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On Proponent of Kansas Aqueduct project pushes plan before Legislature


Randall Uhrich 4 years, 3 months ago

As soon as the users that are mining the Ogallala Aquifer can pay for the cost of the aqueduct, I say then go ahead and build it. Why should all of us taxpayers pay for something that will benefit just a few corporate farmers in western Kansas? It'd be another example of public cost for private benefit. Spend the money instead on something that is good for everyone, like education.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

The real difficulty is that all of us have a habit that we just can't seem to get over. It's called "eating".

Randall Uhrich 4 years, 3 months ago

Less than one-tenth of one percent of our food supply depends on Ogallala Aquifer-raised corn and beef. Do the math!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Do the research!

"Stretching from western Texas to South Dakota, the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States."

"If you have a question about farming, the best person to ask is a farmer."
- Ron Holzwarth, Nov 19, 2013, in the Lawrence Journal-World

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Ogallala aquifer irrigates one fifth of the wheat grown in Kansas? I have my doubts. Show me that 20 percent of the Kansas wheat harvest comes from wheat irrigated by the Ogallala Aquifer, please. Maybe the 20 percent irrigated wheat comes from other parts of the Aquifer outside of Kansas? Most of Kansas wheat even in western Kansas is dryland I'm pretty sure.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

How much beef and corn do you think is produced in Kansas? I know my one of my grandfathers raised many tons of beef per year, and that's not included at all in your question.

Go check at the grocery store to see the prices of beef, then reconsider your question.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

And, check the exact wording of my comment: "the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States."

That does not mean only in Kansas. The Ogallala Aquifer spans portions of eight states.

I write my comments very carefully in order to be very precise. So, if you want to fully understand them, you will need to read them very carefully, and not inject your opinions into my statements.

Almost all newspapers are written at the 10th grade level. I don't have that restriction since I am a commenter, and not a reporter.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

I poked around and found stats for irrigated and non-irrigated wheat---it looks like it's around 10% of the total wheat production for the state. Check out p.4: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/Kansas/Publications/County_Estimates/Coest/wheat12.pdf

You can find probably find the corn and soybean numbers on the same site.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

On our farming operation in far northwestern Kansas (which is VERY different than this part of the state), we grew forage crops for cattle, grew the cattle, and grew wheat, and never irrigated. Except to supply water for the cattle during very dry spells.

So, I never worried about it.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 3 months ago

Going back/forward to your style of farming makes sense to me rather than building this aqueduct, complete with more power plants to pump all that water. What if we took those billions of dollars and put it into developing more sustainable practices and low water alternatives? Guess those big irrigation operations have to pay off those big debts that they've paid to get in the door.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Billions of dollars can easily pay for research and selective breeding to develop crops that don't require much water.

And about repaying those debts: Not really. They can declare bankruptcy, which many of them did.

Mark Jakubauskas 4 years, 3 months ago

Some interesting related links:

Trans-Texas Canal: http://texaslandscape.org/maps_texaswaterplan1968/

The North American Water and Power Alliance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAWAPA

J. C. Hopper's Great Interstate Canal: http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/225745

Bob Zimmerman 4 years, 3 months ago

Trying to keep a straight face, I can't wait to see the "cost-benefit" analysis of spending billions to justify some kind of benefit for a few grain farmers who made the stupid decision to farm land that was not suited for it.

Can you imagine the poor government analyst who has to formally do this and probably waste years of time and energy...when this can be done in a few weeks by a team of MBA students.

It would be cheaper to buy out the farmers.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

The farmers in western Kansas have other options than to tap the Ogallala Aquifer. Take for instance, my father's family, which has farmed in the far northwestern corner of Kansas since 1880 - 1917 without ever irrigating at all.

They raised wheat and forage crops which do not require irrigation, and pastured the cattle for a couple months in the spring every year. That is, the cattle grazed on the naturally growing buffalo grass, which is a wonderful food for them. But, it is available for only two to three months each year.

My grandfather never did make a fortune on his farming operation, but he did earn enough money to pay all the bills, never carry any debt, and buy a brand new car for cash every two or three years. Other dryland (that means without irrigation) farmers that had more land were more fortunate, and earned more money.

The High Plains are productive without irrigation, that's a simple fact. How do you think the homesteaders made it? There was no irrigation, no government handouts, and no buyouts from the federal government then. They grew crops and cattle, that's what they did.

The problem is one of simple economics, as I've mentioned in my comments on this forum before. You'll have a higher income if you irrigate, there are no laws against it, and there is not a tax penalty for doing so. The United States economy operates with a capatalistic economic model, and so each individual will do whatever it takes to maximize his income.

