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Failed corn, sorghum crops reported in Kansas

Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- In a good year, corn grower Dennis McNinch can look over his green fields of tasseled corn shooting 7 feet high by this point in the growing season. This year, the corn on McNinch's farm in western Kansas barely reaches 4 feet high and much of it has turned brown.

It's the third year of drought for the area, and much of McNinch's corn is dead.

"I'd say 25 percent of my crop is gone," he said Tuesday in a phone interview.

He is not alone. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that spotty rain showers this past week have been too little to improve drought conditions in western Kansas. Crops and pastures continue to suffer.

The agency says it has received reports of failed corn and sorghum crops in areas missed by the rain, as well as fields damaged by hail or wind.

"By nature, you almost have to be an optimist," McNinch said. "You head into it thinking possibly the drought is over and harvest is something to get satisfaction for all this hard work. And then just basically you watch it start withering away."

The corn crop's condition across Kansas has declined so much that the Agricultural Statistics Service reported this week that 30 percent is now considered in poor to very poor shape. About 39 percent is rated fair, 28 percent is good and 3 percent is in excellent condition.

Among other Kansas crops:

— Sorghum is also hurting, with 21 percent in poor to very poor condition. About 43 percent is rated as fair, 34 percent as good and 2 percent as excellent. About 3 percent of the crop is just beginning to head.

— Soybean condition is rated as 13 percent poor to very poor. About 46 percent is rated as fair, 39 percent as good and 2 percent excellent. About 35 percent of the crop is now blooming, and 4 percent is setting pods.

— Roughly 10 percent of sunflower fields are now blooming across Kansas. The condition of the crop is pegged as 14 percent poor to very poor, 39 percent fair, 41 percent good and 6 percent excellent.

Livestock producers are not faring much better.

The latest government snapshot shows 55 percent of Kansas ranges and pastures remain in poor to very poor condition. Stock water supplies are short to very short in 42 percent of the state.