News

Dick Locke

A group of stargazers in the Sooner State are hoping to pass a law that would grant Oklahoma  an official state astronomical object.

Is This a True Story?

Feb 10, 2017
Kathleen Holt / Kansas State Historical Society

Hello, Radio Readers!  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War as the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment.  Set in New Mexico, the novel explores the conflict between communities of haves and of have nots, who, in this story, are divided by access to water and water use.  On one side, are those who want a dam to create a lake for fishing and boating and to stimulate a business economy; on the other side are subsistence farmers who need water for irrigation.

You all may already know this, but I had to do some Googling through various sources, so bear with me here.  First of all, I hadn’t known that irrigation in New Mexico dates back to the days of Pueblo Indian farming, which makes irrigation an ancient custom, right? It’s just that traditional Hispano irrigation depended on river-fed ditches.  Farmers used shovels to divert water from one ditch to another and from ditches to fields.  Beginning in the early twentieth century,  many New Mexicans advocated for engineered solutions for irrigation, specifically large concrete dams and levees and canals.   While such water management systems are more efficient, they’re also quite expensive to construct and maintain. Conservancy, or taxing districts, were developed.  Historically, in New Mexico, many subsistence farmers, unable to afford the taxes, lost land owned by their families for generations or forfeited their rights to water access.

Al Drago / The New York Times

An offhand remark President Donald Trump made on Wednesday has Democratic lawmakers in Texas fuming.

As The New York Times reports, Trump was speaking with a group of sheriffs from around the country when a Texas sheriff asked the president about a state senator who was proposing a law that would not allow Texas to seize a suspect’s assets until that suspect had been convicted by a court.

Where Is the Wheat Market Headed? Brace yourself

Feb 10, 2017
Amy Bickel / The Hutchinson News

I don’t think there’s anybody on the planet who thought the wheat market could go as low as it did this past year.

But when it decided to go low, it did so with a great deal of passion. It headed right for $2.50 and just kept clawing away day after day till it got there. And just to punctuate its success, it decided to keep on going down. I should have taken a picture of my computer screen when it showed cash wheat in Dighton, KS at $2.20 a bushel. Who would have ever believed that? I hadn’t seen prices that low since 1977 when wheat in Dighton in February was $2.17 a bushel.

Layton Ehmke

Following months and months of incredibly dry weather, the good news is that much of Kansas finally got some badly needed rain, ice and snow several weeks ago back in January. With that precip, the wheat plant roots are finally starting to grow.

And it looks like a fair amount of the Kansas wheat crop now has a future.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

How low can it go?

That’s what many in farm country asked about the farm economy Tuesday, after the Agriculture Department forecast another plunge this year in profits for farmers.

Net farm income will fall 8.7 percent from last year’s levels, according to the year’s first forecast produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS). If realized, that would mark the fourth-straight year of profit declines, after 2013 saw record-highs.

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A western Kansas farming family struggling to keep their fifth-generation farming operation afloat amidst a slump in corn, wheat and other commodity prices is featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the struggling farm economy.

The ongoing slump in corn, wheat and other commodity prices, caused by global oversupply, is putting many farmers in debt and in some cases, resulting in farm closures.

Colorado State University

A Colorado State University crop and soil scientist recently secured funding for sites in northeastern Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska to look at ways diversifying crop rotations and using cover crops can maintain yields, keep soils productive, reduce environmental impacts and address retention of soil carbon and water.

Megan Schipanski, CSU crop and soil scientist, applied for the grant and extension personnel on the High Plains will be assisting in local areas by providing a solid producer base for onsite research

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

A watchdog group is suing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is currently President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, The Tulsa World reports.

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Controversial Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was confirmed on Tuesday, and all but one of the ten Senators from the High Plains region helped her win the seat.

As The New York Times reports, the vote came down to a historic 50/50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. This is the first time in history that a Senate vote on a cabinet-level position has ended in a tie.

KVII

The Panhandle of Texas will soon be home to a new alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.

As KVII reports, the Amarillo Recovery from Alcohol and Drugs (ARAD) organization has plans to move into the former Bivins nursing home.

The facility holds 32 beds, and will soon house the area’s only 30-day substance abuse treatment center.

Valentine's day is coming, and love is in the air. So today on Growing on the High Plains, I'll tell you about an enchanted, amorous bloom often referred to as "Love in a Mist." 

You know how that special someone makes you feel like you're walking on air? Likewise, these bright, ethereal blooms appear to levitate over a frothy, feathered bed of foliage.  But watch out! Like lovers, they'll grow thorny with time. Thankfully, like love, they're always worth the trouble.

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Options are available to those interested in getting into farming or ranching.

According to the Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA), alternative crops and high value markets offer profit potential and lower risk for new farmers.

