HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Agriculture:
crop production
crop irrigation
livestock production
dairy production
research & development

Energy
oil & gas production
wind energy
biofuels production
food processing
manufacturing

Transportation & telecommunications
rail service
air service
highways
internet service

Economic indicators & conditions:
workforce demographics
employment rates
land values
tax collections

Entrepreneurship:
small business development
technology application
innovation

SCOTUS Case Impacts Ag Workers

20 hours ago
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This week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says employers can avoid settling disputes with workers in court.

But that could harm people who work on farms or in meatpacking plants … people who often rely on class-action lawsuits to collect unfairly withheld wages.

University of Denver law professor Nantiya Ruan says litigation is expensive and the damages in those types of cases are small, so ag workers usually can’t afford an individual case.

Flying east to west over Kansas, the land transforms from lush green to desert brown. Rectangular farm plots fill in with emerald circles, the work of center-pivot irrigation.

Outside Garden City, in the middle of one of those circles, Dwane Roth scoops up soil to reveal an inconspicuous PVC pipe. It’s a soil moisture probe that tells Roth exactly how much water his crops need. The device is one of many new technologies designed to help farmers make the most of every drop.

“All that you have to do is open up your app,” said Roth. “It’s going to tell you, you don’t need to irrigate or you’re going to need to apply an inch within  six days.”

Kansas saw a bump in job growth last month.

The Kansas Department of Labor says the state gained 2,000 private sector jobs from March to April. Compared to April of last year, Kansas had nearly 18,000 more jobs in the private sector.

Emilie Doerksen, with the Department of Labor, says there have been jumps in job categories such as business services, transportation and warehousing.

“This is actually the first month that we’ve had significant over-the-year gains in the private sector in over a year,” Doerksen says.

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Businesses in the Lone Star State are growing increasingly worried that President Trump's “America first” economic policies might do harm to trade between Texas and Mexico.

As the BBC reports, Texas industry leaders are worried that Trump’s hostility toward the North American Free Trade Agreement could cut into profits and lead to job losses.

From Texas Standard.

President Donald Trump has brought or threatened tariffs against many U.S. trading partners in an effort to bring them to the negotiating table. China threatened back, promising to bring tariffs against many U.S. imports. That trade battle may seem far away, but it is making a lot of farmers in Texas nervous.

Dairy farmer Gary Rock sits in his milking parlor, overlooking what is left of his 95-cow operation in LaRue County, Kentucky.

“Three hundred years of history is something that a lot of people in our country cannot even talk about,” Rock said. That’s how long the farm has been in his family.

From Texas Standard.

Ford announced recently that it will stop making most of its sedans, because the money is in trucks and SUVs. But now, gas prices are climbing, after four or five years without a significant increase. Like everyone who drives, and even those who travel by other means, Texans feel the impact of higher gas prices right in the wallet. But here, there’s a bit of a silver lining, because so much of the economy, and even the government’s coffers, rely on oil revenue. But with the Texas economy more diverse than ever, what does $3-a-gallon gas mean, on balance?

Beef cattle ranchers have always known that making the best steak starts long before consumers pick out the right cut, or where an animal grazes or what it eats.

The key is in the genetic makeup — or DNA — of the herd. And over the last year, those genetics have taken a historic leap thanks to new, predictive DNA technology.

The first version of the 2018 farm bill has only minor changes to one of the programs most farmers hold dear and what’s widely seen as their primary safety net: crop insurance.

The program covers all sorts of crops, “from corn to clams,” Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart said. But it’s not like the types of insurance most people are familiar with.

From Texas Standard:

Sunday, the third and fourth largest mobile carriers in the U.S. announced a $26.5 billion plan to merge. A marriage of Sprint and T-Mobile, if approved, would yield a company with more than 90 million customers. But the merger isn’t a done deal yet, and another pending communications merger could shape the outcome – the proposed acquisition of Time-Warner by AT&T. That merger is in court, facing opposition from the U.S. Justice Department.

Amazon celebrated the grand opening of its third "fulfillment center" in Kansas on Tuesday.

The new 850,000 square-foot Kansas City, Kansas, began operations on August 6, 2017; other facilities were already operating in Lenexa and Edgerton. The centers serve as the conduit between an online order on Amazon to the shipment to the customer. 

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Drivers of electric cars in Oklahoma will soon be able to charge their vehicles much more easily.

As The Oklahoman reports, vehicle charging stations will soon be set up at Walmart stores in the Sooner State. The charging stations are being installed by Electrify America, a unit of Volkswagen Group of America. As of now, only four or five Walmarts in Oklahoma will receive the charging stations, with the possibility of more to come in the future.

