HPPR Economy and Enterprise

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Economic indicators & conditions:
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TX Consumers Reap Benefits as Gas Prices Fall

Nov 27, 2015

Households are expected to save $700 on average this year at the gas pumps, as compared to last year, reports Amarillo.com. And this Thanksgiving holiday, prices for goods and travel have fallen to levels not seen since 2007. OPEC began a price war with U.S. natural gas on Thanksgiving of last year. While the battle has been hard on oil workers, consumers have been the ultimate winners.

Tom Dorsey / Salina Journal

From Kansas Agland:

For decades, the nation's breadbasket has been sowing fewer and fewer acres to wheat.

That's evident on Paul Penner's Marion County farm - where he once planted 75 percent of his fields to wheat. These days, wheat has dropped to a third of his crop production.

The reason is simple, Penner says. Farmers see more profitability in crops like corn and soybeans.

Blue Bell's Largest Plant Resumes Operations

Nov 25, 2015
Brett Coomer / AP photo

Texas ice cream maker Blue Bell resumed operations last week at its largest plant, reports Reuters. The plant had previously been shut down due to a listeria outbreak. Six months ago, the outbreak halted the company's production and caused a panic among customers. 

Darrell Hoemann / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

From Harvest Public Media:

About the authorRobert HollyReporter, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Robert Holly is a reporter with the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

KUT news

Texas lawmakers are trying to determine how much the decline in oil prices is hurting ranchers, reports KUT. The topic is one of the interim charges for the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock. That means, the committee has been asked to study the issue before the next legislative session.

Women-Owned Businesses Are Thriving, Study Shows

Nov 18, 2015

Women-owned businesses are booming in the US, reports the Center for Rural Affairs. As of 2012, there were almost ten million businesses in America owned by women. That’s a rise of almost 28 percent in just five years. Profits for these businesses were up by over a trillion dollars over the same period.

Mose Buchele

Texas’s state nut is looking to make a comeback. Pecans were all the rage in the 60s, but then the almond took over. Since then, the US almond crop has grown 33-fold. But now, StateImpact Texas reports that things are looking up for the Lone Star staple. The USDA has allowed the pecan industry to start something called a “federal marketing order.” This will allow pecan producers to pool their money and market their product.


While organic crop production continues to grow in the US, organic crop acreage is still a tiny percentage of overall crops, reports The Rural Blog. The number of organic crops produced almost doubled from 2002 to 2011, but has not made a huge dent in the US total. Organic crops account for less than one percent of the total acreage of any given crop.

Brandon Thibodeaux / New York Times

Texas wind farms are generating so much energy that some utilities are giving power away, reports the New York Times. TXU Energy is making a bold attempt to change the way Texans consume energy.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Cage-free eggs could be coming to a breakfast near you.

Several large food companies and restaurants, from Starbucks to McDonald’s to Kellogg’s, announced timelines this year for phasing out eggs laid in conventional cages, a victory for animal welfare advocates who have pushed for changes for years.

Texas Minority Home Ownership Lags Far Behind Whites

Nov 12, 2015
Jolie McCullough / U.S. Census Bureau, 2014 American Community Survey

Texas minorities are less likely than white Texans to own their homes, reports The Texas Tribune. The state’s largest metro areas have some of the most substantial racial disparities among homeowners in the nation, according to U.S. Census data.

David Morris / Creative Commons

The Center for Rural Affairs has long heard complaints from small- and mid-sized farms that the federal crop insurance program unfairly benefits large corporate farms and causes land values to rise. So the Center decided to investigate. Their research determined that subsidized crop insurance indeed has an impact on land values.

Kansas Biologist Takes Issue with Textbook Ag Science

Nov 11, 2015
Professor John Richard Schrock

For decades Americans have been asking whether it’s better for the earth if humans are herbivores, carnivores or somewhere on the omnivore spectrum? Some textbooks purport to have the answers, claiming to show in graphs and clear language that “herbivore” is by far the best route for humans and the planet. The textbooks insist that any land used for crops will increase the world’s food supply. But biologist John Richard Schrock disagrees, reports Kansas Public Radio.

Colorado State University Photography

From Harvest Public Media:

Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jacob Byk / Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

The importance of farming and ranching to the state’s economy touches all Kansans – and, according to the latest Kansas Department of Agriculture figures – the world.

In its latest figures, the department states that agriculture’s annual output was about $62 billion in 2012 – the most recent figures available – accounting for 43 percent of the state’s total economy.

Green Plains Buys Hereford Ethanol Plant

Nov 6, 2015
lada/photo / Creative Commons

Reuters reports that Green Plains, Inc., has purchased its second ethanol plant in a week. The facility, in Hereford, TX, was previously owned by Murphy USA Inc. The plant has an annual production capacity of 100 million gallons of ethanol. The facility was expected to close this month, but will now remain open.

