also heard about concerns over unfunded mandates from Graham County
Commissioner Don Scott and about extensive damage caused by a burgeoning
deer herd. The damage, farmers said, is especially significant in
irrigated fields this year because the fields offer a smorgasbord
compared to the dry, dying crops lacking irrigation.
I'm going to sign a disaster declaration for the entire state,"
Brownback told the almost 30 farmers and Hill City residents attending a
luncheon. "I wanted to get out and see what we can do to help out."
was the second leg of a drought tour for the governor, who spent two
days last week touring areas of central and eastern Kansas.
at Cedar Bluff Reservoir, where water levels are about 20 feet below
normal conservation levels, Brownback stopped at WaKeeney to look at
stunted ears of corn, a dry pasture and got an up-close look at a field
of knee-high dryland corn.
He capped the day off with a stop at
Hoxie Feedyard, where he learned about the drought's effect --
especially its financial effect -- on cattle feeding.
Brownback was given a drawing by Molly Foote, feedlot owner Scott Foote's daughter.
grain prices have pushed costs higher, Scott Foote said, who also
oversees Pioneer Feedyard in Oakley and Lane County Feeders outside
It now costs approximately $600 to fatten cattle in the Hoxie lot, "compared to two-thirds of that not long ago," Foote said.
In the 12 years the Foote family has owned the Hoxie feedlot, feeding costs have tripled.
Prices for slaughter-ready cattle have been down in recent days, he said, but there remains hope prices will rise again.
The drought's also forced farmers to liquidate herds, putting even greater numbers in feedlots.
"The drought has brought so many more cattle into the feedlot than what we were planning on," Foote said.
Crop conditions in the Sheridan County area, much of it under irrigation, are markedly better than in Trego County.
said there's "dryland corn around here that has the opportunity to make
some grain. How do they do that other than good management?"
"We need a break," Trego County farmer Glennis Billinger said of the weather.
Darrin Brungardt, whose barren pasture was among the stops, told Brownback he'd soon be selling cattle.
"We need to rebuild the cowherd," Brownback said.
"The ones that I'm going to be selling are the older ones," Brungardt said. "I've got some younger ones coming up."
state Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who ferried Brownback to several
of the stops, it's the economic concerns that worry him.
He said western Kansas has been through good economic times in recent years, primarily as a result of high crop prices.
"This could make the economy very fragile," Ostmeyer said.