products, Inc., said. “The level of expertise on several unique topics was excellent. 

The information shared inspired each attendee to further evaluate their businesses for future growth, productivity and workforce development.  I look forward to the next Summit for even more insight.”

Later in the day, there was a panel on cyber security. Samuel Alva, Director of Business Development for Tricorps Security, told several stories of ways in which businesses could become compromised. He gave advice on how to keep a company safe, which included knowing your employees, being on the lookout for phishing emails, and even being more careful about where you leave your business cards.

There were several exhibits on display from local Kansas businesses and manufacturing groups, including representatives from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Principal Financial, The Mid-America Manufacturing Technology Center (MAMTC), KANSASWORKS, and Rocking M Media.

The event was made possible by several Kansas businesses who sponsored the event. These include:

Platinum Level Sponsors
•    Cox Communications
•    Kansas Gas Service
•    Koch Industries
•    NextEra Energy
•    Rocking M Media

Gold Level Sponsors
•    AT&T
•    Blue Cross Blue Shield KS
•    BKD
•    Holly Frontier
•    ITC

Silver Level Sponsors
•    Baker Tilly
•    Principal

Additional Info...

Oklahoma Farms Ready for National Alpaca Farm Days

Oklahoma City, Okla. - Oklahoma alpaca farms are opening their gates Sept. 29-30 to welcome visitors for National Alpaca Farm Days.

National Alpaca Farm Days provides people across the U.S. the opportunity to learn about alpacas up-close, tour working farms, learn about the alpaca industry and shop for alpaca products.

John and Sheila Robinson of Land Run Alpacas will join John and Janice Robinson of Just Right Alpacas at Land Run’s farm, 780596 S. Highway 18 in Agra, Oklahoma. Alpacas will be available for petting, feeding and selfies from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sept. 29-30. The farms will also have Made in Oklahoma and U.S.-made alpaca goods for sale at the ranch store.

The Robinsons also plan to take their alpacas to Old Settlers Day in Perkins, Oklahoma from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sept. 29. They will have a limited supply of alpaca goods for sale.

Terri and Kerry Bates of Magnolia Blossom Ranch and Gail Stymerski and Al Boyce of Answered Prayers Alpaca Ranch will welcome Farm Days guests at Magnolia Blossom Ranch, 2901 NW 16th St. in Newcastle, Oklahoma. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sept. 29, they will have food trucks, inflatable activities, an alpaca obstacle course, tours of their small fiber mill, alpaca products for sale and, of course, alpacas. The ranch will also be open from 1 to 4 p.m., Sept. 30 for ranch tours and shopping.

For a complete list of participating farms and ranches or to learn more about the U.S. alpaca industry, visit

Follow Just Right Alpacas, Land Run Alpacas and Magnolia Blossom Ranch on Facebook to learn more.

Can’t make it to National Alpaca Farm Days? Alpaca farms across Oklahoma are open to visitors year-round. Go to to find an alpaca farm near you.

Oklahoma Agritourism is a program of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Oklahoma Agritourism partners with agricultural producers to issue an invitation to sample the abundant bounty and natural beauty found in Oklahoma’s Growing Adventure. Learn more at .

Unwanted Pesticide Disposal Program to be Held in Woodward

Woodward, Okla. - Pesticide applicators and dealers, homeowners, farmers, ranchers and gardeners are invited to participate in an Unwanted Pesticide Disposal Program from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Woodward County Fairgrounds.

Funded by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the program will allow Oklahomans to properly dispose of unwanted pesticides at the event. This valuable service will reduce the complications and costs often associated with pesticide disposal.

Unwanted pesticides are pesticides that are no longer usable for their intended purpose. They may be leftover, without labels and identifying information, or they may no longer be registered in Oklahoma. All pesticides – herbicides, insectisides and fungicides –  will be accepted. No other hazardous waste materials will be accepted.

The Unwanted Pesticide Disposal program has collected over 830,000 pounds of unwanted pesticides since it began in 2006,” said Ryan Williams, ODAFF pesticide certification and training administrator. “This gives companies, homeowners and producers an opportunity to properly dispose of outdated, unwanted and unused pesticides.”

Dealers are asked to pre-register through the OSU Pesticide Safety Education Program to allow the contractor to prepare for large quantities. Others are not required to pre-register for the event.

Participation is free for the first 2,000 pounds of pesticides brought per participant. After this limit is reached, the participant will be responsible for the additional cost of disposal, which will depend on the amount and type of pesticide.

The program is a service designed to remove unusable pesticides from storage and reduce the potential threat to public health and the environment. All participants will remain anonymous and will not be required to provide their names or any details.

“The Unwanted Pesticide Disposal program and its participants play a vital role in protecting our natural resources from improper disposal of pesticides,” Williams said.

Dealers can pre-register at For more information, visit this website or contact Williams at or 405-522-5993.