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Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Floods devastate wheat crops in Republic County

June 24, 2003

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— Just a day ago, the winter wheat looked really good on the Hurley farm, just half a mile up the road from the small north-central Kansas town of Republic.

After last year's drought-stricken crop, Allen and Barb Hurley were looking forward to cutting what looked to be a bountiful crop from their wheat field. A seed inspector was even to come out Monday to take a look.

In these parts, the start of wheat harvest was just a day or two away. A few farmers around Belleville even began cutting a little wheat Sunday.

"Our farm economy was really devastated by the drought, and we were looking forward to having a little more rain this year. We got it," Barb Hurley said.

By Monday, much of the Hurley's farm ground was under water, some of it as deep as a foot, after tornadoes and heavy rains raked through northern Kansas and Nebraska overnight.

"I don't think it has set in yet. We are just thankful we have our machinery and our home, but in the days to come the effect of what it has done to the crops in the fields will start hitting us," she said in a telephone interview from her home, where the power was still out Monday afternoon.

The Hurleys were waiting for the water to recede before seeing what they would have to replant -- and what was left standing.

For now, the family spent much of the day counting heads of cattle in pastures and helping other neighbors not as fortunate. Their own home was not flooded.

"Right now we are more concerned with families who were devastated and lost everything ... Our problems don't seem so big right now," Hurley said.

At the Republic County Courthouse, extension agent Tandy Rundus said crop damage was widespread in the northern part of the county.

That area traditionally grows more spring-planted row crops than wheat. Rundus said her own soybean crop on about 80 acres was washed out and will have to be replanted.

"People have a strong will around here -- they will pull themselves up by their bootstraps," Hurley said.

But the crop damage in Republic County rattled Kansas farmers who are rushing to bring into the bin what by all indications looks to be a banner winter wheat crop.

Hoisington farmer Dean Stoskopf unloaded another load Monday at the grain elevator. Sunday was the first full day of cutting in the Hoisington area, where farmers are reporting 50-60 bushels per an acre. Test weights have been running 61 and 62 pounds per bushel.

"We are all kind of nervous after storms in the Republic County area -- and pushing that much harder to get the crop in," he said.

It will be another week before harvest is done at the Stoskopf farm.

State harvest offices report the wheat harvest is 90 percent done in Harper County. In Sumner County, wheat is 75 percent cut around Caldwell and 85 percent around Wellington. The Cunningham area in Pratt County is half done. Ford County is 40 percent cut and Kingman County is about 75 percent cut.

"This crop could be one of the better crops we've had in a long time," Stoskopf said.

Crops last year were hurt by drought in most of the state. Farmers are looking forward to the income from this crop to catch up on some of the losses they have suffered in the past couple of years, Stoskopf said.

"It wouldn't stay in the checking account for long -- it will be spent paying off bills and doing some equipment updates. ... There never seems to be any problem spending the money," he said.

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