Midwest Briefs: KS wildfires could cost $100M

Wisconsin State Farmer


Two years of Kansas wildfires could total $100M

Back-to-back years of record wildfires in Kansas could end up costing as much as $100 million.

Kansas Department of Agriculture and Forest Service reports show that damages so far exceed $80 million.

That includes roughly $50 million to cover about 3,700 miles of burned fences and as many as 8,000 dead cattle from wildfires this year along the Kansas-Oklahoma border.
But those numbers don't include the loss of homes and other structures, such as barns and garages, or power lines.

The Wichita Eagle reports the department's data also doesn't include the $3 million spent on firefighting or the thousands of hours of lost wages from volunteer firefighters.
Some lawmakers are asking to audit Kansas' firefighting system to highlight how the state can improve and provide necessary resources.


Strawberry farmers happy with crops 

Strawberry farmers in Maine are expecting a good yield this season. 

Tom Stevenson, of Stevenson's Strawberries in Wayne, tells the Kennebec Journal (http://bit.ly/2rDCwCJ ) that snowstorms helped his crops. Stevenson says the snow insulates strawberries from the cold. 

Farmers elsewhere in the state say winter has helped with timing. 

David Handley, a specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says consumers could see bumps in strawberry prices despite favorable conditions. Handley says costs of fertilizers, fuel and labor might drive prices up. 

Stevenson and Handley both note that year-round exports from California and Florida have caused a disconnect for consumers. Stevenson adds that most people don't know how many factors contribute to raising a crop. 


Missouri DNR fined for Sunshine Law violation

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources must pay a $5,000 fine for violating the Sunshine Law after it took members of the Clean Water Commission on a tour of hog farms without proper public notice.

Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce on Wednesday ordered the department to pay the fine to the Cole County School Fund. The DNR also must pay $18,706 in attorney's fees to Friends of Responsible Agriculture,a group that fought a 10,000-sow hog breeding operation in western Callaway County.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports the fine for a purposeful violation was the largest fine allowed by the law.

In her ruling, Joyce wrote that the agency conducted the tours without notice to prevent members of the opposition group from attending.


Proposed hog operations spark concern in South Dakota county

Residents in southeast South Dakota are raising concerns about seven proposed hog operations that have been recommended for conditional-use permits.

About 100 people attended a six-hour session Tuesday where the Yankton County Planning Commission approved all seven permit requests. The requests now head to the Yankton County Commission for approval, the Yankton Press & Dakotan reported.

The permits would allow the barns to each house 2,400 animals in a concentrated animal feeding operation that confines animals in areas that don't produce vegetation.

Opponents argued that the farms threaten environmental quality because of large amounts of manure that can contaminate water. They also say the large operations could lead to diseases like MRSA, a contagious staph infection.

Farm supporters said the operations wouldn't harm neighbors, and are efficient and profitable.

A group made up of local residents, Citizens Fighting for Quality of Life, is trying to stop the development of the factory farms.

The county's planning commission gave approval for the construction of three barns for Karl and Nancy Schenk, one for Craig Johnson and three for Jay Cutts.


Wheat springs higher

Hard red spring wheat futures leaped to the highest price since 2014 as farmers are grappling with exceptionally dry conditions in the northern United States. A drought in North Dakota and nearby states has sapped growing plants of moisture, leaving the crop in the worst condition in almost 30 years. According to the USDA, only 45 percent of the hard red spring wheat crop is in good or excellent condition. This stress could ultimately lead to lower yields and a sharply lower harvest this fall.

Hard red spring wheat is a high-protein variety used in bread production. For commodity traders, it is known as Minneapolis wheat, as the variety was originally traded at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. The market typically carries a significant premium over Kansas City wheat (hard red winter) and Chicago wheat (soft red winter) due to its higher protein content.