Bbean32

Many refugees in Greeley, Colorado are Muslims from Somalia or other parts of East Africa, who, like those in Garden City Kansas, work in the meatpacking industry.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Burmese refugee Sultan Ahmed thought he would be seeing his family in less than a year, but President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and immigration halted all that and Ahmed was told it would take two or more years to bring his family to Greeley.

aviper2k7 / Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday A Kansas senate panel moved to cut $128 million from K-12 education and $23 million dollars from higher education to help fill the state’s three hundred and ten million dollar budget shortfall.  

As The Hutch News reports, the Senate ways and Means Committee approved the cuts, which would take place this fiscal year, as part of a larger budget bill that also reduces funding to state agencies.

Desert Places and Desert People

Feb 8, 2017

Welcome to High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club, an on-air, on-line community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains.  We’re talking about John Nichols’ Milagro Beanfield War, the first book in our 2017 Spring Read, Water and Replenishment

Published in the early 1970’s, the novel has since become a kind of cult classic, one revered by readers who enjoy a certain level of gritty realism, comedy, triumphs over greed and indifferent bureaucrats, and random gun fire here and there. Hmmm….sounds like fun, right?

Energy Central

The number of jobs supported by the wind industry has cracked the 100,000 mark, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

As Energy Central reports, the milestone means wind power now employs more workers than nuclear, natural gas, coal, or hydroelectric power plants. And one out of every four of those wind workers are employed in the state of Texas.

Travis Smith / Waxahachie Daily Light

Freestanding emergency clinics have proliferated across Texas in recent months. Texas is one of only three states to allow these walk-in ER clinics, including three new ones in Amarillo.

But it’s important to know the difference between these freestanding emergency rooms and traditional walk-in clinics.

The major difference, as many panhandle patients have learned the hard way, is cost.

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Colorado and Texas each rank in the top 10 un the nation as hubs of solar energy employment.

As The Denver Post reports, Colorado’s solar companies added more than 1,000 workers last year, according to the National Solar Jobs Census, allowing the state to maintain its top-10 ranking as a hub of solar energy employment.

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A Kansas lawmaker is expected to introduce two marijuana-related bills this year – one allowing for the medicinal use of marijuana and the other to legalize recreational use.

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Even though many farmers are stewing over President Donald Trump’s moves to formally withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, House Agricultural Chairman Mike Conaway thinks Trump could get the agriculture industry a better deal.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

During the school year, nearly half of Kansas children qualify for reduced-price or free meals. To help fill the need for nutritious meals during the summer months, the Kansas State Department of Education is seeking sponsors willing to provide nutritious meals to Kansas children during the summer months.

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Ag experts are expecting a revised farm bill this year, as a new administration takes control in Washington.

As Politico has noted, employees from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation have begun to exert heavy influence over the young administration.

FuelFix

Protesters have been amassing in West Texas, down near Big Bend, to challenge the construction of yet another oil pipeline.

As FuelFix.com reports, the activists are setting up to oppose the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. The protest camp is made up of a combination of environmentalists and ranchers who own the land where the pipeline is being built. The pipeline is being constructed by Energy Transfer Partners, an outfit in Dallas.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

The Texas Board of Education has signed off on a state curriculum that challenges the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

As The Austin American Statesman reports, Republicans on the board voted to put language back into the state science curriculum that challenges the validity of evolution.

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A proposed bill that would allow law enforcement officials to train armed teachers, principals and other school personnel advanced last week in the state Senate, despite objections that it will just invite more gun violence in Colorado’s schools.

Currently, as Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert told The Denver Post, at least 25 out of the Colorado’s 178 school districts use school personnel with conceal-carry permits and Senate Bill 5 simply offers handgun training to that personnel.

In rural Nebraska, over 70 percent of the state’s net job growth come from people creating their own jobs, by owning their own businesses, but a current law is undermining the success of small business by favoring online retailers.

Amy Bickel / The Hutchinson News

TOPEKA – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Department of Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey are urging government officials to consider that Kansas landowners have implemented efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken and that a threatened or endangered listing is not warranted.

Water Changes Lives

Feb 6, 2017
Boyd Funk / Holcomb, Kansas

I am Boyd Funk. I am a local farmer who has irrigated out of the Ogallala Aquifer all my life.  I usually think of water as a way to grow a crop, but to some people in the world, water has a different meaning. For the past 15 years, I have led a group that goes to rural areas in Central America. We build water systems that are simple and easy to maintain. We tap a spring high in the mountains, a spring that runs year-round, even in the dry seasons. The water is gravity flowed to the homes of the people. Trenches are hand dug and at least one man in the village is trained to maintain and repair the system. The water we provide is not for agriculture purposes but only for domestic use.

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In the past, HPPR has reported on the fact that rural America has been struggling to find enough doctors to serve its populace.

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