HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Today we'll start a special three part series that began as a stop-over at Busy Bee Farms in Southwest Kansas.  I found out about this great place when I bought a little container of delicious tomatoes that sported the Busy Bee logo and implored me to 'buy local'. 

Abbie Fentress Swanson / Harvest Public Media

It’s not just lifelong farmers who feel the pull of the land as they get older. For some Americans, retirement is an opportunity to begin the farming dream.

“I wanted to be able to be active and have a pastime that ensured physical activity,” said beginning farmer Tom Thomas, who at 65 still has the physical fitness to wrestle and brand steers at his son’s ranch in Oklahoma. 

Thomas retired two years ago after teaching exercise physiology for 35 years and he knew what he wanted to do next.

Facing the family farm legacy

Jul 9, 2013
Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media

Driving out of the western Iowa town of Panora, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.

Though Jim Arganbright farmed here his whole life, three years ago at the age of 80 he started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his children who farms full-time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.

How long can you farm?

Jul 8, 2013
Bob Hawthorn

Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.

Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.

“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

Texas Wins: Energy Dichotomy

Jul 7, 2013
leadenergy.org

Texas.  Everything's bigger in Texas.  A recent piece by State Impact Texas, noted it not only applies to fossil fuel production, but also pollution.  The biggest polluter is also the state with the most wind energy, more than any other state, as a matter of fact, more than a lot of countries.  

Farm groups keep up farm bill pressure

Jul 7, 2013
geringhoffusa.blogspot.com

  In an effort to revive the defeated farm bill, more than 530 organizations, including heavyweights like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, have signed a letter (PDF) that urges House Speaker John Boehner to bring the legislation back to the floor.

OSHA inspection reveals plant failed to protect workers.

workingnurse.com

The Kansas Health Institute reported two companies agreed to pay the federal government $9.7 million.   The two are: Hospital Corporation of America, owner of Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, and Lifepoint Hospitals, Inc.,  owner of Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City.  The settlement is in regard to allegations that both billed over billed Medicare for an inpatient procedure that could have been done safely and more cost effectively in an out-patient setting.

Who wants biotech wheat?

Jul 4, 2013
Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Many farmers say they would like to grow genetically engineered wheat to help them feed a hungry world, but it’s not what everyone’s hungry for. And now, with the mysterious appearance of Roundup Ready wheat in a farmer’s field in Oregon a few weeks ago, consumer resistance may grow even stronger.

Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.

2013 Wheat Harvest Isn't Good for Western Kansas

Jul 3, 2013

Kansas wheat harvest is nearing completion, and it seems to be a year of feast or famine. Western Kansas falls on the side of famine.  The Wichita Eagle says Highway 13 seems to be the dividing line.

Happy State Bank and Amarillo National Bank made BauerFinancial's Top 100 Banks. BauerFinancial analyzes and reports on the condition of the nation's banks. Financial institutions do not pay for this rating, nor can they avoid it.

ezilon

Typically, cities fuel job growth, but a recent article in the Wichita Eagle reveals urban employment levels in Kansas are level, while rural areas are experiencing growth.   Much of the rural improvements can be attributed to increased oil drilling, oil services, overall farming wealth increase, and government transfers like Medicare. 

Jerod Foster

Motivated by water district regulations and a falling water table, a handful of farmers in the Texas Panhandle are participating in a water conservation project.  Farmers like Harold Grall, are implementing technology and changing farming practices to reduce water use and remain profitable reported The Texas Tribune.  

Fireworks Safety Tips

Jun 30, 2013

The Fourth of July is Thursday.  Many will celebrate Independence Day with friends, family, and fireworks. 

Last call for wheat trading in Kansas City

Jun 27, 2013
KCBT

For 157 years, the price of most wheat grown on the plains has been set by the Kansas City Board of Trade. That will soon come to an end.

