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March 16, 2018
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Governor Colyer Toured Drought Stricken Areas in Kansas Thursday
TOPEKA, KS - Governor Jeff Colyer along with Secretary of Agriculture Jackie McClaskey and Kansas Water Office Director Tracy Streeter toured parts of southwest Kansas Thursday, March 15, surveying the drought conditions currently affecting the entire state. The Governor made an executive order declaring a state of drought in all the counties in Kansas earlier in the week.
The entire Southwest region is currently experiencing extreme drought conditions.
“Farmers and ranchers have a tough job that becomes even more difficult when dealing with a lack of water,” said Governor Colyer, “It was important to me to take the time to visit some of the areas where the drought is affecting our farmers and ranchers, so I can listen to their concerns, understand what challenges they are facing, and offer support however we can.”
The Governor started the tour at the Clawson Ranch Partnership just west of Meade, Kansas, where David Clawson showed the Governor winter wheat fields that are Struggling to come out of dormancy due to the extreme lack of moisture in the soil.
The next stop on the tour allowed the Governor and all tour participants, including leaders from the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association, to see firsthand examples of technologies, including soil moisture probes that farmers are implementing to better manage their water resources. Across Kansas, farmers are incorporating new technologies and practices, from participating in voluntary Water Conservation Areas to utilizing more efficient irrigation practices, in their crop management plans. These technologies and management practices have enabled farmers to improve water management and conservation practices, which becomes especially important in tough drought years.
“Kansas farmers are implementing proactive water conservation practices, as we saw today,” said Streeter. “These water-saving strategies are important in our efforts to preserve natural resources for future generations, as well as to persevere through drought years.”
The final tour stop was at the Gardiner Angus Ranch near Ashland, which was the site of devastating wildfires that burned more than 650,000 acres in Kansas last March. Rancher Greg Gardiner showed the governor areas of the ranch that burned last year and efforts that continue to rebuild the operation, including rebuilding fences and other infrastructure. Current drought conditions dramatically increase the risk of wildfire disasters, in addition to the direct challenge the drought poses for the survival of crops and livestock.
Earlier this week, Governor Colyer encouraged county Farm Service Agency (FSA) committees to begin the process of requesting access to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying and grazing. The Governor says he is hopeful FSA will grant this request, as accessing CRP will provide additional forage resources and help reduce wildfire fuel load and aid in fire suppression.
“We witnessed some incredible examples of the resilience of the farmers and ranchers of Kansas, and the significant efforts they are making to persist through these times of difficulty,” said McClaskey. “Agriculture is the largest industry in Kansas, accounting for 45 percent of the state’s economy. The impacts of this drought will be felt by every Kansan, and we stand ready to support farmers and ranchers however we can during this drought emergency.”
Governor Colyer’s drought declaration signed by executive order on Tuesday will provide assistance to farmers and ranchers as they cope with the impact the drought will continue to have on crops and livestock. The executive order applied to all 105 counties in the state; at that time 57 counties were in D2 (severe) or D3 (extreme) drought levels. Thursday’s U.S. Drought Monitor brought that number up to 66 counties, with no improvement in conditions in the near future.