Gov. Sam Brownback and other state officials toured three counties in the far southwest corner of the state Wednesday, meeting with residents and community leaders.
Brownback toured Morton, Stevens and Seward Counties along with Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman and Tracy Streeter, Kansas Water Office director and chair of the Governor's Drought Response Team.
The situation is serious, Brownback said, noting the effect the drought has had in depleting available soil moisture and stream flow conditions in more than half of the state's 105 counties.
Issues discussed during the community meetings in Elkhart, Hugoton and Liberal on Wednesday included insurance concerns, water law and possible changes to it, five-year flex accounts and drought emergency term permits that are available.
"Witnessing the conditions firsthand and visiting with affected farmers, ranchers and local officials is important in identifying what the state can do to help," Streeter said in a statement.
"In addition to the effects on agriculture, I am interested in ensuring the public water supply needs continue to be met for our local communities coping with this drought."
Brownback has issued a state drought emergency declaration that puts Stanton, Morton and Stevens on emergency status. The declaration also lists 36 counties on warning status and 23 counties on watch status.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also has granted two federal drought disaster declarations requested by Brownback that cover 46 Kansas counties as well as 26 contiguous counties.
This is the second drought tour for Brownback this year. On May 4, he took an aerial tour of Haskell, Gray and Meade counties in southwest Kansas.
For more detailed information about current conditions, see the Kansas Climate Summary and Drought Report on the Kansas Water Office website at www.kwo.org.
Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.