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Agriculture – surpluses and shortages
Dr. Victor Martin

The drought monitor shows an expansion of the abnormally dry areas in Western and South Central Kansas, mostly into Northwest Kansas. While not one hundred percent finished, harvest is wrapping up and the promised weather over this coming week should help. Compared to the struggles of other areas of the Midwest and Great Plains, Kansas has fared well in harvesting summer crops and planting the 2020 wheat crop. Now for today’s topic – Surpluses and Shortages.

First, the topic most are aware of in production – surpluses. Even with the challenges of this year, lower yields in many parts of the country for corn and soybeans, and decent U.S. demand, producers are sitting on a surplus relative to overall demand. First, while demand is good in this country, there are hiccups in grain usage for ethanol. Second, the end users of much of our grain, livestock production, have become much more efficient and able to produce their products using less grain and grain by-products. Third and maybe most importantly – we have lost export markets. This is due to several factors. One is the continuing trade war saga. There has been some progress with countries like Japan and South Korea. The USMCA is sitting in Congress and this would help with Mexico and Canada. Unfortunately, we are still waiting on something in writing with China. The other fly in the ointment is competition from other countries – South America for corn and soybeans, Argentina, Russia, and the Ukraine for wheat. Combine competitors with tariffs and we have lost markets we will likely never totally recover.

Shortages are also of concern but it is a shortage of people and training in agriculture. Barton Community College is a part of KACTA. KACTA is an organization of community and four-year colleges with agriculture programs that works together to provide the best short- and long-term educational opportunities for students. At a recent meeting several shortages were discussed. First, the nation is short over 20,000 graduates a year with four-year degrees to work in agriculture. Next, there is an even greater shortage of individual with two-year degrees and certificates to work in various aspects of production agriculture. In addition, the nation faces a chronic shortage of individuals with commercial driver’s licenses and other certifications. As an aside, the nation’s weights and measures industry is severely lacking employees. The last piece of the puzzle is a lack of students, both traditional and nontraditional for certificates, two-year, and four-year degrees. These students and workers simply can’t come from the farming community as there aren’t enough people. They must come from cities and urban areas. Individuals with little or no farming background but who are willing to learn and work. The last shortage is a lack of awareness on the part of the general public of this need and the careers available. And there is a lack of awareness in secondary education of what is out there for their students in career and technical education.  

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