Tag Archives: Kansas

Wheat buyers from Morocco and Tunisia got an up close look at the intricacies and reliability of the U.S. grain infrastructure during the April 12-19 Cochran Fellowship Program’s experience in Kansas and Texas. Morocco and Tunisia are part of the Middle East-East and North Africa (MEENA) region which has the largest volume of wheat imports from all origins. While market share in the MEENA region has fallen, there are several expanding end use market segments that hold promise for U.S. wheat. These niche products include specialty artisan and frozen doughs and pre-mixes, pasta from non-durum flour, and growing biscuit, cracker and confectionary products. These products need the high or low protein (depending on the product) wheat with the high quality traits that American wheat is known for.

“While it’s unfortunate that U.S. market share in the MEENA region has dropped due to increased competition, there are some real opportunities for us in those specialty products,” said Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations for Kansas Wheat. “The U.S. wheat industry has to remain visible to those buyers in order to capitalize on these emerging opportunities, and bringing the Cochran Fellows to Kansas is a great way to do that.”

 

Kansas was the first leg for the Cochran Fellows team. During their first day in the state, the participants visited the research space at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, received an overview of the U.S. grain handling infrastructure and grain quality assessment at the IGP Institute, toured the Kansas State University Hal Ross Flour Mill and the OH Kruse Feed Mill and ended their day at the Anderes farm near Junction City. The next day participants visited the Cargill Shuttle Train Loader near Topeka and the Federal Grain Inspection Service Technical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

 

Morocco and Tunisia’s sub-region relies heavily on grain imports with bread and durum wheat as the most prominent imported cereals. These countries imported 17.35 MMT wheat of all origins in MY16/17, and 1.6 MMT of US wheat in MY16/17, 85% of which was HRW and 14.3% was durum. Morocco does buy smaller quantities of hard red spring, but mostly relies on hard red winter wheat to fill the shortage of domestic or EU production. Tunisia mostly buys U.S. durum.

 

Team participants also visited Houston, Texas. While there, the Cochran fellows experienced Port Houston up close and personal with a Sam Houston Boat Tour along the Houston Ship Channel. This unique opportunity helped buyers to visualize international cargo vessels and operation at the port’s Turning Basin Terminal. Next the Cochran fellows visited the Lansing Terminal to get a full-fledged field-to-vessel look at the country’s wheat industry.

 

“The members of this group of Cochran Fellows were engaged and excited about the U.S. wheat industry,” said Harries. “It’s experiences like these that help to build, or solidify, trading relationships with our export markets.”

 

The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets, and emerging democracies. Approximately 600 Cochran fellows come to the United States each year to work with U.S. universities, government agencies, and private companies. They receive hands-on training to enhance their technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing. Since the program’s inception there have been more than 18,000 total fellows from 126 participating countries.

TOPEKA, Kan. — At its 123rd annual meeting in Wichita, Kansas Grain and Feed Association (KGFA) chose Deb Miller, general manager of Stockton Farmers Union Mercantile and Shipping Association, as its first-ever chairwoman. Miller was chosen by the association’s 16-member board of directors to serve her two-year term leading the association through April of 2021.

“It’s such an honor to be chosen as the first chairwoman of this storied association,” Miller said. “As an industry, we’ve had many trials and tribulations, but we’ve always persevered, adapted and succeeded. We’ve done pretty well in the last 123 years, and we’re just getting started.”

Miller is the 90th industry leader to be picked into KGFA’s pinnacle role after previously serving three terms on the board of directors beginning in 2011.

“Throughout her career, Deb Miller has been an unmatched leader and innovator in the grain industry,” KGFA president and CEO Ron Seeber said. “We are honored to have her at the helm.”

KGFA members also picked Bob Tempel (WindRiver Grain LLC, Garden City) as vice chairman, Brent Emch (Cargill, Inc., Olathe) as second vice chairman and Troy Presley (CoMark Equity Alliance, Cheney), Devin Schierling (Team Marketing Alliance, Moundridge) and Allen Williams (ADM Grain Co., Overland Park) as board members.

