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Friday, July 25, 2014

Third-, fourth-generation Kansas farmers struggle

BY BECCY TANNER
The Wichita Eagle

At 62, Scott Shrauner is worried.

Part of the family's 1,500 acres was first homesteaded in 1908 by his granddad, Harry Scott Shrauner.

His father, Floyd Vernon Shrauner, was one of the first in the area to dig an irrigation well.

"They survived during the Depression by wiring the machinery together with baling wire," Scott Shrauner said. "They toughed it out. They were stubborn Germans."

At age 31, his son, Reid, is set to take over the farming. But this year has already caused plenty of heartache.

The Shrauners used to run 240 head of a cow-calf operation, grazing them during the summer on the Cimarron grasslands.

"We reduced that down to 60," Scott Shrauner said. "We may have to sell them all because there is no pasture.

"We did raise alfalfa but we can't afford to feed them that year round; not what alfalfa is costing now."

The Shrauners planted wheat last fall on 83 dryland acres. It came up and then died.

They planted 400 acres of dryland in grain sorghum, but it won't come up without rain.

"It is the worst year in terms of cattle grazing and dryland," he said.

"We have irrigation. We were blessed with good water. We have corn and it looks good. We will get into trouble though on that if we don't get rain."

They have 628 acres in irrigated corn; but this past Sunday, when temperatures reached 110 near Elkhart, some of that corn died.

Each time he turns the irrigation pumps on, it costs money. The gasoline bill typically runs $7,000 a month.

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