High Plains Public Radio

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

Andrew Spear / New York Times

  The New York Times this week reported on groups of Christians in the heartland who have a new mission in mind: fighting predatory lending. Their main target is what’s called a “payday” loan: a high-interest loan often taken in a moment of financial crisis. The movement has united conservative and Evangelical churches with liberal ones.

KOTV

The unemployment rate in Oklahoma rose by two-tenths of a percentage point last month, reports KOTV. That brings the level up to 4.7 percent, making it even with the national unemployment rate.

From April to May Oklahoma’s labor force declined by well over 7,000 workers. Meanwhile the number of jobless rose by nearly 10,000.

Public Domain

Over the past year construction employment in Kansas fell by over 3,400 jobs, reports The Hutchinson News. As a result, the Sunflower State has fallen to 49th in the nation in construction jobs. Meanwhile, the four states that border Kansas have all seen growth, adding a combined 20,000 construction jobs to their own economies.

Rural Blog

In a world where we often feel like international events and information overload might overtake our lives, the small town paper remains a trusted source for news on the people and events in our local lives. While we hear a lot of doom and gloom about major newspapers in big cities going out of business, many rural newspapers have managed to stay afloat.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Summer travel season is here, and it brings good news for Oklahoma travelers. Despite heavy demand, Oklahoma gas prices remain among the cheapest nationwide, reports The Duncan Banner.

The national average for regular gas prices continues to rise. But Oklahoma’s average has only moved up by two cents in the last three weeks. It now sits at just $2.15 a gallon.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Despite a delayed wheat harvest this year, Oklahoma may be looking at one of the strongest ingatherings in recent memory, reports KGOU. That’s because heavy rains caused the delay. For the second year in a row, Mother Nature was kind to Oklahoma farmers. Nevertheless, many farmers are still recovering from years of drought that only recently retreated. Even worse: Some climatologists warn the drought might be returning soon.

Reuters

In a time when technology so often seems to be tearing us apart, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of how the internet can bring us together. The ride-sharing services known as Lyft and Uber recently left Austin in protest of strict local regulations about who could drive for the companies.

National Park Service/CPR

It looks like Western Colorado may be sitting on quite a bit more energy than experts believed. In fact, as Colorado Public Radio reports, the western part of the state has 40 times more natural gas than previously thought. However, it’s unlikely the extra gas will produce another oil boom, as tapping the energy would only send prices lower.

Tom Corser / Wikimedia Commons

A controversial transmission line that would carry wind power to the east from Kansas is gaining more support, reports The Wichita Eagle. The 780-mile Grain Belt Express line will transmit wind power from western Kansas across Missouri and further eastward. And now a group representing Missouri municipal utilities has signed up for space on the transmission line.

Travis Morrisse / Hutchinson News

From Kansas Agland:

Kansas net farm income in 2015 hit a 30-year low, reaching a level not seen since the 1980s farm crisis.

Accrual net farm income across 1,159 Kansas Farm Management Association farms averaged $4,568, drastically down from a five-year average of $120,000.

Continental Resources/WSJ

Even with today’s low oil prices, producers are still finding places where they can profitably drill. In Oklahoma and West Texas, notes The Wall Street Journal, some companies are still managing to thrive in today’s struggling oil economy. One area of Oklahoma known as the Stack, for example, is still producing solid returns.

Getty Images/WSJ

If you’re feeling unproductive at work, maybe you should consider standing up. Stand-up desks have been gaining popularity in recent years. The newest trend is something called a “stand-capable” desk. That’s a desk that can be converted to standing or sitting positions. And a new study reported in The Wall Street Journal shows that these desks often increase productivity.

Kristi Koser / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

At the grocery store, processed foods like cereal, crackers and candy usually maintain the same price for a long time, and inch up only gradually. Economists call these prices “sticky” because they don’t move much even as some of the commodities that go into them do.

Take corn, for example, which can be a major food player as a grain, a starch or a sweetener.  

Ann Saphir / Reuters

Oil prices are creeping up, and that means energy companies are tentatively starting to drill again, Reuters reports. Many drillers are starting to be optimistic that this time they really are on the other end of the horrific two-year slump. The downturn has caused oil outfits to shed employees and hemorrhage profits. Now as wells in the West Texas Permian Basin are again becoming profitable, producers are finally taking baby steps to crank up output.

