Bryan Thompson

Bryan Thompson is a reporter for Kansas Public Radio.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to leave office early for a diplomatic post, and appears to be passing the torch to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. However, at an ag industry summit in Manhattan on Thursday, Colyer spoke only in generalities.

The lieutenant governor called agriculture the key driver of the Kansas economy. But even in an interview after his speech, Colyer stuck to the theme of listening, rather than saying what he’d do as governor.

“We’ll be laying out a lot of policy things as they come forward here," Colyer says. "Today is just not yet the day.”

After decades of alarming headlines, Kansas may be on the verge of preserving an ancient groundwater resource that helped make it an agricultural powerhouse.

Since the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, researchers have warned that farmers were pumping water from the part of the massive Ogallala aquifer that underlies Kansas faster than nature could replace it.

But a new emphasis on conservation spearheaded by Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is starting to reverse that longstanding trend.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s prized income tax exemption for businesses is gone.

Over the governor’s veto, in June lawmakers raised income tax rates and repealed the exemption that had benefited roughly 330,000 business owners, including about 53,000 farmers.

Gov. Sam Brownback visited western Kansas on Tuesday to tout that farming with less water from the Ogallala Aquifer is viable.

Farmers in a 99-square-mile area of Sheridan County have managed to cut their irrigation by more than 20 percent over the last four years, and they're still just as profitable as their neighbors who haven’t cut back like that. Jim Butler of the Kansas Geological Survey says it could extend the life of the Ogallala.

  

The Kansas Hospital Association says the revised health care proposal in the U.S. Senate still comes up short of what’s needed for patients and hospitals in Kansas.

Kansas Hospital Association spokeswoman Cindy Samuelson says the revised Better Care Reconciliation Act would lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid cuts for Kansas. Samuelson says that will reduce access to care for children, people with disabilities, and those in nursing homes.

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison.

During a Friday visit to Junction City that included a stop at a food pantry site, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall said he would work to maintain funding for programs that feed the hungry.

Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District, which includes two counties — Geary and Riley — with the state’s highest rates of food insecurity. Residents of those counties also are more likely than most people across the country to lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food.

The social and health effects of isolation on some rural Kansas residents spurred three Catholic nuns to convert a storefront in Concordia into a drop-in center where women can find support and resources. 

Seven years after the center opened, two dozen women on average come through each day in the town of about 5,000 to socialize, do laundry, get a cooking lesson, or simply connect with others.

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

Wildfires that have been sweeping across the heart of cattle country since last weekend could decimate some ranchers’ herds. Fires have been reported in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

The largest of the fires spread from the Oklahoma Panhandle into southwest Kansas, and has consumed more than 800,000 acres of prime grassland. Todd Domer, of the Kansas Livestock Association, says the losses have been devastating.

Fire crews battled hot spots overnight Tuesday in Reno County, but residents of one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods were allowed back to their houses.

No deaths or injuries were reported in the county, but eight homes were destroyed.

Velera Adams and her husband got the call, along with thousands of others, to evacuate from rural Hutchinson just as night fell Monday. She said they drove to a church parking lot just outside the evacuation zone.

“And we could see the fire, all along north of there,” said Velera Adams. “It was pretty scary.”

At a stressful time for U.S. farmers, the government’s efforts at calming the agricultural waters took center stage Thursday, when the heads of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee left Washington for the Midwest to solicit opinions on priorities for the next Farm Bill.

U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts, R-KS, and Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, heard from Midwest farmers at their first field hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

Rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.