During its 123rd annual gathering at the DoubleTree Airport hotel on Monday and Tuesday, nearly 230 KGFA members enjoyed networking and educational activities. Members heard a keynote address from Dan Oblinger, a hostage negotiator on how improved listening techniques and skills will enhance leadership qualities in the workplace and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle provided an update on the Kansas political landscape after the legislature’s first adjournment last week.

The USDA’s Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is accepting applications for grants to fund projects that could stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies until June 14, 2019.

“For fiscal year 2019, a total of $400,000 is available for the State CIG in Kansas,” said Karen A. Woodrich, Kansas State Conservationist. She added that individual grants up to $75,000 can be used to fund projects lasting one to three years.

Woodrich said there are six priority projects for 2019: Data Analytics for Natural Resources Conservation; Precision Conservation Approaches; Grazing Lands (Invasive Species); Soil Quality/Soil Health; Water Quality and Quantity; and Wildlife (Pollinator Conservation).

Eligible applicants include nongovernmental entities, State and local government units, individuals, and American Indian tribes.

The complete 2019 Kansas CIG Request for Applications can be found at www.grants.gov.

Against the hum of backhoes and bulldozers, a fortress of concrete and steel buildings gradually rises on the north end of Kansas State University’s campus.

The top-level federal biocontainment laboratory is designed to study the most infectious, exotic animal diseases — lethal to humans and capable of crippling the country’s livestock. They could hitch a ride from animal to animal or human to human. Hostile nations might even use the diseases to trigger mass chaos and possibly upend the U.S. food supply chain.

But, right now, there aren’t any animals around here. Just the construction site, a self-contained utility plant and a bunch of trailers belonging to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and McCarthy-Mortenson Joint Venture, a contractor that’s building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

“NBAF is on schedule, on time and on budget,” said Tim Barr, who’s the on-site DHS project manager, and a native of McPherson, Kansas.

Well, not exactly. There’s at least three years to go before NBAF even opens; it was supposed to in 2018. The $1.25 billion project has overrun its initial cost by hundreds of millions of dollars, partly due to needing stronger walls and barriers to prevent diseases from escaping. This is Tornado Alley, after all.

Funding and safety aside, NBAF had the backing of an influential congressman from Kansas, as well as others who saw the facility as an anchor for the area’s animal health corridor and for the regional economy.

Kansas won the project in 2009 after a fierce nationwide competition against five other locations, Harvest Public Media reported. It didn’t take long for one of the losing competitors, a Texas consortium, to sue Homeland Security, claiming the decision was political and ignored the risk of those tornadoes.

The suit was later dismissed by a federal judge, but there’s no question Kansas had a man in its corner. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts had been shepherding NBAF toward the state ever since DHS was created in the wake of Sept. 11, and on through 2004, when then-President George W. Bush issued a directive about needing to protect against a terrorist attack on the nation’s food supply.

“All you do is put a handkerchief under the nose of a diseased animal in Afghanistan, put it in a Ziploc bag, come to the U.S. and drop it in a feed yard in Dodge City. Bingo! You’ve got a problem that could endanger our entire livestock herd,” Roberts said in a 2006 interview with KCUR.

Even now, Roberts, who has chaired both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, said the threat remains as urgent as ever, even if al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have all but disappeared from the headlines.

“It’s got super bipartisan support,” said Roberts, who noted that his recent decision to retire after his term is up in 2020 won’t affect the project or its funding. “And even though we’re not hearing anything about terrorism, it’s still front and center of our security concerns.”

Those security concerns were top-of-mind after a 2010 congressionally mandated review of the risk assessment stunned local and scientific communities.

Ronald Atlas chaired the National Academy of Sciences committee tasked with that work. He said at the time that there was a 70% chance over 50 years that foot-and-mouth disease would escape from NBAF. He estimated that would cause “$9 (billion) to $50 billion” worth of damage.