In October 2012, Chicago-based CME Group acquired the Kansas City Board of Trade. Operations move to Chicago as of July 1 – and the last call on the Kansas City trading floor takes place on Friday. Here's a look back at the long history of the Board of Trade – and the end of an era.

Deep roots in KC

Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute reported  federal officials will run the new health exchange for the state of Kansas, but Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said she has been in discussions to have complex calls roll over to her department.  Her goal is to connect Kansas consumers with local experts who are familiar with insurance plans and regulations specific to the state. 

The Ambassador Hotel in Amarillo, Texas, is now part of the world's largest independent hotel group.  Karen Smith Welch recently reported in the Amarillo Globe that the Ambassador will, "fly the flag of Magnuson Hotels as the Magnuson Grand Hotel Amarillo."  

Dinesh Patel has owned the Ambassador since 2004.  He said he is negotiating to retain the Ambassador name, and he hopes the change will increase the hotel's internet presence.

Redefining the co-op in ways big and small

Jun 23, 2013
Hilary Stohs-Krause/NET News

  The cooperative business model, long a staple of Midwestern agricultural communities, is being adapted to serve a broader range of rural needs.

For example, in the south-central Nebraska town of Elwood — population 700 — there’s a new grocery store.

“I get very emotional almost every time I’m in here, because I’m just so happy to have this store,” said Sharlette Schwenninger, who helped found the cooperative store.  The town had been without a grocery store for more than a year.

Matthew Staver for The New York Times

Prescott Frost, the great grandson of poet Robert Frost, is a maverick who sees the Sandhills of Nebraska as the Napa Valley of ranchland.  On his 7,000 acre ranch there he’s dedicated himself to raising and marketing his own brand of artisanal beef, as detailed in a New York Times profile by Kathryn Shattuck.

Food safety programs will have to be completed, but now the gate swings a little wider, allowing Texans to sell more homemade foods in more locations.

Now that the Senate has a farm bill (technically the Agriculture, Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013)ready and waiting for reconciliation with a House version, it’s a good time to look at how some of what the Senate passed may play out in the House—and what it all means for the general public as well as for farmers.

Nationally, the United States is aging, but recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed five states bucked the trend.  They are: Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Alaska.  The report also noted half of children under the age of five are minorities, Asians are the fastest growing minority or ethnic group, and four states, including Texas, are, "majority-minority."  You can read the recent article from the Kansas Institute of Health here.

How are decisions made about projects that benefit rural America?

Jun 16, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture first began designating funds for rural development in 1933 as part of the New Deal. More federal funds were allocated in the Agricultural Act of 1970. During this fiscal year, the rural development program is administering approximately $38 billion in loans, loan guarantees and grants. It’s being used to construct or improve 48 rural libraries, assist 243 projects in the delivery of healthcare and help more than 270,000 low income families get affordable housing, according to the USDA.

A rural physician was the first to be federally certified to use electronic medical records in the state of Kansas, and continues the trend by being chosen as one of the first Health IT Fellows.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

    As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.

With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.

Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture, or CSA, model is praised. It’s considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat. Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But as Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon reports running a CSA can bring some tricky business decisions.

Lifeblood for rural communities: federal funds

Jun 12, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse/Harvest Public Media.

As Congress fiddles with major farm legislation, there’s a portion of it that gets very little attention. Some say it is a difference-maker for job creation in small rural communities and provides a boost those towns need. Harvest Public Media’s Bill Wheelhouse reports.

In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days. 

Advances in technology, along with an unusual alliance of green and red politics, have spurred the growth of wind energy across the plains states. Yet the uncertainty of short-term tax credits has also created cycles of boom and bust that may harm the industry in the long run. The Economist magazine provides a good overview of the current state of play.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter

The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.

Your Infrastructure Grade is...

Jun 10, 2013

The American Society of Civil Engineers recently posted the infrastructure report card for each state.  Scores were given in 12 categories: aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, education, energy, flood control, inland waterways, roads, solid waste, transit, and wastewater.

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