It's my firmly held opinion that a taxation penalty for draining the Ogallala Aquifer is the only realistic option. I've stated that before on this forum, but of course no one ever listens to me.

You stated: "Trying to keep a straight face"

Farmers have to do that all the time when the city slickers come by for a look. We do a pretty good job of it, too.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

"Kansas makes up 18% of the total U.S. wheat production."

"Nearly one-fifth of all wheat grown in the United States is grown in Kansas. This is why it is called the "Wheat State" and "Breadbasket of the World.""

"Half of the wheat grown in Kansas is used in the United States; the other half is exported."

"The 2009 Kansas wheat crop covered 8.8 million acres and yielded 369.9 million bushels."
The above clipped from:

Current price of wheat: $7.305 per bushel

369.9 million x $7.305 = 2702.1195 million = approximately $2.7 billion.

But that's just wheat, and leaves out the corn and beef production entirely. That's a substantial sum also. The project is not nearly as unfeasible as it may sound. (That does not mean that I believe it is a good idea.)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pegged the cost of the Kansas Aqueduct project at $4.4 billion to build and $475 million per year to maintain. (1982 dollars)

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm still cracking up about your statement: "when this can be done in a few weeks by a team of MBA students."

My grandfather on my mother's side of the family earned a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nebraska in the middle 1920s. Do you seriously believe that he knew less about agricultural endeavors than a team of MBA students of today that never studied agriculture at all?

He was very wise about economic subjects as well. The MBA students of today would do very well to follow his example. He made a statement to me when I was rather young. It was about how people who earn a lot of money very often end up being poor in their old age, because they didn't ever learn how to make their money work for them.

Money is a tool that can be used to make more money. Of course, it takes wisdom, foresight, and skill to do that, which are qualities that are sadly lacking in a large proportion of the population of the Untied States today.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 3 months ago

Some excellent websites to have a look at and think about, Mark Jabubauskus (I hope I spelled that correctly)! I have not been aware of these websites before.

And also thanks to all of you for these excellent comments, which help me learn about an area I haven't had much knowledge in before.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Tell the hog and cattle feed yard butchers to forget it. They cost taxpayers too much money.

Tell the corporate farmers to grow crops that are friendly to western Kansas rainfall. Otherwise NO DEAL!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

About growing crops that are friendly to western Kansas rainfall, I agree with you.

But about the hog and cattle feed yard butchers costing taxpayers too much money, I don't think so. How much money do you think the owners of very profitable multimillion dollar family farm corporations, of which I know a few, have to pay in property and income tax? I don't know for sure about your situation, but I tend to think that it's just a bit more than you have to pay.

So, there might be a bit of a compromise. You can pay slightly higher taxes, or you can pay a whole lot higher prices at the grocery store.

Your choice.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

"Tell the corporate farmers to grow crops that are friendly to western Kansas rainfall."

1) The House of Representatives needs to pass a bill.
2) The Senate has to pass it also.
(Although the House of Representatives can pass it first in Kansas.)
3) The governor needs to sign it, then it becomes Kansas law after a period of time.

You cannot simply tell someone to do something, and then becomes Kansas law.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

This bugs me no end! There is an error in the above where I stated:
(Although the House of Representatives can pass it first in Kansas.)

It should have read:
(Although the Senate can pass it first in Kansas.)

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

This is an amazing thread. Maybe the comments should have been restricted to individuals who have spent a minimum of 20 to 25 years working in the agricultural industry.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

the question is do they pay taxes at all? how much and in how many ways do they receive corporate welfare?

and what cost to the environment?

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I did not ask them questions concerning such matters. Persons of means do not discuss their finances.

It is a fact that producing food for you does have an environmental impact. And, it is also a fact that due to their economies of scale, they are able to feed you at a very low price.

If you feel this is unfair, feel free to hand the clerk at the grocery store an extra $100 bill every time you go shopping.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I do know this much though - the persons that I am acquainted with that are in that fortunate financial situation need to have at least one lawyer to keep track of everything and also an accountant to keep things squared away with the IRS. So, I don't think they're getting much corporate welfare. However, I know of that only second hand through loose lips, and not directly from the persons involved. They keep their mouths shut.

You would have to know these people very, very well to be aware of exactly who they are. There's something that almost all old money people know extremely well, and that is the fact that they are very aware that the only difference between them and other people is their financial acumen, and the fact that they have more money.

As opposed to the nouveau riche (new money) people that have the silly opinion that having more money makes them superior to other people. So, they have to make everyone very aware of it, and they think that inspiring jealousy in other people is a good thing. It's such a laugh when they lose everything, go bankrupt, and go back to being ordinary people again. It happens all the time,,,

Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Throwing billions of tax dollars to construct a pork barrel project then another half billion a year maintenance at the same pork barrel project is somehow saving consumers money is going to be difficult to prove.

