WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Sizzling heat has already withered most of the Kansas soybean crop. Across the state, farmers rush to harvest their deteriorating corn and sorghum fields -- baked by triple-digit temperatures and no rain.
Cattlemen have moved their livestock off dusty pastures, and some have begun feeding their winter supplies of hay.
And now a gnawing unease is building among Kansas wheat growers that the 2001 wheat crop also is threatened. By this time, Kansas farmers would normally be preparing seed beds they will use to plant the winter wheat crop this fall -- but it is too dry to risk turning the soil and losing what precious little moisture is left.
That would expose their fields to wind erosion -- and the images of the Dust Bowl days seem perhaps more vivid nowadays as temperatures approach records set in the dirty 1930s, when massive dust clouds rolled across the state.
On Wednesday, the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers joined the growing clamor in Kansas farm country for federal disaster aid.
"Pastures are drying up, late planted fall crops are shriveling up, and its impossible to prepare seed beds for fall wheat planting," Brett Myers, executive vice president of the KAWG, said in issuing the formal call for drought aid.
The wheat growers are pulling their ranks behind U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran's proposal to include additional assistance for farmers in drought-stricken areas of Kansas in the annual funding bill of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On Aug. 17, Moran urged the chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittees to add two emergency provisions for Kansas farmers.
One would provide $450 million for crop production losses, and the other $450 million under the Livestock Assistance Program for producers whose hay and forage production has suffered.
Last week, Gov. Bill Graves asked for a federal disaster declaration for six counties where crops and livestock have suffered heavily from heat and drought.
If the request is granted by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, it would make farmers and ranchers in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
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