In response, DHS fortified the concrete walls and steel barriers in its plan. That, plus other extra measures, drove up the original price to more than $1 billion, but reduced to less than 1% the risk of a disease getting out and infecting either humans or the 6 million head of cattle in the state of Kansas.

An updated 2012 report, which cited the unavoidable risk of a release due to simple human error (e.g. a microbe escaping on the sole of a researcher’s shoe), was still criticized by the National Academies of Sciences as politically biased and methodologically flawed.

But financially, and from a federal standpoint, NBAF was a go. Kansas even kicked in more than $300 million, thanks to Sam Brownback, who was an early supporter when he was in the U.S. Senate and later as governor.

There’s always a question of what a given White House occupant prioritizes. In perhaps another sign the government is worrying less about what was once considered a major threat, future funding for the lab won’t be Homeland Security’s problem.

The Trump administration decided to move oversight of NBAF to the U.S. Department of Agriculture once construction is complete; the proposed 2019-20 fiscal year budget eliminated DHS’ ongoing operational funds for NBAF and added them to the budget of USDA.

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, an NBAF supporter from the start, worried that moving control to the USDA could jeopardize future funding.

“Crop insurance, food stamps always get the focus,” Carlin said. “And whether the operating money for NBAF would be a high enough priority that would always be funded, that remains to be seen.”

In addition, scientists who oversee regulation of biocontainment labs say federal commissioning, which involves an external review of processes and procedures before a biocontainment lab can be certified as secure, typically leads to cost overruns. But K-State veterinarian Marty Vanier, the government’s contracted liaison between NBAF and the Manhattan community, brushed off those worries.

“We’ve got a team, not only the design team but also folks that are part of the program office in the project who’ve been thinking about those kinds of details and working on those details for years,” she said in the lobby of the Kansas State University Foundation, just around the corner from NBAF site.

When pressed, she added that “we’re not planning” cost overruns.

Biocontainment labs of NBAF’s size and importance are astronomically expensive to maintain once in operation. Already, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking Congress for $400 million to replace a 14-year-old facility where scientists study Ebola and emerging flu strains. It was supposed to last 50 years.

“(NBAF) is going to get built,” said former USDA chief scientist Brad Fenwick, who helped define the United States’ biosafety response to Sept. 11. “Now the question is just how costly is it to certify to maintain and the research to be conducted in it, (is it) actually a priority?”

“Would it be our first choice as opposed to doing other types of research that (might be more) important to agriculture?”

In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease rapidly spread through the United Kingdom. The highly infectious disease causes cattle, pigs, goats and sheep to get high fevers and painful blisters in their mouths and on their feet. It’s often fatal.

UK officials had to take drastic measures. Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Canceled. Rugby matches? Canceled. Transportation of livestock? Cut off. More than 6 million animals had to be slaughtered, too.

All told, the outbreak lasted more than six months and cost the UK economy between $10 billion and $15 billion.

Researchers in the United States point to that outbreak as a reminder of how devastating an animal disease can be. It’s also partly why some experts argued for, and continue to support, NBAF. When it’s open, it will dramatically increase the number of state-of-the-art labs available to researchers and enhance their ability to develop detection tools and vaccines for deadly diseases such as foot-and-mouth, African swine fever and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a federal research lab on an island off the coast of New York state, is the only place in the United States where scientists are allowed to research live foot-and-mouth disease viruses. Their main mission: prevent it from coming to the U.S. by controlling and checking trade, and if that happens, quickly stop it from spreading.

“With current trade and illegal movement of animals, or even people, around the world, the probabilities of foot-and mouth disease entering a free country have increased,” said Luis Rodriguez, Plum Island’s director of foreign animal disease research. “And will probably continue to increase over time.”

But it’s an aging facility, open since 1954, and will be replaced by NBAF, with pretty much everyone from New York relocating to Manhattan. NBAF is the new Plum Island, and then some.

