Today’s column focuses on two types of drought. The first is the one typically thought of while the second may not immediately pop into your mind unless you are in the middle of it. We normally think lack of precipitation when we hear the term “drought” but a more general definition is “a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired.” First, let’s discuss drought in terms of rainfall.
• The latest drought monitor map overall shows little change for the area over the last month. The area slipped back into a drought over the late fall and winter but it hasn’t intensified. Barton County is split with the northwest half of the county in “Severe Drought” and the southeast is considered “Moderate Drought.” Stafford County is in the moderate range except for the southeast corner which is rated “Abnormally Dry.” Severity increases to “Extreme Drought” for the northwest and southwest corners of the state.
• While not great, compared to a year ago at this time, the state is in much better shape. What is needed now is timely rainfall as wheat is breaking dormancy. And compared to the long-term average wheat is lagging in development. The area needs moderate temperatures (50 to 75 degree Fahrenheit range) coupled with regular rainfall as wheat maximum kernel number is set at jointing which normally would be happening about now. What we really don’t need is an early onset to high summer temperatures.
• For summer row crops, it’s much too early to get excited one way or another. Last year demonstrated the yield potential and flexibility of modern varieties and hybrids. At best there are still several weeks before dryland corn planters would be in the field planting. Now let’s consider the second drought in agriculture. This one is readily apparent to people in the industry and one that could be alleviated by public awareness. This drought over the long-term can have consequences just as negative as a lack of precipitation for this area, the State of Kansas, and the entire country. This drought involves people.
Every level of agriculture from the farm to the largest agribusiness is experiencing “a prolonged or chronic shortage” of workers. The Agriculture Department at Barton is receiving calls almost daily from area farmers and agribusinesses looking for job candidates, preferably with a farm and/or educational background for their operation. Multistate agribusiness concerns are contacting the college and even visiting agriculture classes to recruit employees and interns. One student graduating this spring related he has had nine job interviews so far this semester and several job offers. Students are being courted for internships with a strong possibility of full-time employment after they finish their two-year degrees or certificates. Area farmers are willing to pay students $12 to $15 an hour as summer help.
A previous column addressed this issue but it’s very important to keep reminding everyone of the chronic shortage of people to fill career slots in agriculture. And we all need to nudge the federal government to update their data on job opportunities and income found in agriculture.