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Colorado agriculture, like much of the High Plains region, is facing many challenges  - a changing marketplace in which commodity prices are the same as they were decades ago while costs continue to climb, a looming climate catastrophe and a dwindling water supply.

But as with any challenge, also comes opportunity.

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Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of tax legislation last week represents a “credit negative” to ratings agency Moody

StatNews.com

In recent years, rural hospitals have struggled to survive in the United States, and many have closed. But in the small West Texas town of Childress, the hospital is thriving against all odds.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma continues to see a drop in the frequency of earthquakes in the state, after fracking regulation was put in place to quell the seismic activity.

But, as The Wichita Eagle reports, regulators are working to ensure that the number of earthquakes doesn’t rise again in the Sooner State.

Water & Replenishment - A Poet's View

Feb 28, 2017
Denise Low

Ogallala Aquifer

As the water table sinks

mid-range rivers falter.

The Arkansas River loses its way

to Wichita. The Smoky Hill

lapses into gravel

and long stretches of silence,

like Heraclitus, muffled,

only fragments remaining

from his distant writings.

Or Sappho—her broken

songs are beds of old lakes,

just the outlines visible

like wheel ruts

of the Oregon Trail,

almost imaginary traces

across grasslands.

Casey Richmeier

Last year’s Anderson Creek Wildfire was the biggest known wildfire in Kansas’s history, burning 390,000 acres of land in Oklahoma and Kansas and killing hundreds of cattle, destroying millions of dollars worth of buildings and fences, and endangering the lives of hundreds of residents and volunteer firefighters.

And conditions are present that could make wildfires even more prevalent in 2017.

Daniel Shaw AU / Twitter

In a virtual tribute to the actor Bill Paxton, star of the popular tornado film 'Twister,' storm chasers and spotters spelled out the star’s initials on an online map that is used to track tornadoes Sunday, after hearing of the 61-year-old actor’s death.

Paxton, who starred in Apollo 13 and Titanic, played a veteran meteorologist and storm chaser in the 1996 hit movie 'Twister,' and became an icon for many of the real-life storm chasers who took part in Sunday’s tribute.

Luca Nebuloni / Flickr Creative Commons

A Texas man has garnered hundreds of signatures on a petition that would designate the taco as the official food of Texas.

As Vice.com reports, the current official food is chili, but taco aficionado Mando Rayo believes it’s time for a change. The chili designation officially occurred in 1977, with a state decree that began:

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A north central Kansas filmmaker’s drone video of wheat harvest is premiering at a New York City film festival next month.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, Doug Armknecht’s video called 'Beauty & Bounty' documents his wife’s family’s 2016 wheat harvest in Osborne County and is premiering at the New York City Drone Film Festival, which takes place March 17 to 19.

Last year's rains bring increased fire risk in 2017

Feb 27, 2017
Lindsey Bauman / The Hutchinson News

Spring is the optimal time for many people to do prescribed burns across Kansas, especially in the Flint Hills. It invigorates grass/crop growth, reduces noxious weeds, and eliminates excessive dead plant material. These materials, often called fuels, can be variable from season to season. If an area of land is never burned, fuels accumulate and pile up on the ground over the years, often falling over with winter wind and snow.

Trace Thomas / Texas Tribune

Some rural homeschool parents have suddenly found themselves making unlikely alliances with public school unions in Texas, reports The Texas Tribune.

Many homeschool advocates have traditionally been staunch conservatives. But now some are lining up against former allies like Senator Ted Cruz, to battle a “private school choice” bill that could pass this Texas legislative session.

Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman

A couple of new Oklahoma bills would consider questions that have occupied the Sooner State for decades, reports The Oklahoman.

One measure proposes to leave Sunday liquor sales up to the counties. If Senate Bill 211 passes, voters in each individual county could decide whether to allow liquor stores to open between noon and midnight on Sundays.

Meanwhile, under House Bill 1686, consumers would pay no sales tax on beer, wine and spirits. Instead, they would pay higher excise taxes.

The Ogallala Aquifer

Feb 27, 2017
Janet Huelskamp - Fowler, KS

Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on the High Plains, by William Ashworth, is a High Plains Public Radio community read.  The book chronicles the development, management and possible fate of the Ogallala, the largest aquifer within the High Plains aquifer system.  At its essence, the book is about the people and the place that rely on the aquifer. I am Susan Stover with the Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas.   

The High Plains aquifer stretches from South Dakota to Texas and New Mexico. It supplies the water for nearly a third of our nation’s irrigated crops and has transformed the region into some of the nation’s most productive acreage with fields upon fields of corn, alfalfa, soybeans, wheat, sorghum and cotton.  The aquifer also supports the cattle, dairy and hog industries, meatpacking and milk processing plants, ethanol production, and communities.  It is a vibrant economy, one that runs on water.

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A Texas Panhandle city traditionally associated with oil is moving toward the forefront of agricultural science.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, this week Borger welcomed the opening of a new livestock genetics center.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Deaths due to the flu have been spreading across Oklahoma, reports KFOR.

According to officials from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, 37 deaths related to the flu have now been recorded in the state. That total includes nine in recent days. Tulsa County has been hit the hardest, with 10 deaths this year in that county alone.

Across Oklahoma, almost 1,500 people have been hospitalized due to influenza this year.

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MANHATTAN – U.S. pork producers are transitioning from using individual gestation crates to instead housing gilts and sows in groups, but it poses challenges, including the ability to monitor feed consumption. To remedy that, producers increasingly have started using electronic sow feeding (ESF) at their farms.

