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

Luke Clayton

November marks the beginning of trophy blue catfish season on many lakes. Guide David Hanson says about the time the whitetail deer begin their annual rut, the big blue catfish turn on at Lake Tawakoni, where he has been fishing and guiding for most of his life.

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INMAN - It was over a bowl of popcorn on a winter evening last year that McPherson County farmer Dwight Baldwin began thinking of an alternative.

He had recently sifted through one of his latest farm publications, which touted alternative crops. However, like most of his neighbors, he and his son, Adam, have grown wheat, milo, soybeans and corn on their ground near Inman. Yet the farm economy centered around those traditional crops was struggling.

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Farmers, lured by the promise of an easy, steady paycheck by raising chickens are told if they just keep the birds healthy, industrial poultry processors will take care of the rest.

As The Texas Observer reports, however, after growers sign an exclusive contract to build several 24,000-square-foot chicken houses, the companies that process the poultry sometimes require expensive improvements be made to the chicken houses that many growers can’t afford.

I Love Dairy Queen! / Wikimedia Commons

Several small towns in the Texas Panhandle may soon be losing a storied part of West Texas culture.

As KAMR reports, approximately 70 Dairy Queens across Texas and New Mexico may soon close due to bankruptcy.

The parent company of the DQs, Vasari LLC, has indicated that it is scrambling to find a way to keep the fast food restaurants in business. While some locations will be closed, others have a chance of being sold and staying in business.

Immigration And Trade Essential To Kansas Economy

Oct 30, 2017
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Immigration and trade are essential aspects of the Kansas economy.

That was the consensus at the Kansas Economic Policy Conference held last week at the University of Kansas.

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The Lone Star State has been attracting droves of new Texans each year, newcomers who are attracted to the state’s low tax rates and plentiful sunshine. Meanwhile, Texas has a lower percentage of residents moving away than any other state.

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Three more coal-powered plants in Texas will be shutting down soon.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, this development means that Texas will likely be getting more of its power from wind than from traditional coal plants. The Trump administration has rallied to try and save coal operations, standing by its stance that coal is the victim of efforts by environmental activists to close the plants. In fact, the closures of coal facilities began a decade ago, after the price of natural gas plummeted.

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Bernie Thiel, like many agricultural producers across the High Plains, has had to lower the acreage he plants to squash because of a lack of labor.

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New job numbers were released this week for Oklahoma and Texas, and things appear to be moving along in both states at a steady clip.

As The Oklahoman reports, Oklahoma's unemployment rate in September remained unchanged at 4.5 percent. State employment officials say Oklahoma is showing especially strong movement in the private sector. One year ago, the jobless rate in the Sooner State was half a point higher, at five percent.

New Ag Guestworker Program Legislation Headed To US House

Oct 25, 2017

A bill to overhaul the federal agricultural guestworker program cleared its first hurdle Wednesday and is headed to the full U.S. House.

The Republican-majority House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 17-16 after two days of debate and over the objections of many Democrats. It’s likely to clear the House, though its future in the Senate is unclear.

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Colby Kansas Farmer Lon Frahm is featured in a video from the Wall Street Journal about the future of farming in the U.S.

Frahm says technology has allowed him to do more farming with the same amount of people – nine to be exact, who help him farm 30,000 acres of corn and wheat. Thirty years ago, Frahm had 6,000 acres and four employees.

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In September, Kansas’s unemployment dropped slightly and Colorado’s inched up slightly.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, the jobless rate in Kansas dropped to 3.8 percent in September.

According to the Kansas Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was about a tenth higher in August.

Reynaldo Leal / The Texas Tribune

From The Texas Tribune:

The president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas told business leaders that unemployment and education should be viewed apolitically to avoid risking Texas and the rest of the country becoming less competitive.

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Amazon’s largest wind farm to date is up and running in West Texas, reports Engadget.com.

Known as Amazon Wind Farm Texas, the wind energy operation is located in Scurry County, near Snyder, Texas.

The entire operation includes over 100 turbines and will generate enough clean energy to power more than 330,000 homes. Amazon plans to take whatever energy it needs from the farm, then sell the rest to the state’s energy users.

USDA Won't Implement Tougher Meatpacker Rules

Oct 19, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture won’t go forward with rules meant to make it easier for small livestock producers to report possible unfair treatment.

The agency’s decision on the proposal, which came at the tail end of the Obama administration, was announced Tuesday and met with mixed response.

Updated Wednesday at 10:34 p.m.

Tyson Foods is considering Sedgwick County and two other locations in Kansas as possible sites for a new $320 million poultry processing complex.