The last 50 years of corporate welfare seems to have the cost of living soaring.

If Corp Ag had to do this on their own it likely would never happen. That's why they like politicians who routinely spend recklessly the hard earned money of others.

This money would be better spent on Kansas Citizens as a donation to Medicare Single Payer Insurance which would effectively reduce the cost government substantially plus create new employment throughout the state. The reduced cost of public education could feel the impact as well. And the cost of higher education. Simply the reduced cost of doing business across the board would be welcome.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

You're right, raise the price of food. That will cover it with cash to spare.

Although, it would be difficult to be sure that it would work the same way in Kansas as it does in California. There are a lot of differences between those two states, and the most obvious is that they are spelled very differently.

But now I'm wondering, how many decades did you spend working in agriculture? If it's less then two decades, I would have to question how much you know about the subject.

P Allen Macfarlane 4 years, 3 months ago

In matters related to irrigation from ground water in western Kansas, the Division of Water Resources, the local management districts, and the irrigators have for decades been living in a fantasy world. The right to site and drill an irrigation well and use the water from it has been based on so-called "well spacing requirements" that are predicated on the amount of recharge that the High Plains (Ogallala) aquifer receives annually on average. Now, nobody really knows how much recharge the aquifer really receives or how it is distributed. Hence, the fantasy. The amounts that are usually assumed vary from east to west following the rainfall gradient, but the assumption is usually on the order of 1 to 3 inches. Furthermore, the amount that irrigators are actually withdrawing annually has only been known through actual measurement since the 1990s. Up until that time, the State took the irrigator's word for amount, usually based on an assumed pumping rate and the number of hours of pumping.

My point is that we have all been delusional with respect to what irrigation has been doing to what is essentially a non-renewable resource. We, the taxpayers, have funded many studies of this aquifer system and the effect of irrigation it. Most if not all of these studies demonstrated the sad state of affairs with respect to the future of this resource, but alas, the warnings and the picture they paint of the aquifer's future have been largely ignored by all the parties concerned.

The concept of an aqueduct sounds simple, but the devil is in the details. The energy cost of moving that much water uphill almost 3,000 feet from the Missouri River to western Kansas would be enormous, not to mention the energy losses due to friction. The irony is that much of that water would go to corn that eventually would turn into ethanol, another waste of energy. The other major problem would be the need to prevent water loss through evaporation or seepage out of the bottom of the aqueduct. Evaporation generally increases across the state from east to west. The aqueduct would have to be completely enclosed to prevent major losses of water from it. Once the water arrives in western Kansas distribution to irrigated fields could be problematic. The water has to be delivered through lined canals, or pumped underground to recharge the aquifer, which will have its own set of unique problems. In my opinion, this is a project where we are likely to be throwing good money after bad.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't go so far as to say: "Throwing good money after bad."

Instead, I would say: "Throwing it away."

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

There is a practice that some farmers use that is called "sustainable farming."

That is to use the resources that the natural environment provides to grow crops, cattle, and other agricultural products that can be produced without draining resources that will not be depleted or cannot be replaced without a very high cost. It is certainly not always the most profitable in the short term, but many farmers with the long term in mind are thinking of the next several generations, and that is why they restrict their farming operations to those methods.

Depleting the Ogallala Aquifer is under no stretch of the imagination a sustainable farming practice.

Phillip Chappuie 4 years, 3 months ago

So in today's dollars what is that? Like over 10 billion dollars. I see a problem with that.

Mike Ford 4 years, 3 months ago

The Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas has water rights by virtue of treaty when their reservation touched the Missouri River prior to an 1854 treaty. They proposed the Pickatanoi pipeline years ago and the White State Government ignored them. This same state government ignores this tribe's water rights under the Winters Doctrine which derived from a 1908 US Supreme Court Case in Montana. I'd feel much better having the Kickapoo Tribe having sustainable water from a Plum Creek impoundment lake than a bunch of people who've drained the Oglallah Aquifer like addicts and are now asking for a illogical pipeline from a state government that shrifts everyone else.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I think that the elephant in the room is that the proposed pipeline will have to be huge, that is, approximately the size of the Missouri River, to move enough water to make any real difference in the productivity of the very dry western Kansas farmland. And even then, it wouldn't make that much of a difference.

I doubt very much that Missouri will be willing to give up their river for the benefit of Kansas.

Only one who has driven tens and hundreds of miles in every direction to see the sheer scale of the water that would be required to solve the problem will ever really understand that.

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