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By Ally McClure, Contributing Editor

In true western Kansas fashion, the wind was blowing a breezy 50 miles per hour during a water conservation meeting Dec. 8, 2017, at the new Hy-Plains Education and Research Center. The center is designed to provide a state-of-the-art facility for ongoing research benefiting food animal producers and consumers globally because research and industry collaboration are essential.

Blue GoldEducation and collaboration were exactly what was going on at the “Water Conservation – Key to Economic Sustainability in Kansas” meeting where the speaker lineup ranged from financial advisors, local farmers, ethanol producers and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

To kick off the meeting, Tom Jones of Hy-Plains Feedyard went through a myriad of images depicting water usage and well development in western Kansas over the last 100 years.

“As we look through these images, can anyone tell me what they see?” he asked. “What I see is that nothing has changed except our clothes and cars. Why are we still pulling irrigation water the same way we did in 1888?”

Upon hearing this hard truth, you could almost feel the brain power taking off all over the room.

Gretchen Eberly-White of Rabo AgriFinance in Wichita, Kan., provided key points for future business development and explained how to create a working relationship with your financial provider. Economic sustainability is key to an operation’s future, she asserted.

“Being a good partner by knowing where you are in your financials and making good decisions [is key],” White explained.

Banking partners are uneasy taking on clients who don’t have their financials in order and on paper, according to White. “Your production skills are obvious, but are you managing your financials the same way?” she asked.

To a financial institution, successful farming partners are trustworthy and transparent. White pointed out some characteristics of successful farmers:

Succession planning doesn’t always involve children; it involves an operation’s sustainability – from the financials all the way to the availability of water and minerals.

Fresh from the military in 1988, Dwane Roth of Garden City, Kan., started farming in Finny County. Noticing the depleted Ogallala Aquifer from reports and a documentary in the mid-‘90s, Roth decided it was time to act and take responsibility for the irresponsible water use in the area.

“I want to leave a farming operation that works for my family’s next generation,” Dwane said. “The three key pieces of being able to leave behind a farming operation are succession planning, sustainable practices and conservation of what is already there. We can’t create new water, but we can conserve what is there.”

With a passion to learn how to better conserve the groundwater in his area, Roth and his brothers decided to participate in Crop Metrics, a voluntary, state-funded program. Crop Metrics provides farmers with the tools to measure ground moisture in their fields so they can make an accurate decision about whether or not to run their sprinklers. It has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from being wasted.

Among all of the meeting’s speakers, the primary take away was that sustainability is learning to do more with less, not creating more hoping to use less. Embracing technology and preparing for tomorrow will ensure the ability to feed the world for generations to come.”

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