Water Discussion with Joe Jury

(Dan) Hi there folks, welcome to AG am in Kansas, I’m Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University and I have a special guest here at the Kansas Farm Bureau, Joe Jury from Ingalls, Kansas. And Ingalls is out in the southwest corner of Kansas and Joe, we’ve been talking about water. And water is a timely issue. (Joe) Yes it is. Very much so. (Dan) Yep. And out in your part of the country we’re at desperate levels. (Joe) We are at desperate levels. The Ogallala is declining; rainfall has been short for the last four years and we’re looking at lots of problems. (Dan) So as we look at some of the issues, can you kind of take me back and walk me through a little bit of the history of the aquifer and things to that nature. (Joe) You bet. You know with the onset of the center pivot irrigation, actually, is the… what kind of started the whole thing. Once the center pivot machine was developed and we could walk over all kinds of terrain, different topography and put water on different areas, rather than just flat fields. Back in the early ’70s they opened up permitting into the Ogallala in western Kansas. And as it was described to me at that point in time when we were applying for our permits, the Ogallala is a giant lake, underground lake. And the individual that we were visiting with at the time we got our permit says now this is a confined aquifer, it’s a giant, underground lake and it doesn’t recharge very fast, if at all. And what will happen as we pull water out of this underground lake is that the guys that are closest to the shore… shoreline of that lake will lose their water first. It will shrink. (Dan) Settles to the deepest spots. (Joe) Settles to the deepest spots. So the guys that are in the deep part of the lake will have water longer and at greater quantities for longer periods of time. So, that is where we’re at. We’ve shrunk that lake and unfortunately my farm is out there on the shore… (Dan) On the edge. (Joe)…on edge now and we’ve lost… we’ve gone from thousand to 1,100 gallon a minute wells, down to 150 gallon a minute wells. (Dan) Oh, my goodness. (Joe) And so we’ve quit pumping on a lot of our acres. We are only pumping on about 20 percent of what we used to pump and put those into dry land and into EQIP program and AWEP programs and other programs. So we’ve actually reduced our pumping just because of the economics first and secondly just because of the quantity that was allowed, or basically that we have available to us. (Dan) So, as this continues, if we don’t have some corrective action it’s just going to continue to go towards the middle. (Joe) It will continue to decline. What happened basically was the aquifer was over appropriated. Now, we can look back and say well we should have been more diligent, we should have restricted that more but at that point in time, with what technology we had and with what we knew about that aquifer you know they felt that it could be sustainable for… sustained over a longer period of time. It’s just that we pumped it out a lot quicker than the Water Resources people thought we would. (Dan) You bet. (Joe) And so in dry years we were allotted 24 acre inches per acre and so that allowed you to basically raise corn. And at that point in time, in the late ’70s early ’80s they called us the new corn belt and we raised corn. And we fed it to cattle and so it was an economic thing. (Dan) You bet. Well let’s take a break and when we come back from the break we’re going to talk a little bit more about some of the corrective actions that are being made to help protect our water out in western Kansas.

(Dan) Hi there folks, welcome back to AG am in Kansas I’m Dr. Dan Thomson and I am joined by Joe Jury from Ingalls, Kansas, and Joe is with the Kansas Farm Bureau. He is also a farmer and rancher out in western Kansas. We’ve been talking about water and one of the questions that seems simple-why don’t we just move the feedlots or move agriculture from western Kansas if there is no water, east. (Joe) Well, first off, I think there’s plenty of water to sustain, you know as far as livestock water goes. We’ve got plenty of water to do that. Where the catch comes is this feed availability, the growing of the corn and things like that. So, as far as consumptive use of the feed yard and the cattle we still have plenty of water for that and for those feed yards. But the other side of it is the physical aspect of the cattle industry, I mean the packing houses have moved. (Dan) Sure. (Joe) We have all the packing industry out there right now. And they basically followed those cattle out there and what brought them out was like I say, the onset of irrigation which gave us corn, feed stuffs out there, but also the climate. You know our humidity if we have 30 percent humidity, that’s high. And normally 10 -20 percent humidity and on a fat animal or on a calf that you’re feeding out that’s weighing 1,200 to 1,400 pounds when you get high temperatures you don’t want high humidities. And so we get 10 percent humidity and that animal will sit out there in an open lot and be comfortable. And so, whereas you move east in fact you just get as far east as Wichita even, those humidities get higher and that just puts a lot of pressure on that animal’s respiratory system and he just can’t get rid of his body heat. (Dan) Being raised in southwest Iowa and then moving and having a veterinary practice in Amarillo, I can tell you the ability just for the night cooling is such a difference and you know, moving those animals moving… the reason those infrastructures are out there is that they’re away from people and they are away from humidity. (Joe) Exactly. And that’s just it. And the climate itself and you know, dry weather basically. I grew up in southeast Iowa and we used to wade those cattle through mud lots and they would be belly deep in mud in the spring and just looking for a dry spot out there in the lot. And so in western Kansas the fact that it doesn’t rain is good for the feedlot industry. You just have a lot less stress days and our gains are better and the overall lot conditions are just better in that respect. (Dan) Yep. And I think that as we understand and realize that cattle are raised in outdoor facilities where we don’t regulate the environment you know, they’re not probably going to be located where it’s the best corn growing spots. (Joe) Yea. And we found certainly we’re able with unit trains and with trucking, we are able to move those feed stuffs back out that way and of course it costs more and our corn costs more, the basis is higher out there, but it makes a pretty good market for the corn farmers and milo farmers. And the ethanol plants are also located out there and so we’re using those by products also. (Dan) Absolutely. Well thanks a million for being on the show. (Joe) You bet. (Dan) Always a pleasure. Thanks for your servant leadership to Kansas agriculture and the Kansas Farm Bureau. (Joe) My pleasure. (Dan) Thank you folks for watching AG am in Kansas. More after the break.

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