It’s a decision that didn’t make much sense to Nancy Connell, the senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who’s supervised high-level security labs for 25 years at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

She has been a part of the review process overseeing certification of biocontainment labs around the U.S., and was part of the expert committee that evaluated NBAF ahead of construction.

“I remember being disappointed that they couldn’t figure out a way to rebuild Plum (Island) and keep this kind of work … off the mainland,” she said. “Why, if so much money was going to be spent on a new laboratory, why that money couldn’t be spent on upgrading Plum?”

What really worried her was NBAF’s actual location, right in the middle of the mainland, in a state where, as one Kansas rancher described it, cattle outnumber people 2 to 1.

It’s a valid concern, especially because Plum Island hasn’t had a perfect record of containing foot-and-mouth disease. Since 1978, there have been three incidents of it spreading to animals and places it wasn’t supposed to. Two of those were in 2004, and in both instances, animals inside of the secure biocontainment area were found to be infected with the disease. It illustrates how easily it can spread because of human error.

The U.S. mainland already has more than 1,000 biosafety level-3 research labs (BSL-3) used to study dangerous diseases, including 14 at K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute. BSL-3 labs are some of the most secure around, specifically designed to contain the potentially deadly diseases and viruses.

To get inside, a researcher must start in a small locker room, where street clothes are removed and replaced with scrubs. A researcher then must put on a disposable gown and two sets of gloves before moving to the next room. Here, if required, the researcher gets into either a full-body hazardous-materials suit or a mask with a respirator that blows air down and over the face.

Only then can a researcher enter the lab, where air flows in from the outside to ensure any airborne diseases inside the lab stay there.

“We all live here, too, and we care probably more than anybody else about this stuff getting out,” Biosecurity Research Institute officer Julie Johnson said. “Because we’re more likely to be directly exposed if something bad happens.”

The BRI was completed in 2008 and its scientists work on diseases such as African swine fever and Rift Valley fever — two infectious diseases on NBAF’s priority list. But the BRI and other facilities can’t develop and test potential vaccines on dozens of animals at a time.

“We can do a lot of the research but not at that sort of scale,” BRI Director Stephen Higgs said. “Especially with foot-and-mouth disease, which, again, is very complicated. There are multiple different types, and you need that capacity.”

Of the thousands of BSL-3 labs in the U.S., most are only capable of studying small animals, such as mice and bats. That’s true of the BRI, too, where only five labs are capable of handling large animals like cattle or swine. But NBAF’s massive scale will provide space for 46 labs big enough for that type of livestock.

NBAF also will have the holy grail of livestock research labs: BSL-4. Only Canada, Australia and Germany have them. BSL-4 labs are where scientists can study highly contagious, airborne, zoonotic diseases — diseases that can pass between humans and animals — that have no known vaccination or treatment. In starker terms, they’re killers.

Currently, coordinating with the other BSL-4 labs can take months, even years, according to Jurgen Richt, a K-State researcher who specializes in zoonotic diseases.

“So if we have an emergency . we have to ask other countries to help us to work in these environments,” he said. “I don’t think this is feasible.”

Plus, most researchers say emerging diseases that’ll kill humans, like MERS or Nipah (which is transmitted through infected bats or pigs, or through another infected person), have origins in large animals. That’s why it’s critical to have BSL-4 labs in the U.S.

“You just can’t study pigs under the proper setting anywhere in the United States in any laboratory,” said Washington State University professor Terry McElwain, who led the 2012 study by the National Academies of Sciences looking at potential alternatives to NBAF. “It has to be very specific conditions.”

The bottom line: Plum Island and other research facilities across the U.S. are inadequate when faced with the increasing threat of a severe disease outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth disease or African swine fever, which over the last several months in China has led to the culling of almost 1 million pigs.

“(Foot-and-mouth) still remains one of the biggest threats to animal agriculture in the United States,” McElwain said. “And it’s not the only one.”