Gobierno de Chile / Wikimedia Commons

Evidence is mounting that President Donald Trump’s decision to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is taking a heavy economic toll on rural America, reports POLITICO.

U.S. farmers and meat producers had been looking forward to seeing Asian markets opened up to their products. Instead, countries like Japan have taken their business elsewhere, seeking to purchase meats, grains and fruits from countries with lower tariffs.

Bayer AG announced the sale of a large part of its agribusiness on Friday. The deal will move the company closer to yet another big deal.

Bayer AG says it sold part of its crop science division to BASF for $7 billion.

The sale includes Bayer’s field crop seed and pesticide businesses.

Bayer says the move is “an active approach” to help it win regulatory approval for its proposed buyout of Monsanto.

That $66 billion deal will merge two of the world’s largest agribusinesses.

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Two weeks ago, the coal industry got a bit of good news when former Texas governor and current U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested that failing coal plants be subsidized by United States taxpayers.

But coal's reprieve from bad news was short-lived, as last week the energy giant Luminant announced it would shut down three coal-fired power plants early next year.

Michael Barera

The Texas Legislature’s controversial “bathroom bill” generated a strong backlash among the business community this year. The proposal was ultimately stopped, largely due to the moderate leadership of House Speaker Joe Straus.

Now, as The Texas Tribune reports, Straus is putting together a committee to make sure Texas is smart about attracting new companies going forward.

Harry Wood / Wikimedia Commons

The Mexican government has raised the amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline, in a move that could have a big effect on the oil and corn producers of the High Plains.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, Mexico has upped the allowable percentage of ethanol from 5.8 percent to 10 percent, which is also the level currently allowed in the U.S. Now, some of the world's biggest biofuels companies are jockeying for a position within what is the world's fourth largest gasoline market.

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Approximately 1.8 million Americans, primarily men, drive trucks for a living, but with companies like Google eyeing automated trucking, those jobs could soon be a thing of the past.

As The Guardian reports, automated vehicles are projected to save billions but cost millions of jobs, as Google, Uber, Tesla and major truck manufacturers look to automate the trucking industry.

At the very least, truck drivers could be downgraded to co-pilots, once automation hits the industry.

Iowa’s secretary of agriculture is one step closer to a new post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bill Northey appeared before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. He answered questions about a variety of farm-support and conservation programs he would oversee as undersecretary from the farm and foreign agricultural services.

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A new report shows that big tax breaks may be causing significant harm to Oklahoma’s economy, reports KFOR. The study by a consulting group in Philadelphia reveals that one specific tax deduction alone has caused the state to lose close to half a billion dollars.

Oklahoma’s capital gains tax deduction has slashed tax revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars, while only creating an estimated $9 million in additional tax revenue.

Gov. Sam Brownback says Kansas officials are still trying to attract a Tyson chicken processing plant to the state, after plans stalled to build one in Leavenworth County. Brownback says things will be handled differently this time around.

When Tyson announced plans for the $300 million facility outside Tonganoxie, there was a sizable public outcry and the proposal was put on hold. One reason for the opposition was that the plans were developed in secret and only made public after local officials had already promised economic incentives.

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Xcel energy is seeking approval for new wind farms in the Texas Panhandle. If the plans are approved, the new turbines—along with a new farm planned for New Mexico, would generate 40 percent of the region’s power needs by 2021.

In an editorial for North American Wind Power, Betsy Lillian says the new project would power almost half a million homes. She attributes the viability of the project to Xcel’s previous investment in a high-voltage transmission network in the Texas Panhandle.

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The Roth family, founders of Beef Products Incorporated, announced this week that they have established a $10 million fund to benefit former employees.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports that the money will go toward helping communities affected by plant closures. In 2012, BPI laid off approximately 750 employees and closed three production facilities, including plants in Amarillo and Garden City.

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Financial analyst Frank Holmes recently wrote an editorial in Forbes magazine praising the ingenuity of Texas fracking companies. It’s only due to this ingenuity and efficiency, he wrote, that West Texas producers can remain profitable, even though oil prices are still hovering around the range of $50 a barrel.

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Midland, Texas, is in the midst of an oil boom. Homes are selling for over $1 million. Real estate prices shot up almost 9 percent in the past year, and permits for new construction climbed 76 percent.

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The Colorado economy will continue to grow at a steady clip, according to state economic forecasts released last week, thanks in part to rebounding oil prices, but rural Colorado isn’t expected to benefit as much as other parts of the state.

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