Paul Lowry / Texas Tribune

Slumping oil prices aren’t just hurting oil and gas companies. Many landowners see the effects when they visit their mailbox, reports The Texas Tribune. The energy downturn is eating into the monthly checks royalty owners receive for oil production on their property. However, while it’s little comfort, the slowing income can also mean their tax bills will plummet.

Megg / Flickr Creative Commons

From Harvest Public Media:

Expansion in the country’s beef cattle herd is bringing cheaper meat prices to the grocery store just in time for the summer grilling season, but those reduced prices might get some scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data show the price of ground beef is down about 30 cents per pound compared to last year.

USDA / Rural Blog

Many rural areas in America are becoming less reliant on agriculture and more oil and gas dependent, reports The Rural Blog. According to the USDA, over the last ten years the number of farming dependent counties in the US has dropped. In that same period, the number of mining-dependent counties grew by 60 percent.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

The 21st century farm has come a long way from a simple matter of sowing and reaping. To keep up with the future, notes NetNebraska, many farmers are employing business school techniques. For example, David Muth of Ames, Iowa, breaks down his farm operation into individual one-acre datasets.

Sandra J. Milburn / AP photo

The largest electric utility in the state of Kansas has been sold, reports USA TODAY. In a deal worth almost $9 billion, Westar Energy will be acquired by Kansas City-based Great Plains Energy.

Organic Trade Association

A new study shows that organic agriculture boosts local economies, reports The Rural Blog. The study looked at counties with high levels of organic agricultural activity. Researchers then looked at how these organic hotspots impact the local economies. The study discovered that being in an “organic hotspot” increased median household income by more than $2,000 a year. Organic farming was also found to lower a county's poverty rate.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

The country’s top agriculture official, Tom Vilsack, is declining to comment on some of the largest  mergers the farm economy has ever seen.

agpolicy.org

The US Department of Agriculture has been touting the recent expansion of the meat trade in the US. But the agency has only been highlighting the positives of the trade increase. As The Rural Blog reports, the nation has been importing more beef than it exports in recent months. In a recent column, two professors from the University of Tennessee said they understand that the USDA may want to put a positive spin on the situation.

Ariana Brocious / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Every spring farmers and ranchers intentionally burn their fields to jumpstart the natural process of renewal. But those fires can be dangerous. That’s why researchers in Nebraska are designing a new drone to start fires, which may help protect people and the environment.

Colorado’s jobless rate ticked up slightly last month. The number now sits at 3.1 percent. That’s still almost two and a half percentage points below the national average of 5.5 percent. The slight upward movement marks the first time the unemployment rate has increased in five years, reports Colorado Public Radio.

James M. Dobson / Garden City Telegram

With all the recent rains, farmers in southwest Kansas have a bright outlook for the wheat crop and summer harvest, reports The Garden City Telegram. Finney County farmer Jarvis Garetson called the April showers a godsend. “It changed our dryland crops from poor conditions to very good,” he said.

fieldsbh / Flickr Creative Commons

The world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer is coming to Texas, reports FuelFix.com. China-based Goldwind is planning to establish what will be its largest wind farm in the US, and has chosen the Lone Star State as the location.

Sandra J. Milburn / Hutchinson News

From Kansas Agland:

ST. JOHN – For about two months of the year, Stafford County farmer Jordan Hickel would run his pricey combine through wheat fields in June, followed by fall commodities like corn and soybeans.

Then the machine would sit silent in the shed, awaiting the next harvest season.

Wikimedia Commons

An aviation company in Amarillo is in talks for a deal with the federal government that could bring as much as $100 billion to the region, reports Amarillo.com. Bell Helicopter could possibly soon begin producing as many as 4,000 aircraft for the United States Army. The deal hinges on Bell’s parent, Textron, beating out Boeing for the contract.

Prowers Journal

A wind turbine east of Lamar, Colorado, went offline last week, reports The Prowers Journal. The culprit? Metal shavings. Repairs are expected to cost about $300,000.

Corn planting in Princeton, Ill., last month. / Bloomberg News

Farmland values have fallen sharply in parts of America’s heartland, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago cites the recent period as the sharpest drop in Midwestern cropland values in almost three decades. Over the past two years, farm incomes have steadily declined. Investors who had piled into the asset a few years ago have begun to retreat. As a result, low prices are weighing down land values from Kansas to Indiana.

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