Drivers sometimes slow down to gawk at the massive biocontainment lab rising up at Denison and Kimball streets in Manhattan. The towering cranes and battalion of trucks cut an impressive silhouette on the hill. It’s safe to say many in this college community of 53,000 are excited by NBAF’s promise of prestige and jobs, an estimated 2,600-plus in the lab’s first 25 years.

But looming in others’ minds is fear that one of the contagious or deadly pathogens could escape — say on a football Saturday in the fall, when tens of thousands of people pack nearby Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Even after all of these years of planning and construction, critics say that health officials, law enforcement and government officials aren’t as prepared as they should be.

For example, once NBAF opens, only one infectious disease doctor will visit Manhattan’s Ascension Via Christie hospital once a week from Wichita, about two and a half hours away. Ascension Via Christie is the city’s main hospital, and has just 12 isolation rooms to hold patients who are exposed to an infectious disease.

The rooms, outfitted with specialized air filters to protect pathogenic microbes from escaping, are for “anybody with a contaminant that is airborne,” said Carolyn Koehn, the hospital’s regional director of safety and emergency response. “Right now, our primary use would be if we had a patient come in” with tuberculosis.

And NBAF researchers will study far more exotic — and toxic — diseases than TB.

Carrying a 4-inch-thick binder of emergency response strategies, Koehn said she isn’t worried. Long before Kansas was awarded NBAF, the hospital had been rehearsing coordinated exercises with local and state emergency responders.

“I have a lot of confidence in our emergency operations plan,” she said. “If we’re able to respond well to an infectious disease outbreak, we’d be able to respond very well to something at NBAF.”

An escaped virus won’t just be the hospital’s problem. Another of the first responders is likely to be the Riley County Police Department.

Chief Dennis P. Butler said his department has the highest emergency response certification of any law enforcement agency in the state, as well as having a detective on staff who is a liaison to Homeland Security and a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Butler said he’s been thoroughly briefed on NBAF, and after an exhaustive tour that he can’t talk much about due to security restrictions, he’s confident that the facility is secure.

“I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “The closest thing I can (compare) this facility to was when I took a tour of a nuclear power plant.”

Just behind NBAF, there’s a wheat-colored building that houses the Kansas Department of Agriculture. That’s intentional: As part of the preparation for NBAF, Brownback moved the agency from the capital city of Topeka to Manhattan.

Justin Smith, the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian, said having NBAF across the street is a plus.

“(It) brings in a tremendous intellectual knowledge right out our back door as well as allowing us our response time. We’re gonna be able to walk across the parking lot and hand them samples rather than put them on a plane and ship them to Plum Island, New York,” Smith said.

The state’s ag department also takes part in statewide simulations of how to respond to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, even involving cowboys and feed-truck drivers.

It’s important not to be alarmist, said Dr. Ali Kahn, who helped establish the bioterrorism program at the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention in 1999. Still, he said, city and state officials need to make sure communities know the protocol in the event of a disease release.

“Have you made sure the individuals in the community understand what the risks are, what the pathogens are and what they should worry about if they get sick?” he said. “(Have you) had a good set of conversations with physicians and health care practitioners so you have early signals if something does happen?”

“If (NBAF officials) haven’t, then that’s not a good practice,” he added.

There’s been a small but vocal group of opponents asking the same questions as Kahn ever since the government awarded NBAF to Kansas. This loose coalition of researchers, citizens and ranchers has dwindled in an almost inverse pattern to the tangible lab.

Biologist Bill Dorsett and entomologist Sylvia Beeman were among the most active of the opposition coalition but are now resigned to living in NBAF’s shadow. Beeman wondered whether she could have had an impact if she’d only worked harder.

Dorsett believed they never had a chance, not against the twin juggernauts of government and the livestock industry: “We were pebbles in the path. We weren’t speed bumps.”

Donn Teske’s deeply ingrained in that livestock industry, raising 100 Angus cattle in Pottawatomie County, about 35 miles from Manhattan. He’s also the vice president of the National Farmers Union, an organization that pushes for environment-focused policies and often holds opposing positions to the American Farm Bureau’s more conservative views.

