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Agriculture and infrastucture
Dr. Victor Martin

As of Aug. 17 much of the North Central part of Kansas saw the abnormally dry to moderate drought area expand with northeast Barton County falling seeing a slight expansion of moderate drought. The recent scattered rains will be reflected in this week’s report. Northwest Kansas is essentially unchanged and ranges from abnormally dry to a small area of severe drought. The six to ten-day outlook (Aug. 25 to 29) indicates above normal temperatures and normal to slightly above normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (Aug. 27 to Sept. 2) actually indicates more of the same with intensifying heat normal to below normal rainfall. These conditions should speed up corn grain maturation. Dryland soybean yields will likely suffer without significant rains. Much of the grain sorghum is further along and can better handle these conditions than soybeans.

One of the hot button issues in Washington today is infrastructure. This is normally an area that both parties are able to come together on, especially as any politician loves to tout things brought to their state or district. Today’s Congress is a bit different as they agree, sort of, on infrastructure but a chasm exits on what infrastructure is. Today, let’s discuss what this means for agriculture, especially in rural areas like Barton County. However, this isn’t meant to be a political discussion.

We have a commercial agriculture system which means agriculture products are often produced far from where they are needed. This needs a transportation system to quickly and safely move product from farms to elevators, packers, and processors. Today, this is mostly by truck.  Surveys of our road infrastructure indicates significant deterioration of our roads and bridges nationwide. And this isn’t just on highways and interstates but also county and township roads. The unsafe conditions of local roads and bridges is a constant topic of concern for County and Township boards. There are frequent stories concerning local bridges that have collapsed or had to be closed as unsafe. Even many safe bridges aren’t built for the heavy loads now common transporting ag products. Then there is the rail system. While a much smaller sector than trucking it’s significant. Not just mainlines but also short line rail. Think the Bartlett Elevator in Barton County. There was good news this past week as the state announced five million dollars in funding to address some short line improvements. And add in here that we have a severe shortage of commercial drivers.

The part that is causing conflict in Congress is what is termed “soft” or human infrastructure. Newly released census data shows a continued decrease in the population of rural Kansas. Studies are indicating some of the reasons why. Among them are lack of broadband internet access, which both sides agree on, lack of adequate healthcare, mental healthcare and affordable, decent housing, educational opportunities and a lack of quality childcare among other items. Ask anyone in rural Kansas looking to find employees and they are having trouble, lots of trouble. The population base doesn’t exist to fill jobs and they have trouble recruiting people from outside for the previously cited reasons. Without this human infrastructure, there isn’t a need for the other items.  

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207, or