By John Schlageck, Kansas Farm Bureau
It’s decision making time on farms across Kansas. In approximately two months, the fields will be alive as farmers begin planting next fall’s crops.
In preparation for this upcoming planting season grain farmers need to decide soon which crops they’ll plant, fertility and herbicide programs, plant populations, plant varieties and equally important, how much water they’ll have available to irrigate specific crops.
Another wrench in this production planning involves insurance companies who are hammering out how to implement their irrigated versus dryland policies. At the same time the deadline for sign-ups is fast approaching.
It goes without saying, Kansas crop producers have their plates full trying to make decisions impacting their bottom lines and their future livelihood in the agricultural industry.
Still, some producers like McPherson County farmer/stockman Derek Sawyer took time to travel to the Statehouse to tell this side of the story. Garnering the full attention of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee Sawyer told these legislators just how important the proposed multi-year flex account would benefit his family’s cropping operation.
Sawyer who operates a fourth-generation dry-land and irrigated corn, wheat, soybean and milo farm with wife, Katie, told the legislators, “… it is time for Kansas to look at new ways for producers to more efficiently utilize the natural resources it has available.”
During the extremely dry conditions of 2011, Sawyer enrolled three of his irrigation wells into emergency, two-year drought permits. Without the opportunity to increase his water usage, he would have suffered extreme yield declines or a complete crop failure in the fields serviced by these three wells.
With the specter of another drought looming, the McPherson County irrigator faces the prospects of another dry, hot summer with not enough water for crops he must soon plant.
Sawyer believes the multi-year flex permits will let him better utilize his water resources should another year or two of drought persist on his south-central Kansas farm.
“I will likely take advantage of this multi-year flex proposal on my three wells if it passes,” Sawyer told the House committee. “I will need to know soon, because spring planting season is 60 days away and I have cropping choices, fertilizing and herbicide applications, plant population numbers and plant varieties to decide on.”
All of these decisions will dramatically affect Sawyer’s bottom line. A decrease in production because of a lack of irrigation could decrease his production and have a detrimental impact on his operation.
It appears the voices of Kansas farmers are being heard in Topeka. The Kansas legislature is wasting little time in moving proposed changes in water policy. Let’s hope this important work gets done so this state’s crop producers can continue with their plans and be ready to go this spring when soil temperatures warm up and corn, soybean and milo planting season arrives.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.