Teske has insisted for years that building a lab to study foot-and-mouth disease in a state where cattle vastly outnumber people is a head-scratcher.

“It just shouldn’t have been built here,” he said. “I knew it would be built with utmost care, but I’m still not convinced there won’t be any escapes. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I suspect it will.”

But as Teske’s cattle huddled against the bitter February wind, he admitted NBAF is benefiting his family in one way — at least before it opens. His 27-year-old son is helping build it.

A group of Australian business and academic leaders visiting Kansas State University on March 28 said they are excited about opportunities for working together with their American counterparts.

Their focus was on agricultural technology, and throughout the day-long meeting with K-State faculty and members of the Kansas agricultural industry, they discovered numerous areas where the two countries could share expertise.

“K-State has a great reputation in a whole lot of areas of agriculture, so it’s great for someone like myself to be here in person to speak with some of the researchers and faculty, understand what they’re working on, understand the potential fit, and the potential to collaborate in the future,” said Liam Ryan, manager of transformational technologies for the Grains Research and Development Corporation, which has its headquarters in Canberra.

The group is on a two-week visit to U.S. companies, beginning mid-March in California’s Silicon Valley. Kansas State is the only university they will visit during their trip.

“On the west coast, they’re learning about the Silicon Valley and the glamor of agricultural technology there, but they have never been to where technology meets the farm,” said Cassandra Keener, the investment director for the Australian Trade and Investment Commission in Chicago, which organized the trip.

“So we brought them to the Midwest where they can learn how technology gets to the farm (in the U.S.), if their technology is usable and how they can get into the supply chain for companies such as Bayer, John Deere and Corteva Agriscience, all of which we are visiting.”

K-State has a history of working with Australian professionals, largely through the Oz to Oz program established more than 15 years ago. Plant pathology professor John Leslie, who helped to organize the March meeting, said agriculture is a natural area for developing partnerships.

“Our university’s strengths match up well with Australia,” Leslie said. “We both have a lot of wheat, a lot of cows, a lot of rural areas and we both have challenges with heat, drought and water.”

He adds: “Our goal is to identify people on the K-State campus who could potentially collaborate with each of these different companies to build our interactions with Australia. It’s really one of the payoffs that’s coming from our Australia initiative because most of these folks have heard of K-State, and they’ve heard of K-State agriculture and extension. They want to know how things that we do might match with what they’re interested in.”

Josh Rowe, the vice president for market development with the Kansas Corn Commission, saw a direct benefit for Kansas agriculture.

“Australians certainly have had similar challenges, whether that be water, marketing, climate, and more,” Rowe said. “This meeting gives us an opportunity to look at how they’ve overcome it and how their industry has risen to meet those challenges.”

As an example, Rob Brooks, general manager for Aware Water in Melbourne, said Australians “grapple with water” just like folks in Kansas do.

“And there is a lot that countries and states can learn from each other around water management and technologies to build sustainability in water, for agriculture and the environment,” he said.

Cameron Leeson is the chief executive officer for Think Robotics, an Australian startup company that is testing the global interest in using robots for many on-farm jobs. He said his company has spent the last six months in China working on prototypes.

“We are very interested in the U.S. market where our prototypes and our production machines might have value here,” Leeson said.

“Ultimately what we are looking at is a labor replacement unit. We hear time and again from farmers that labor is their biggest challenge so we are essentially building our on-demand work force of robots. We are looking at trained machines that can be there when you need them.”

Leeson said he believes the global agricultural industry will be receptive to robots because fewer people are willing to take on farm labor.

“That’s a big problem even for less developed countries where you might naturally assume that cost of labor is not a problem,” Leeson said. “But the access to labor and the skill set is a very big problem for them too. So it very much is a global market.”

Ernie Minton, the interim dean of the College of Agriculture at K-State, says it benefits the university and the state to make international connections.

