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

The virus that devastated hog farms last year could be slowing down, and that could mean lower prices at the grocery store.

agrilife.org

Some of the deadliest jobs in the nation are in rural places.  The Washington Post reports lumberjacks, fisherman, and pilots run the greatest risk at work.  In general, people who work with heavy machinery like combines, oil rigs, or tractors are a good deal of danger.

Farming, ranching, truck driving is about twice as hazardous as being a police officer. 

Transportation accidents account for 40 percent of all deaths on the job.

Tom Roeder / gazette.com

The Pueblo Chemical Depot is working to destroy America’s largest stockpile of Cold War-era mustard gas shells reports the Gazette.

The depot plans to blast its first shell with its explosive destruction system in March.  There are almost 800,000 rounds stored at the 23,000-acre depot.

There are plans to expand operations next year.  A separate plant costing $725 million should be at full bore by that time.  It will render more than 55 chemical shells harmless every hour, 24 hours a day.

The Southwest Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A recent study shows Oklahoma women are among the lowest full-time wage earners in the country reports KGOU

Oklahoma tied with Louisiana for the bottom spot.  Women in those states make an average of $591 per week.  That’s 78 percent of the median weekly earnings of their male counterparts.

Looking at the listening region:

Yields are expected to be as good as last year, but commodity crop prices will make it a hard season to survive.

eustis.org

Colorado had the biggest proportional unemployment drop in the nation reports the Denver Post.  The rate lowered from 6.2 percent to 4 percent in 2014.

Colorado added 62,300 jobs.  That’s the nation’s best job gain.

Alexandra Hall is the labor department’s chief economist.  She says the state’s high diversified economy will help the state weather low oil prices—at least for a while.

newsok.com/

Oklahoma ranchers received the most federal drought relief in the country according to the Oklahoman

Here are the totals from 2011-Dec. 1, 2014:

  1. Oklahoma $883 million
  2. Texas $592.36 million
  3. Nebraska $512.89 million
  4. Kansas $461.26 million
  5. Missouri $303.58 million

There's a season cycle for row crop's carbon dioxide, and recent research shows the Corn Belt might be contributing more than once thought.

Creative Commons

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission says the state's unemployment rate declined by two-tenths of a percentage point in December reports KGOU.  The rate went from 4.4 percent in November to 4.2 percent.

State officials recently said that five of the state's nine seasonally adjusted business sectors added jobs in December. 

forbes.com

When the price of oil goes down too much, oil producers can't afford the expense of drilling. Rigs are parked. Workers are laid off. That impacts the entire listening region.

Business Insider reports Helmerich & Payne recently announced it would idle 50 more drilling rigs in February, after having already idled 11 rigs.  Each rig accounts for about 100 jobs. This will cut its shale-drilling activities by 20 percent.

There could be changes on the horizon for the Beef Check Off program.

eia.gov

Have you ever wondered how much energy your state produces, consumes, and expends?  The U.S. Energy Information Administration has created a series of state level maps detailing these facts. 

Here are some quick facts:

COLORADO

MOSE BUCHELE / StateImpact Texas

The shock of lower gas prices has probably worn off by now, but have you noticed the small, unbranded gas stations are often the first to lower their prices?  Many of them stay competitive even when the name-brands cut their prices. 

KUT News is helping explain why stations offer different prices for essentially the same product by taking us on a trip from the pump back to the pipeline to see how gas is bought, sold and transported.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Humans have been growing hemp for centuries. Hemp-based foods have taken off recently. So have lotions and soaps that use hemp oil. There’s evidence that different compounds in cannabis could be used as medicine and hope that its chemical compounds could hold keys to treatments for Parkinson’s disease and childhood epilepsy.

Scientists studying industrial hemp say the plant holds a tremendous amount of promise. But to unlock its potential there’s very basic scientific research to be done.

extension.purdue.edu

There is disparity when comparing broadband access in urban and rural America.  The gap gets even bigger when it comes to access on the farm reports Choices Magazine.

Data suggests 100 percent of urban residents have access to at least one broadband provider… compared to 78 percent of rural residents.

Take it a step further.  On the farm 70 percent of farms in 2012 had internet access, but it’s the level of service that varies.  Seven percent of farmers use dial-up, 13 percent satellite, and 13 percent mobile broadband.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

State finance official in Oklahoma are worried about the plummeting price of crude.  State ImpactOklahoma reports they are projecting budget cuts and potential job losses.

In the oil field, some energy companies are slashing spending while others try to weather what they hope will be a short downturn.

Gov. Mary Fallin met with top officials in December to certify tax revenues for state budget planning.  Estimates now show a revenue loss of about $300 million.  If oil prices stay low, state agencies could face steep cuts.

iraqenergy.org

The price of a barrel of oil is in a free fall according to KUT News.  The U.S. oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate fell below $50 early this week... matching levels of spring 2009.

The drop is linked to OPEC’s boosted production and a stronger dollar. 

