A drought that has killed millions of acres of grasslands and damaged more than a million homes and businesses across Missouri has left farmers and ranchers grappling with the question of how to help.
As the nation grapples with the worst drought in more than half a century, the Kansas-based Kansas Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is grappling with whether to protect the state’s agricultural and grazing industry.
Its new statewide drought plan calls for more than $4 billion in new water, wastewater and power infrastructure and $2.6 billion in emergency relief.
The plan was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov.
Sam Brownback on Tuesday.
“It’s a very big job, to make sure that we’re making the right decisions for Kansas, for Kansas-area farmers and for the Kansas economy, and it’s an important one,” said Mike Borkowski, an agriculture economist with the Kansas Policy Institute.
Borkowski said the state has about $6.5 billion in water, about $400 million of it in Lake Erie.
About half of that is in Kansas, and the rest is being used for the drought relief plan.
The rest is coming from outside the state.
“That’s where we see a big chunk of that coming from the federal government, and we expect to see it in the next two years,” he said.
The new plan also calls for spending $200 million on an irrigation program that will help to restore the land and improve water quality, which could include irrigation for crops and the irrigation of streams, wetlands and other water bodies.
That money is part of a larger $3.5 trillion federal aid package that includes $2 billion in drought relief.
But the state is not expected to get the money for a drought-tolerant corn crop until the end of the year, and not until 2020, at the earliest.
The drought relief package is not the only piece of money the state will need to help farmers.
It is expected to spend another $500 million to improve water management, including water conservation and storm water management.
The drought plan includes $250 million in additional funds for the state and local governments to improve their water management plans, as well as $200,000 for the Department of Natural Resources to conduct drought research.