“We have a global reach, and our interactions with Australia have matured over the last seven or eight years,” he said. “So it makes sense for us to think about things related to innovation and how they ultimately relate to trade and interactions between the two countries.”

When a group of farmers in northwest Kansas decided to voluntarily reduce their use of groundwater, no one really knew how that might affect their profitability.

Five years later, they have an answer.

In what can be considered a win for agriculture, Kansas State University agricultural economist Bill Golden is reporting that when farmers in the Sheridan County No. 6 Local Enhanced Management Area reduced water use by 20 percent, they actually made more money on their crops.

“There’s no two ways about it: What this has shown is that producers can reduce water use; they can slow the decline of the aquifer; and they can do this while making healthy profits,” Golden said.

A LEMA is a producer-driven conservation program in which farmers form a contract with the Kansas Division of Water Resources to voluntarily reduce their use of water. The agreement can be for any amount of time and include whatever goals the farmers want.

In the case of the Sheridan No. 6 LEMA, the farmers decided to reduce water use by 20 percent for five years. That agreement meant that the farmers were agreeing to an allocation of 55 inches of water per acre over a five-year period. In dry years, they might use a little more, or perhaps a little less in years when it rains more.

“What we saw is that they reduced corn acres, and when they did that, they also reduced the amount of water they were using on those corn acres,” said Golden, adding that many farmers instead increased irrigated wheat and grain sorghum acres.

Overall, the LEMA reported a decrease in groundwater use of 23.1 percent. Golden noted that a hydrology study done through the Kansas Geological Survey indicated that the decline rate of the Ogallala Aquifer in the area of the LEMA went from two feet per year to less than a half foot per year.

At the same time, producers reported greater profits due to less inputs and increased management.

“What we are seeing is that producers reduced fertilizer and seeding rates, and they have increased what I will call management,” Golden said. “Increasing management is hard to get a handle on, but when I talk to these guys, what they tell me is, ‘Bill, where we used to water, if we thought the crop needed water, today we look ahead four or five days and we ask is it going to rain or is it not going to rain. If we think it’s going to rain, we don’t water.’”

Producers inside the LEMA reported 4.3 percent more cash flow than their higher-yielding counterparts just outside the LEMA. Complete data is not available for crops other than corn, but Golden suspects that the trend will be very similar.

Another surprise finding – and one that may encourage producers to consider this approach in the future – is that the water that producers save remains available to them later on.

A related hydrology study “has shown that the water that the producers are saving is staying under their property,” Golden said. “And that’s important for producers to realize that whatever they save today, they get to use that water at some point in the future.”

Golden said the study relied on self-reported data from producers. The LEMA was monitored from 2012 through 2017, and the arrangement worked so well that the farmers applied to the Kansas Division of Water Resources to extend the project an additional year.

“That tells you something about how effective the LEMA has been for irrigation conservation and its effects on producer’s economic returns,” Golden said.

Golden’s full report is available online through the K-State Department of Agricultural Economics, located at AgManager.info. The work was completed with assistance of the Kansas Geological Survey and the Kansas Division of Water Resources, in addition to other local partners.

Governor Laura Kelly yesterday toured counties damaged by flooding in Kansas and Nebraska with Maj. General Lee Tafanelli from the Kansas National Guard, Deputy Director Angee Morgan from the Kansas Department of Emergency Management and Acting Director Earl Lewis from the Kansas Water Office. They flew by helicopter to Leavenworth and then up the Missouri River Basin surveying the damage and relief efforts.

Kelly signed an executive order yesterday easing motor carrier regulations to expedite emergency relief and restoration. Last week, the governor issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for several counties affected by flooding. Local, state and federal partners will continue to work together to address the needs of communities and rural areas.

Last week’s bomb cyclone continues to inundate parts of the Midwest with flood waters this week. Following the storm that hit Nebraska the hardest, the flood waters made their way downstream over the weekend to include, Iowa Kansas and Missouri. Multiple levees have been topped or breached, which has swamped farmland and small towns along the Missouri River.

