WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The new drought monitor map is out, and conditions have gone from bad to worse — especially out west.
Regardless, the effects of this summer’s extreme drought is being felt across Kansas. Butler County corn farmer Jeff Varner says his estimates from August for his corn crop yield were right on the mark.
“What we thought as far as our corn harvest proved out to be true,” Varner said.
For many South Central Kansas corn farmers like Varner, dryland corn yields are averaging between 30-100 bushels an acre, although the majority of farmers’ yields are closer to the lower end of the spectrum.
“A lot of them didn’t even close to 100 … there were quite a few of our yields that didn’t even reach half of what our yield goal is,” Jeff Seiler, Extension Agriculture Agent with Kansas State University Research & Extension, said.
Varner’s crop yield this year was roughly two-thirds below average — that means local elevators are paying up to double the price per bushel.
“This year, I locked in a contract for plus 80 cents — that is just unheard of,” Varner said.
Higher prices combined with the below-average yield statewide means Kansas’ $75 billion agricultural sector could suffer a huge financial hit.
“We’ll probably do some analysis of that if we can to get a little better handle on it, but billions is, I think, would be accurate,” Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture Mike Beam said.
Southwest Kansas farmer Bill Simshauser says it will most likely take one to two years for crops to recover — adding if severe drought conditions continue, many farmers in the area could go out of business.
“In my area, we’re seeing crop loss bigger than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime — I really believe you’re going to see a lot of farmers not being able to make it,” Simshauser said.
As for Varner, he says his main goal is to ensure crop insurance carries over to the next farm bill.
“If the crop insurance wasn’t available, I, quite honestly, you’d see a mass exodus,” Varner said.
Secretary Beam says as a result of this year’s subpar corn yield, the state could see an increase in more heat-resistant crops in the coming years, specifically wheat. That being said, Varner says because the soil is so dry, he anticipates planting that wheat this year will feel more like dusting it in. The yield of that crop is also anticipated to be subpar.