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Top local ag stories 2023 listed
Dr. Victor Martin

As this is written the drought monitor report isn’t available, however, much of our area and the state received very beneficial rains over the last ten days with more forecast for Christmas weekend. Conditions certainly won’t worsen and depending on this weekend’s precipitation may improve. Keep your fingers crossed. The six to ten-day outlook (Dec. 25 to 29) indicates a 40 to 60% chance of leaning above normal for temperatures and a 33 to 40% chance of above normal precipitation. The eight to 14-day outlook (Dec. 27 to Jan. 2) indicates a continued 40 to 50% chance of leaning above normal for temperatures and normal to a 40% chance of below normal precipitation. Certainly, a much wetter holiday season than the last few.

Last week discussed some top national ag stories. This week what are the some of the top stories for Kansas and our area.

• Weather, specifically the drought, would likely make everyone’s number one story. For much of the year, Kansas was the epicenter of extreme and exceptional drought for the lower 48 states. Conditions in much of Western Kansas improved dramatically from mid-summer towards fall and even some in our area. The wheat crop was significantly hurt. The rains did help produce overall better yields for summer crops than 2022. Pastures deteriorated even more though summer rains helped some. Many thinned cattle herds even further and some herds were eliminated. We have transitioned from an extreme La Nina to an El Nino and precipitation patterns have changed for the better.

• Water, specifically groundwater and some reservoirs, is disappearing. Ground water depletion in the Ogallala Aquifer is sounding alarm bells across Western Kansas and in Topeka. This is a major area of concern and interest no only for producers and the legislature but for many communities large and small. Some are taking emergency steps to conserve water. Groundwater Management Districts are tasked with taking steps to improve accountability and conserve. In our immediate area there is the dispute between Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and area irrigators with a temporary pause in litigation while the two sides try to work out a viable plan to supply adequate water to the refuge. Cheyenne Bottoms is also struggling to provide adequate water for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

• Kansas producers are also keenly interested in Congress passing the next Farm Bill. This goes along with climate change concerns and prices. While fuel prices have dropped dramatically and other input prices are better, producers need better commodity prices.

• Our area is involved in the implementation of solar energy in our area. Not just near Cheyenne Bottoms but in Barton and Pawnee Counties.

• A last one that may seem a bit off the wall – quality of life. From Medicaid expansion to broadband access and affordable housing along with a lack of qualified labor, rural areas of Kansas face challenges to improve quality life to maintain and grow rural Kansas.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays.

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