Texas has long been known as an economic powerhouse among states, but High Plains residents may not be aware of just how powerful the Lone Star State is on the world stage.

According to a new editorial in Forbes, the economy of Texas dwarfs that of Russia, which is by far the largest country in the world by area.

For about 10 years Laura Krier has lived in Concordia, Kansas, a small town that she’s seen get only smaller.

Without some kind of economic development, she fears things it will only get worse.

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill — released on Thursday — came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Kansas oil production continued its decline in 2017 even as prices began to tick up.

Kay Ledbetter

A brewing trade war between the United States and China is making Texas cattle ranchers nervous about potential tariffs on their beef exports.

From The Texas Tribune:

Longtime cattle rancher Jason Peeler gets uneasy when he hears about a looming trade war between the United States and China, and he says he's not the only one. 

“We are nervous — we’re really nervous,” Peeler said.

Meant to fund the federal government through early September, the $1.3 trillion bill signed by President Donald Trump last week also includes money and changes for ag-related programs beyond the “grain-glitch” fix.

Updated April 4 to clarify the export percentage — China matters to the U.S. pork industry, as more than a quarter of all hogs raised here are shipped there. So, China’s decision to up its tariffs on 128 U.S. products, pork included, worried producers and rippled through the stock market.

From Texas Standard.

According to the Dallas Federal Reserve’s monthly Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey, activity at Texas factories expanded in March. But the report also indicated that the production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell 15 points – the sixth biggest drop since 2004. So what does this mean for the state and its manufacturing industry?

Unemployment Rates In Colorado And Kansas Hold Steady

Mar 27, 2018
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Colorado’s unemployment rate held steady between January and February.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor, Colorado’s unemployment rate was unchanged from January to February at 3 percent, with the number of people actively participating in the labor force increasing by 7,600 over the month and the number of people reporting themselves as employed increasing by 7,800.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico wrapped up the latest round of negotiations earlier this month over NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Donald Trump has threatened to terminate the trade pact, which he continues to call a bad deal for the U.S. But NAFTA has helped grow the beef industry beyond the U.S. borders, so while some worry about the Trump administration’s wavering commitment to NAFTA, others want more protections.

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Credit rating agencies recently sent a warning to the Lone Star State: If Texas doesn’t get its spending under control, including its overstretched obligations in the areas of public education, pensions, transportation and health care, then the state’s credit rating will be downgraded.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune

Texas is among several states that will bar teachers, dentists, nurses and other professional license holders from renewing their licenses if they are in default on their student loans. Critics say the practice is counterproductive, since it impedes Texans’ ability to work and pay back those loans.

From The Texas Tribune:

The world’s largest meatpacking company, JBS, shrunk last week due to selling off its massive cattle feedlot operation — the most recent asset that the Brazil-based company has sold after becoming mired in multiple corruption scandals.

US Air Force

The Texas unemployment rate rose slightly in the most recent numbers, up 4.2% for January. As KFYO notes, the jobless rate in the Lone Star State is slightly higher than the national figure, which stands at 4.1%. Annual employment growth for January in Texas was 2%, marking 93 consecutive months of annual growth.

Amarillo’s unemployment rate, at 2.8%, is significantly lower than the statewide rate. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s jobless rate held steady at 4.1%, a tenth of a point lower than Texas’s.

Seeking what he called “clean” food for lunch, Alexander Minnelli chose ProteinHouse, one of the newer restaurants in downtown Kansas City.

When President Donald Trump follows through on his plan to tax imported steel and aluminum, American farmers will get less money for some crops and pay more for machinery.

Farm groups say their members worry the countries targeted by the tariffs (the list of which has not been finalized by the Trump administration) will tax farm products. The European Union already has threatened imports of corn, rice, cranberries, peanut butter, kidney beans, orange juice and even bourbon, which is usually made from corn.

There is a slight silver lining for consumers, however, because prices of those products may drop in the U.S.

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Craft brewers in the state of Texas are growing increasingly incensed at the way the state government has been treating their industry.

As the San Antonio Express-News reports, Brewers must face a labyrinthine set of laws if they hope to successfully run their businesses in the state. For example, if a craft brew pub wants to sell products from other beer makers, that's illegal. They can, however, sell wine or cider from other makers.

When a man places 40 dozen eggs on the conveyor in the check-out line at the grocery store, it begs the question: What’s he going to do with all of them?

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