OPEC member nations production increases are an effort to protect their market share and undercut American profits.  Both Iraq and Russia are producing crude at record levels.

The dollar’s increased value is at a nine year high against the euro.  Reasons for that gain are renewed instability in Greece and the possibility that the European Central Bank could introduce quantitative easing to stimulate the eurozone.

poandpo.com

The Chevron plant in Borger, Texas is under new ownership reports the Amarillo Globe News

Chevron Phillips Chemical and international giant, Solvay, announced this week they have completed a $220 million deal including Chevron’s Ryton plant.

The Ryton plant makes a component of plastics from chemicals found in natural gas.  Most employees of the facility will transfer to Solvay says a company spokeswoman.

Helen H. Richardson / denverpost.com

Farmers are getting older.  At one time, the physical challenges driving them from the farm are now being overcome with the help of a program called the AgrAbility Project reports the Denver Post.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 22-state program helps older, disabled farmers stay on the job as long as possible. 

538 individuals have been helped in Colorado where the program is a joint effort of Goodwill Industries of Denver and Colorado State University. 

Nu-Life Market

Grain sorghum has long been a step-child crop to wheat and corn on the High Plains, used mainly as a secondary cattle feed and ethanol distilling grain.  But its status may be improving with the growing gluten-free food movement, for which sorghum is ideally suited.

However, capturing this food-grade, certified food market is no easy task.  That’s evident in the sophisticated business and production model developed by Nu-Life Market, a “farm-to-fork” enterprise operating in Scott County, Kansas. 

Post Foods

Demand for products that don’t contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is exploding.  

Many food companies are seeking certification that their products don’t have any genetically modified ingredients, and not just the brands popular in the health food aisle. Even plain Cheerios, that iconic cereal from General Mills, no longer contains GMOs.

There’s one High Plains commodity that’s likely to have another good year in 2015 – beef tongue sales to Japan. Exports were up 150 percent in 2013 and on track to rise even higher in 2014. And demand continues to grow, as do the ways of eating beef tongue in Japan, as this feature article from McClatchy DC explains:

dok1/Flickr

  To support a growing population, farmers worldwide need to emphasize the sustainable growth of three major foods: corn, wheat and rice, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization

Corn, wheat and rice make up some of the most crucial ingredients to diets across the world. With a booming global population, FAO says in the next 35 years farmers will need to ratchet up production of these three commodities to 3 billion tons – that’s half a billion tons more than the record harvest of 2013.

Conserving water and reviving a community

Dec 24, 2014
DairyGood.org

Across the country, farmers know that every drop of water counts. To help conserve this resource, one dairy in Western Kansas decided to take a chance on a one-of-its-kind partnership, which not only saved water, but also brought new life to its community.

In 2012, McCarty Family Farms in Rexford, partnered with Dannon to build a condensed milk processing plant that extracts more than 14 million gallons of water from the milk each year.

Real Science / realscience.us

The $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill President Obama signed Wednesday isn’t just about dollars and cents. The so-called “Cromnibus” bill also keeps school cafeteria fries salty and limits the government's ability to monitor cow belches.

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

As drought, feed costs, and urban development wear on West Coast milk producers, states like Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are pitching themselves as a dairy heaven. Even in California, the nation’s No. 1 dairy state, many dairy farmers are listening.

For the Midwest, an influx of dairies isn’t just about milk. It’s about pumping dollars into the rural economy.

California dairies look to Plain’s greener pastures

Dec 17, 2014
Ezra David Romero for Harvest Public Media

California is branded as the state with happy cows, but increasingly, not necessarily happy dairy owners. For many of them in the nation’s No. 1 dairy state it’s getting tougher to make a living, that’s why some are some selling their cattle and heading to the Midwest.

A full quarter of California dairies have been shuttered since 2007, according to Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen.

Larry Dreiling / hpj.com

Some things are easily taken for granted— running down to the grocery store when you’re out of milk.  That’s now true in Morland, Kansas.  After an eight year absence, the town of 150 now has a grocery store.  Morland isn’t an isolated case.  There are about 200 little stores in the state in communities with populations under 2,000.  There are also, places like Morland that no longer have grocery retailers.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

For the Midwest’s biggest crops, this harvest season was a big one. With winter setting in, the race is on for farmers to ship out their harvest so it’s not left out to spoil. But the giant harvest and a lack of available rail cars have created a traffic jam on the rails and the highways.

Usually, famers store their harvest in silos and grain bins, but this year, farmers brought in so much, there’s just no room.  Farmers in Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and South Dakota are all being hit particularly hard by the storage shortage.

Oklahomans are apparently the “bigger spenders” among the states in the HPPR region.  That distinction is based on analysis by economists for the website wallethub.com, which ranked Oklahoma as 17th among the fifty states for personal spending level, adjusted for income and the costs of living.  Other area states are close by, although Colorado lags in the spending ranking:

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