USDA Creates Website to Help New Farmers

Nov 4, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced a new website last week to help new and young farmers, reports The Rural Blog. Chris Clayton of DTN/The Progressive Farmer explains: "The site has links for new farmers, women in ag, youth and military veterans to detail some considerations farmers need to think about when going into farming. The site provides different topics or issues a person needs to consider when getting into farming.

As Gas Prices Fall, Kansas Oil Counties Suffer

Nov 2, 2015
Tim Evanson / Flickr Creative Commons

While Kansas consumers may be enjoying cheap gas at the pumps, the lower prices are hitting some oil-producing counties hard, reports The Wichita Eagle. These counties are being forced to cut spending and increase taxes to make up for the petroleum profit shortfall. Oil and gas property values in the state have fallen by percent this year. And 16 oil and gas-producing counties in Western Kansas have seen their total property values decline by 20 percent.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

In the wake of Texas's announcement that bit plans to build a massive gold bullion depository, major international precious metal firms are vying for a piece of the action, reports The Texas Tribune.

Garden City Co-op

From Kansas Agland:

After a multi-year drought, the scene has changed in Hamilton County.

Trucks filled with grain are lining up at the Syracuse elevator. Combines are out cutting late into the evening. Large mountains of grain sorghum are being piled on the ground at the cooperative and at the town's fairgrounds. 

John Wark / AP photo

The southern Colorado town of Pueblo was once an industrial town, a steelworker’s stronghold. But after the steel market crashed in 1982, the town had trouble recovering. Until now. The legalization of marijuana has led to a massive influx of new visitors, and many of them are coming to stay, reports The Guardian

Kansas Agland

From Kansas Agland:

GRIGSTON – There were plenty of signs to tell the South American trade buyers that – at least this fall – milo is king in western Kansas.

Mountains of milo dot about every Kansas elevator along Highway 96. What hasn’t been cut of the thick russet crop spreads across their route from Liberal to this tiny Scott County spot along the highway.

Colorado Unemployment Rate Continues to Fall

Oct 28, 2015
Jeffrey Beall / Flickr Creative Commons

The employment situation in Colorado continues to improve, according to recent job numbers. The Prowers Journal reports that the unemployment rate decreased two-tenths of a percentage point last month, to 4.0 percent.  The increase in total employment combined with the decrease in labor force caused the number of unemployed to decrease by 6,800. The national unemployment rate remained unchanged from August to September, at 5.1 percent.

AFP AFP / Getty Images

A Chinese investment company intends to purchase $1.3 billion in oil properties in Western Texas, reports member station KUT. The holding company signed a letter of intent last week to purchase the land through a limited liability partnership.

A Tour of a Meatpacking Facility with Temple Grandin

Oct 23, 2015
Rosalie Winard / The Economist

Much has changed in the American meatpacking industry since the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle 109 years ago. The Economist recently joined animal-welfare and autism-awareness advocate Temple Grandin for a tour of a Colorado meat-processing facility. The Fort Morgan facility is a massive operation; the plant employs 2,100 people and slaughters 4,600 cows every day.

James M. Dobson / Garden City Telegram

The horizon south of Garden City, Kansas, will get a new addition soon. Ground was broken last week on the $235 million Meadowlark dairy processing plant, reports The Garden City Telegram. Governor Sam Brownback, in town for the groundbreaking ceremony, was thrilled about the new facility, saying: “We’ve heard in the past from dairies interested in Kansas that a limiting factor is the proximity of a milk processing plant.

Cropland Prices Droop, While Ranchland Values Soar

Oct 20, 2015

Lower grain prices have caused Kansas farmland prices to slump this year, reports the ­Dodge City Daily Globe. The value of Kansas cropland was down 2.2 percent as of Aug. 15, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Experts expect cropland values to slide even further in the coming months as the agriculture sector continues to struggle.

The statistics are in, and the unemployment rate in Kansas is down.

South Dakota Tribe to Open Marijuana Resort

Oct 14, 2015
United States Fish and Wildlife Service / Creative Commons

The Santee Sioux tribe of South Dakota may have discovered a new money-making model for native tribes across the US, according to The Guardian. The tribe will open the nation’s first marijuana resort on its reservation, hoping to sell its first marijuana cigarette on New Year’s Eve. Marijuana was legalized on the reservation in June.


New research shows that sorghum is the ideal crop for eastern Colorado. According to the Journal-Advocate, sorghum is cheaper to grow and produces higher yields on the Colorado plains than corn.