Some areas broke record levels, including those set in the historic floods of 2011 and 1993. The Army Corps of Engineers has reduced water releases from the Gavins Point dam over the weekend, but much of the current problem stems from the saturated Platte River in Nebraska. Still, releases from Gavins Point have been above average since last June, stemming from a wet spring and fall last year. Nearly the entire lower Missouri River, along with the Mississippi River, are included in flood warnings.

Producers are urged to contact their local Farm Service Agency to find information on assistance programs. In addition, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has set up a relief fund and exchange. Details of the fund can be found at www.nefb.org.

KANSAS – For the week ending March 17, 2019, there were 1.0 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 1 short, 56 adequate, and 43 surplus.

Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 short, 70 adequate, and 28 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Winter wheat condition rated 3 percent very poor, 8 poor, 40 fair, 44 good, and 5 excellent.

In the opening paragraph of the FFA Creed there is the line, ” in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.” When E.M. Tiffany wrote those lines, there was no such day as National Ag Day but, National Ag Day 2019 may have merged the day and the meaning behind the line.

Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation declaring it  Ag Week in Nebraska on Wednesday, March 13th. The  Governor signed the proclamation inside the Rural Radio Network Studios in Lexington.

Governor Ricketts and Director of Agriculture Steve Wellman following the signing of the Ag Week proclamation.

Listen to the Governor and Director of Agriculture here: https://post.futurimedia.com/krvnam/playlist/governor-ricketts-declares-ag-week-in-nebraska-6295.html

During the signing, Governor Ricketts urged Ag producers and Nebraska residents to prepare for the impending storm.

Even with meteorologists warning and the Governors urging,  producers could not know the upcoming storm would bring record low pressure. The pressure dropped so fast that it became what is known as a bomb cyclone.  Meteorologists refer to a strengthening low as “bombing” out if its minimum surface pressure drops by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less.  In just 13 hours, a bomb cyclone was seen in the Midwest.  As a result, Pueblo, Colorado had set a low pressure record on Wednesday.

By the morning of Thursday, March 14th, Eastern Colorado, Western Kansas and the Panhandle of Nebraska were under snow and heavy winds with blizzard like conditions. Eastern and Central Nebraska had heavy rains that swelled creeks and rivers. Flooding started to wash over roads and making travel dangerous.

The March 13th storm dropped heavy snow in the Nebraska Panhandle. NRRA Radio Station KNEB stayed on air throughout the storm. (Photo Courtesy of Bill Boyear)

Through all this, Ag producers worked to care for their livestock as best they could.  For numerous ranchers the storm hit during calving season. Susan Littlefield may have captured just how dire the situation was with her radio story, “In Their Own Words.” Littlefield spoke with Brooke Stuhr who ranches near Albion. Stuhr described how her husband worked through the night  and freezing rain to try and scrape pens. He then re-bed them so that the cattle would not be in knee deep in near freezing mud.

Listen to “In Their Own Words” here: http://bit.ly/2TPkGii

Stuhr’s story is similar to many producer’s across Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado who fought near white out conditions, more than a foot of snow, rain,  freezing rain,  and flooding. Ag producers truly struggled even with all their toil to try and prepare livestock and their property. They lost livestock, equipment, feed, and infrastructure like fence. This only marks the beginning as flood water recedes,  and the mud takes its place. Ag producers have a long road ahead. The mud will suck pickups and tractors in. The  mud will also be a harbinger of illness for newborn animals.

Photo: Beth Vavra captures this picture of her husband near Turkey Creek trying to bring cattle in from rising waters.

There are better days ahead though. The increased moisture will help green the grass when the weather warm ups. The silt from floods will deposit needed nutrients into productive bottom ground. The storm may have also showed ag producers how to better prepare and care for livestock in future storms.  It was National Ag Day and Ag producers celebrated by caring for their livestock and land. They knew that better days were ahead because of the current struggles.

For those that want to help those affected by the storm visit http://krvn.com/help-now/  .