TOPEKA — Farmer Tom Willis’ attempt to get some sleep ahead of testimony to a U.S. Senate agriculture committee studying drought was interrupted by a 3 a.m. telephone call from back home.
Oddly timed calls typically mean cattle are loose on a highway or an intoxicated cowboy needs help, Willis said. Instead, his wife telephoned in the middle of the night to share good news that it was raining in Liberal. In Willis’ area of operations in southwest Kansas, 1.2 inches of moisture fell. It represented the first measurable precipitation there since August 2021, he said.
Soggy ground in and around 7,500 acres farmed by the Willis family in four Kansas counties was a relief in a region frustrated by the dry spell. Lack of rain has elevated reliance on the already-stressed underground water resource known as the Ogallala Aquifer. Drought is expected to diminish corn, wheat, soybean and sorghum yields in Kansas at the same time crop input costs of fuel and fertilizer have escalated.