Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback today led state and local officials on the first leg of a statewide tour to view damage from worsening drought conditions along the Smoky Hill River in Saline County.
"The drought continues to decrease streamflow in the Smoky Hill River and below Kanopolis Reservoir, affecting both agriculture and public water supply," Brownback said. "I applaud the efforts of local stakeholders who are working together to share the shortened supply to meet their respective demands."
Those joining the Governor included Kansas Water Director Tracy Streeter, State Rep. Steve Johnson, Kansas Water Commissioner Scott Ross, Kansas Farm Bureau President Steve Baccus as well as area farmers and surface irrigators Tom Toll, Brad Shogren, and Karl Esping.
The tour's first stop on a farm run by Rep. Johnson and located east of Assaria, gave the group an up-close view of the early impacts of the drought on a soybean crop. They discussed the challenges of meeting water needs for multiple crops with varying growth stages while keeping a focus on responsible use and conservation of our state's water resources.
For example, a larger portion of water is currently devoted to the maturing corn crop. However, the local farmers noted that as the soybeans move into the next stage of growth, more water will be needed to improve soybean production.
"The impacts of the drought are obvious by looking at river levels and soil conditions," Streeter said. "All 105 counties in Kansas are experiencing some stage of drought right now, and the state will work with the federal government and the affected communities to help mitigate the damage."
At the second stop on the tour, the group met with City of Salina Director of Utilities Martha Tasker and viewed the low levels of the Smoky Hill River. Despite much lower water levels in past years, the farmers in the area fear the drought is continuing to get worse.
"After driving across the state and talking to Kansas farmers and ranchers, it is clear the drought is having devastating impacts statewide. As producers continue coping with this drought, it is imperative that they have all the resources they need. The Department of Agriculture will continue working with our partners on the state and federal levels and with agricultural producers to assure drought assistance and response delivery is as efficient and effective as possible," Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman said.
The tour of the Smoky Hill River is part of a statewide tour of drought damage. r Brownback also will make stops in Allen and Neosho Counties on Wednesday as well as stops in the northwestern part of the state next week.