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Governor sees technology at work

8/15/2014

By NICK SCHWIEN

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

TOULON -- Amid the south wind and warm conditions, Natausha Dreher took the stage -- or field.

Dreher, the youngest daughter of Bill and Jody Hoffman, had first crack at showing Gov. Sam Brownback just what changes the family is incorporating on the farm Thursday.

The governor stopped just a mile east of Toulon at the Hoffman family's demonstration field, where he saw how technology was changing the way people farm.

"I'm always excited to get to show people what I do with soil sampling and how cool agriculture can be,"  Dreher said.

Dreher showed Brownback how technology was at work for her family. She's been a big part of using soil probes and other forms of new technology, along with computerized data collected, to make the farm run more efficiently.

"Agriculture is an extremely high-tech business," Brownback said. "It's very capital-intensive. It produces a large state product, and we need to do more with less inputs -- less chemical inputs, less fuel inputs. And they're doing it. This stuff really allows them to just be more efficient."

Brownback and several members of his cabinet stopped by the field to get a glimpse of what the future holds in agriculture while touting the importance of ag and related businesses to the economy. The governor's office said agriculture contributes more than $53 million to the state's economy.

"Agriculture is under a lot of environmental pressure," Brownback said. "And they do a great job. When you can go out and really know what's in that soil and apply just what you need in that area and not just blanket the soil, that's a lot better use of resources."

The Hoffman family has been farming for decades, and Bill Hoffman said he learned years ago about tricks of the trade while working at the FHSU farm.

He's continued to read about the latest technological advances and further his knowledge of how to grow better-producing crops.

Hoffman pointed to his milo crop last year, that despite the lingering drought, still produced solid results with the help of new technology.

"Last year, as dry as it was, we still had a very respectable milo crop,"  Hoffman said. "Even with the drought we had, we were cutting some 80 to 100 bushel milo. ... It makes us more efficient and helps us get by with the little moisture we get at times."

Brownback stressed new approaches will be needed -- like the ones the Hoffmans are implementing -- as the state looks to address a 50-year vision plan for water, including the stressed Ogallala Aquifer.

"We also have a big water discussion going on,"  Brownback said. "Without water, you don't have any future. So we're putting a lot of effort into a 50-year water vision to see where we want to be in 50 years, particularly in the Ogallala and reservoirs. Then let's put in place policies and practices to be there. Jerry (McReynolds) and Farm Bureau have been a big proponent of that. You have to manage your resources well."

Brownback also got a firsthand view of an Apache sprayer the Hoffmans use. Officials from Simpson Farm Enterprises -- which has locations in Hays, Ransom, Great Bend and Beloit -- were in attendance to tout how their sprayers have helped with no-till crops and farming practices.

Jake Poore, the lone non-family employee of Hoffman Farms, even gave Brownback a ride in the sprayer, showing him just how everything works from the driver's seat.

"It's a great time to be a good ag state," Brownback said. "We need more food, more energy. We've got a lot to produce, and we have to do it with less input and do it more carefully. All this stuff lets us do just that."

Dreher, who has grown up helping her family on the farm since she was in elementary school, said it was nice to see the governor make the trip to western Kansas.

"And to be so very interested and to just want to know how all this is helping agriculture and to ask questions and want to learn and to be open-minded about everything, that's great,"  Dreher said. "It's not just somebody over there not knowing what's going on out here in western Kansas. That's wonderful. You don't just take care of eastern Kansas. You take care of Kansas."