The Kansas Livestock Association, a nonprofit organization funded by membership dues, owns a business that provides environmental services to farmers and livestock producers. It is a for-profit business not funded by KLA dues.
Derek Belton of Tampa is the Compliance Technology Manager for the company. The 2003 graduate of Centre High School earned a degree in agriculture technology and a minor in agronomy in 2007 from Kansas State University.
Belton began working for KLA Environmental Services in the fall of 2007. As an engineer technician, he used global-positioning satellite technology to help farmers map their cattle-feeding operations. He also designed feedyard and watershed ponds.
Belton now helps producers develop nutrient management plans, something that is required by the federal government for all farmers who have feedyards of 1,000 head or more.
The purpose of nutrient management, he said, is to control the amount of nitrates in run-off into lakes and streams. Part of his job is to evaluate the manure that accumulates in the feedyard and determine how much can be applied per acre on fields.
Belton also installs variable rate controls on irrigation systems, which allows farmers to vary the rate of application in certain areas. Nozzles can be installed to control spray.
“The main concern is to have the correct setback from a stream,” Belton said.
“We fill the gap between the regulations and the producers,” he added. “We are there to serve the producers and help them understand the regulations.”
The company has offices in Salina and Scott City and has 12 employees. Belton’s job takes him to all corners of the state and sometimes across state lines.
Belton recently passed an exam to become a certified crop adviser and a member of the American Society of Agronomy.
However, his real dream is to farm full-time. One of the reasons he took the KLA job was because it allowed him to live close to home. His office is in Salina, but, living in Tampa, he is able to spend evenings and weekends on the farm.
He and his father, Ed Belton, operate a diversified farm that includes a cow-calf operation. Derek owns 40 of the 85-head cowherd. The two men own equipment together.
Two years ago, Belton bought a quarter of land (160 acres) that is adjacent to his father’s farm. It has special meaning for him because it was the 1871 homestead of his great-great-grandparents, Richard and Catherine Belton. His parents live on a farmstead developed by his great-grandfather and passed down to succeeding generations. Belton is the fifth generation to farm the land.
He rented another quarter of land last fall and recently purchased a 16-acre Scully lease.
Belton said his job has allowed him to accumulate this additional land, bringing the total farm size to 1,800 acres.
With the growth of the farm, Belton and his father expect to increase their investments in equipment with global positioning satellite technology. The increased acreage also makes it a strong possibility that he will be able to return to full-time farming soon.
“The job has allowed me to accomplish some of the goals I had,” Belton said.
Perhaps the greatest benefit his job has given him is that he met a young lady at the company who has promised to become his wife. He will be married in October.