Casey Richmeier

Windy and dry conditions proved to be a potent combination for firefighters in southwest Kansas and the Texas Panhandle Thursday.

As The Garden City Telegram reports, grass fires were reported in the Kansas counties of Finney, Haskell and Gray County throughout the day.

Colorado rancher shows support for Trump in a big way

Feb 26, 2017
9 News

An eastern Colorado rancher is showing his support of President Donald Trump in a way only a rancher, or farmer, could come up with.

As 9 News reports, rancher Doug Koehn of Limon, in frustration at some of the negativity coming from opponents of Trump, hopped on his plow and carved the word “TRUMP” in big block letters into his field.

The letters are approximately 800 feet wide and 800 feet long, a mile-long Trump, Koehn told 9 News.

Pixabay

A Colorado program that helps repay the student loans of doctors who work in rural areas or underserved areas is gearing up for what could be its largest grant class ever.

As The Denver Post reports, the Colorado Health Service Corps will begin accepting applications for the new grants March first and as much as $5 million dollars could be available to repay loans for as many as 60 physicians and other providers. 

Public Domain

Miners may have headed to the mountains hoping to discover gold nuggets and tiny gilt grains in streams and veins of rock. Unlike those adventuresome characters, we’ve stayed home on the prairie and discovered treasure in our Kansas garden after experimenting with new crops. One such Eureka moment arrived in the form of beta-carotene, vitamin A rich sweet potatoes.

Luke Clayton

In this week's High Plains Outdoors, Luke is joined by his friend, veteran coastal guide Capt. Mike Williams.

Mike has logged in more hours fishing the Galveston Bay Complex than any person alive today.

Galveston is a great spring break destination for the entire family and Mike's guide service specializes in taking Mom and Pop and the kids on the fishing trip of their lifetime.

He also caters to veteran "old salts" that feel the need to do battle with some BIG fish!

DonkeyHotey / Creative Commons

Texas was one of the few bright spots for Democrats in last year’s election, notes The Texas Tribune.

Though the GOP retained a safe hold of the state in a year where the nation trended red, Texas was shown to be moving in a decidedly blue direction. And that trend appears to be continuing, if new election data is to be believed.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

A Texas Senate panel is moving toward abolishing a rule aimed at helping low-income students attend college in the Lone Star State, reports The Texas Tribune.

The legislation, known as “Bill 18,” would eliminate a rule requiring universities to set aside tuition dollars for scholarships and grants to benefit poor students. The legislation, which is supported by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, was introduced by Senator Kel Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo.

Boot Hill Distillery

Boot Hill Distillery calls itself a “soil-to-sip” distillery because it is owned by three western Kansas farmers who grow 100 percent of the grain used in crafting its spirits, which has proven to be a winning formula, as the startup recently received national recognition for its vodka.

“We do all the milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and bottling here on site,” said Mark Vierthaler, director of marketing and distiller at Boot Hill Distillery. “So it’s 100 percent a western Kansas product, which we’re very proud of.”

The Water Beneath Our Feet

Feb 24, 2017
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

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.  In this, our third Book club series, Water and Replenishment is our theme. 

We’ve been talking about a classic 1970’s novel, John Nichols’ The Milagro Beanfield Wars, where the struggle for water highlights differences in the values and lifestyles of two groups of citizens – those who see the economic possibilities in reservoirs and those who prefer to honor natural topographies. As Nichols brings his novel to a close, offering a tenuous cease-fire in the Beanfield war over water, we readers sense the cease-fire will be short-lived.

I don’t know about you, but Nichols’ novel, for all its satiric bite and sass, really has got me thinking more about the history of water use and access not only in my part of the High Plains but in my own back yard.  Most what I’m thinking about is how shockingly uneducated I am about this.  Should I be doing a better job of conserving water? What are some of the battle lines over water in our region?

Oklahoma Climatological Survey / KOCO

Moore, Oklahoma, in Cleveland County, has gotten a dangerous reputation recently because of the spate of tornadoes the town has received. But, believe it or not, Cleveland County is nowhere near the most tornado-prone county in the Sooner State.

KOCO has published a study analyzing which Oklahoma counties have seen the most tornadic activity since 1950.

Chuck Grimmett / Creative Commons

Getting weed in Colorado is getting easier with a drive-through marijuana shop and could get even easier with a proposed bill that would allow it to be delivered to one’s front door.

As The Denver Post reports, the western Colorado town of Parachute is getting a drive-through marijuana shop, believed to be the first in the state.

City of Garden City, KS

A British national daily newspaper published an in-depth article this week about the foiled mosque and apartment complex bombing plot in Garden City lastt fall, sharing fears that Somali residents still feel even months after three southwest Kansas men were apprehended by FBI agents and charged with domestic terrorism.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

The Trump Administration is voicing its support for the ethanol industry, but without specifics it is hard to say what that means exactly for Midwest farmers.

In a letter (PDF) to industry leaders gathered at the National Ethanol Conference, President Donald Trump said renewable fuels “are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

The president wrote that he aims to reduce the regulatory burden on the renewable fuels industry, but did not detail specific plans.

We all have one: that list of  garden chores we scribbled down with good intentions.

It's that back-burner list that is far less pressing than the imminent "dig in the dirt" directives.

Though each year, some of those stagnant "to-do" items never seem to get "to-done." 

Today on Growing on the High Plains, I share my experiences with the daunting task of prioritizing what must be done and what can linger a little longer. 

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